Last year, my colleagues and I at PARC began an ambitious study in WoW examining how our behaviors in virtual worlds may relate to our real world demographics and personality. You can read our preliminary findings at the PlayOn blog
. We are now launching our second phase of the study which expands recruitment to WoW players on EU servers. If you currently play WoW on a US or EU server
and are interested in being a part of our new study, keep reading:
Gnome Rogue with Pink Mohawk LFG
Have you ever wondered if playing a gnome in World of Warcraft says something about a player's personality? Is it really the case that women prefer to play healers? And how similar or different are US and EU players? We are social scientists at the Palo Alto Research Centers and we too have often wondered about these questions. And that's what this study is about.
To be a part of our newest research project only takes about 15 minutes to complete a web survey. We will then use an automated script to collect your characters' data from the Armory.
Other Ways You Can Help
I would really appreciate your help in spreading the word about this study, particularly if you live in the EU and are fluent in a different language. The more WoW players we can get, the better our findings will be. A post on your guild's forum, a quick twitter mention, or telling a RL friend who plays WoW are all ways you can help.
Sadly, I finally got bored and gave up my account after 6 intense years. I was hoping Blizzcon would introduce something to re-energize my interest, but when I tried to envision how my day-to-day gameplay would be with the new expansion, it was just more of the same with slightly different bells and whistles.
Leaving this comment in case you ever do a study on why people leave a game that they were emotionally invested in for so long.
Totally understand, Ron. And great idea for a research question.
What are you (and other ex-/non-WoW players reading this) playing these days? Or looking forward to playing perhaps?
I recently reactivated WoW after nearly a year away, but only to play much more casually than I once did for many years.
I'd be interested in Ron's suggestion too.
A combination of extra disposable income and wanting to catch up with some old WoW friends was why I ended up reactivating.
Ron's post pretty much mirrors my situation. I've finally cancelled my sub, after 5+ years. I think it is astonishing that WoW was able to hold my interest as well as it did for so long.
I play Lord of the Rings Online now, though I expect it may get a bit thin of company when SW:TOR comes out.
I have also dropped my account. I've been "clean and sober" for eight or nine months now.
My reasons for leaving in order:
- Lack of interest in the content
- Desire for more free time to do other things
- Lack of enjoyment in the content
- Feelings that goals in the game were unattainable to me unless I sacrificed more time than I was willing to commit
- Lack of players in my personal circle who were at my same activity level (most were either not around or way WAY more hardcore and I didn't have the gear to play at their level)
- Pre-Cataclysm Burnout
These days I am playing League of Legends. I have also pre-ordered SWTOR.
I quit wow for 9 months part way through wotlk because of the same reasons, was bored, couldn't do the raids I wanted at the time, and just was not happy in game much anymore. I came back to right around the time ICC went in and leveled a new toon and was happy until about a 6 months ago. I was about ready to quit WoW again but decided to tranfer 1 toon to another server. It made all the diff for me. Over the past 6 months I transferred 16 toons off my old realm, my husband and kid at least 10 toons. We were al on the verge of quitting WoW, and a better server instantly made us all happy.
If you are unhappy, but wish you were still loving WoW, I suggest looking at populated servers, sitting in their trade chats for a few days, and looking at the kind of guilds on thoe servers, and try just sending 1 toon there; it may make all the difference.
Sounds like a WoW Anonymous meeting! (I've followed this site for so long, and find it fascinating)
In brief: I quit WoW cold turkey just a tad over 2 years ago. I heavily, heavily, played from a month after launch and through 2 pregnancies.
I just realized it was an unhealthy obsession (even though I was playing with RL friends), and I could be doing something better for myself and my family. The stress and wanting to be 'the best' got to be ridiculous. So I quit, and started the Couch to 5k running program. I run regularly and life has just been better. (Although I do spend a lot of time on Twitter ;) )
Wow has breathed it's last with me as well. Looking forward to SWTOR and Guild Wars 2 now.
I'm in the same boat as Ron and Mosselyn, and I'm playing LOTRO very casually.
I'd be interested in Ron's topic too. Sorry to say I won't be qualified for your Phase Two survey, Nick. Been part of it for years so that's a bummer.
Left WoW some years ago after about 1 year playing.
Felt too easy and the player basis not mature enough (EU player).
WOW didn't give this for me necessary immersion feel - within a few weeks one went without transition from an interesting and relatively immersive gameplay at low levels in a full time mindless job of grinding high level dungeons.
Currently returned to EQ (Progression server) and casually to LOTRO.
Somehow I need to always have a MMORPG to play more or less casually in my free time but just not always the same MMORPG.
Have been playing since 98 when I began with UOL.
The MMORPG that strongly impressed me and stay in my memory were, in that order :
To what Thomas said, I've been pondering more and more about returning to EverQuest. The lore feels more meaningful than it ever did in WoW. I always thought the game took more skill (again, played through several of the first expansions and quit for WoW)
I played WoW from launch until not long after Cataclysm came out. I'd taken a number of breaks from the game in that time, including about a year before Cataclysm.
On returning that last time, it no longer held the appeal it once had. No longer having a guild to raid with may have contributed, but after 6 years or so, the bright colours and hustle & bustle no longer had the allure it once did, even with new areas to explore and new features to try out.
Instead, I've moved over to LotRO. The gentler pace, more muted tones, and generally more relaxed feel are a better fit for me these days.
Maybe after partying for years in WoW, LotRO is where WoW players go to retire...? :-)
Hi, Nick. Glad to hear this next phase is underway -- more raw data on player behaviors and self-reporting on motivations is always good to have.
I will say that I hope data collection can move beyond WoW. While I understand that it's still where a lot of MMORPG players can be found, and of course you have to start somewhere, it's also true that WoW players are a self-selecting sample and do not fully represent multiplayer gamers as a whole group. Unlike the folks in the comments above, I'm one of the many gamers who, probably for several different reasons, have never been interested in even starting to play WoW at any time. The results of a study limited to current WoW players is highly unlikely to accurately reflect my interests in MMORPGs specifically or gaming generally.
I don't claim to speak for anyone besides myself. But I'm certainly not the only person who enjoys games but isn't at all interested in playing a game like WoW. I don't consider that a defect in the current study of WoW players; rather, it's my hope that this study will be followed by others that include players of other games so that we can better understand people generally, not just WoW players.
That said, I'll be happy to promote this new phase of the WoW study wherever I can.
Bart - Thanks for the help!
And just as some additional reasoning behind the WoW choice, apart from the larger player base, is that Blizzard is one of the few game companies that releases public data on characters. For example, the Armory provides over 3,500 behavioral variables per character. That kind of in-game behavioral data is not accessible by third parties in any other online game. A third reason is that the same game has been localized in many regions, so it is possible to do cross-cultural comparisons with meaningful numbers of participants (say EU vs US vs China). So it's really these combinations of reasons that has made WoW the best candidate for these initial studies.
I totally understand your frustration though ...
Survey questions - As an Altoholic, your questions seem to me to be "main" centric. I currently actively play 14 85s (2 accounts) and causally level a few others. At least one question - How many 85s or how many "dings" may give an other metric of how much people play (or have played over the 5/6 years of wow).
Given the game has been out 6ish years, I'd be interested to know what % of players have 6+ 85s.
I haven't played WoW for 2-3 years (because it became same-old, same-old)... but I've been playing Rift (kind of like Neo-WoW) since it released and might try out SWTOR next month. I do see your explanation for why only WoW is being focused on and that makes sense, since you can acquire a lot of data to accompany the survey results. Good luck with things, I've always enjoyed reading this site.
I had been playing since the beta and took frequent breaks for a few months at a time when I would get close to burning out. When 4.0 was released so many of the changes that they made to the classes ruined 4 of my 5 level 80s and the Warrior class for my 72 warrior as far as play style and feeling of the classes that when Cataclysm was released I only lasted a couple weeks before I started to look at other games again. I have returned to see the 4.2 changes for the free week or so that they offered but the game does not offer any of the excitement for me now that they have dumbed down so much of it. Too many of the classes feel the same as each other now or just lack the "heart" that they used to have. Some of the changes coming in the new Expansion sound interesting so I may return to try it at that point but I am mostly playing the F2P games like EQ2X, LOTRO, AoC and Global Agenda. Looking forward to SWTOR and trying DCUO Come it's F2P on Nov 1st.
Actually, I haven't played in two years, and I finally cancelled my automatic payments after realizing I wasn't going to get back into it. My access will expire in December, and I doubt I will play between now and then. An interesting study might be to identify factors involved in evolved disinterest for those who were formerly immersed in the game. For me, it was the "corporatizing" of the Warcraft enterprise. Comparing the cinematic introduction of the original game and the latest release is demonstrative of this shift from a rich storyline produced by game-makers for whom the creation of the WoW universe was very much a labor of love, to the governance of corporate managers who made decisions leading to significant game-changers that were all about making an extra buck. The original trailer was high quality CGI that could hold its own on the big screen. The trailer for the latest expansion appears to be simply in-game cut scenes, with emphasis not on story but rather on the "features" of the new release. People play for different reasons, and I believe you captured some of that on a previous study. For me, the things that turned me off to the game relate to what the game-makers virtually abandoned in their evolving the game--the story. That, and the repetitive nature of the game play itself. Each expansion got to be more of the same in terms of gameplay.
I also left WoW, after 4+ years playing over 4 hours every day. Account canceled in March 2011. Cata was a real let down. Complete overhaul of my character's play mechanics were confusing and underwhelming. Too much pressure in min/maxing characters. The overall ability for everyone to see everything about your character on a website let nothing to the imagination and lead to cookie cutter builds. I blogged about my experience. IF you are interested, shoot me an email and I will link it.
I moved on to RIFT, but am playing much more casually (10 hours a week?) and mostly in PVP. I enjoy the flexibility of the roles and the smaller community,
I haven't played for a few years - since the level cap was 70. I actually haven't cancelled my account yet, though my wife has.
For me, the main issue was that the game kept changing. We would have been perfectly happy with the same-old, same-old, joining Alterac Valley or doing a heroic for fun a few times a week. Extending the grind and making PvP more dependent on preset groups was not something we were interested in.
Since we're on Macs, we haven't moved on to anything else. We've been spending more time on our table top roleplaying campaigns instead.
Disappointed I don't have an active WoW account so that I can take part in another fascinating study here at Daedalus. I've been following this site almost as long as it's been around... keep up the good work!
Study Eve: Online players some time! The only MMO where the player mentality must equate to the few survivors in a maximum security prison where everyone was issued free knives.
It's great to see this project getting a new bump. I have been playing WoW since launch and just recently cancelled my subscription. I was already getting bored with the game, and cutting back my playtime (basically just raids). All WoW has been doing is recycling their pattern and reinforcing their playing is grinding model. Combine this with their dual level raiding content, where if you're not doing heroic content it's not a challenge. I realized that the game had moved from mildly entertaining to just not fun. It feels like a lame ending to so many years of investment.
I'm currently playing Rift with some friends, but I will be moving to SW:TOR unless it's horrible.
As most of the comments on this page, I too have stopped playing World of Warcraft, and I have been 'clean' since January 2011. I did take part in this project before, good luck with your research.
How about a small study about those who left the game :D?
Another one here who stopped playing a while ago. I still read a few WoW and other MMO blogs though, and there's always a fair amount of debate as to why players are leaving WoW. Is it just natural burnout or is it that WoW has changed for the worse?
Anyway, I'm sure a lot of people would find the results very interesting if you would consider extending your project to ex-players and get some insight into why people have left and maybe what they have moved onto.
Warren Dew If you would feel better living in a world that does not change you might want to check out SOE's EQMac ( Everquest for the Macintosh ). This is basically the good old Everquest MMO 'stuck' in where game was in 2002. Comes with a very helpfull community, a little cheaper then most paid sub MMO's runs on the Mac.
Quite frankly I am surprised at the amount of people that have stopped playing WoW this expansion. Would be interesting to find out what the reason is.
I too am an ex- wow player.
I got bored with the content, the part I really enjoyed (crafting) became useless, and most of all Blizz seemed to be more interested in pleasing the 12 yr olds with access to mommies credit card than the more adult players.
I just hit the unsubscribe button last week, it'll run out early December.
On your survey - think you may have EU launch wrong, it's more like 6.5 years than 7?
And on "mains" - I consider my first character created to be my main, but I stopped raiding except for farm content on that avatar when Wrath released, so my "second" character is much better geared.
For me, the game just got too repetitive, and, with shared lockouts and guild XP, Cataclysm managed to kill off my favourite aspect, 25-man raiding (no room any more for cross-guild raid communities). I was only logging on to raid, and my guild isn't managing to get raids together.
Will also be switching to SW:TOR, and hoping it's not just a) a WoW clone, or b) a single-player game you need to pay a monthly fee for.
I, too, left WoW quite a while back. I am returning to it only because my 11 year old granddaughter has been dying to play it with me and so her mom is allowing her to play only with me, lol. I went into serious WOW burnout towards the end of BC when I left for better PVP in WAR. WAR was fun for a while, but the game was unfinished and was stupidly launched at same time as WotLK. After WAR fizzled, I returned to WOW and played up to launch of Cataclysm hoping that Cataclysm would re-inspire me but it did the opposite and I cancelled within a couple weeks of release. I've been playing Rift but am already burnt on that. Pre-ordered TOR but not too hopeful about PVP in that one. Really looking forward to GW2.
I left WoW after playing from the beta. My playstyle jumped back and forth from casual to pure-RPG to intense top-level raiding. Even if I try several other MMORPG like LotRO, Eve, City of Heroes and Villains, I always returned to WoW afte a while. The quit for me happened when my email account was hacked. The hacker used my email account to get into my WoW account. He of course sells everything and spam on the public chat. I followed Blizzard instructions to get everything back, asked on the official forums, sent emails to Blizzard support, call them by phone... but after 2 months of trying every day, they do not resolved the situation. So I quit. But my quitting was a problem with Customer Support, not with the game itself. I tried Rift that is extrememly similar but I do not enjoy the constant and meaningless combat. Now I'm waiting for Guild Wars 2.
I was on here filling in your surveys for years! But I left WoW earlier this year as well. I've been playing RIFT as a casual player lately. WoW was fun, but really at that point I was being social and clearing content on 2 nights a week, and that isn't "fun". In RIFT I can do invasions, in addition to the warfronts and instances, or just the myriad event quests that show up. My life is just too busy now to be anything more then a casual player, and RIFT is offering me more int he way of good casual content that isn't repetitive.
Ive been playing sence the game came out actually. I find it pretty fun to play. I dont know how this would help in the study, but if you have any questions you can send me an email
I, too, quit playing WoW. I didn't stay in Cata all that long, unsubbing some time in February 2011. After playing since launch, I finally got fed up and I've had no desire to go back, especially now that they've turned a joke (Pandaren) in to an expansion.
I think it was because (to me) Cataclysm was a poorly executed expansion. I had my first 85 within 36 hours of launch. I followed that up with 3 more 85s, an 84, an 83, and two 81s. That included a new Troll Druid, so it wasn't just all 80-85. While I'm sure Cata was amazing for people who hadn't really "been there, done that" there just wasn't enough content to keep me interested. A five level increase isn't going to keep me happy for two years. It was hard enough finding a heroic group that wasn't full of idiots, much less a raid group. People got spoiled by Wrath. Don't get me wrong, I loved Wrath, it just made for lazy players.
I eventually wandered over to Rift, but even that didn't hold my interest more than 6 months. I maxed out two toons (one on each side) and did raid content and then figured out that it just wasn't fun.
I'm not sure if that's a reflection on me as a person or on the state of MMOs. I'll be picking up SWTOR when it launches in December as a last-ditch attempt to find the fun I used to get out of MMO gaming before I throw in the towel and just stick with Steam and consoles.
I am not playing WoW at this time, but am *anxiously* awaiting Star Wars: The Old Republic - and hoping to get into the Beta for it as well.
I hope that you expand your surveys to cover SW:TOR as well.
I started playing WoW in 2005 and played it obsessively (20 hours a day on my time off - I worked as a flight attendant, so I had half the month off). I gained 40lbs. I didn't raid - I basically made gold, explored, levelled alts, collected pets, did accomplishments and socialized. I had a lot of RL and in-game friends on WoW and used to be socially actively involved in a guild until our guild master had an emotional breakdown (because another guild member freaked out at him about a raid) and ended up in the hospital (he took the game and the role of GM more seriously than anyone I've ever met). :( After that, I shied away from guilds and only hung out with close RL and in-game friends.
I played happily through the first 2 expansions, but only lasted in Cata for about 2 months. I didn't dislike Cata, I just got bored and found there was nothing to do and there was little challenge in anything, so I took a 10 month break (lost 15lbs LOL!) and returned a month ago. When I saw the trailer for the new expansion, it was game over and I cancelled my account. Developers seem to be taking the game to a place that takes the lore into an bizarre direction (to me, it would be like J.R.R.Tolkien introducing an oil & gas executive into Lord of the Rings. LOL!).
It's too bad, I LOVED the game and have been invested in the Warcraft franchise since Orcs vs. Humans, but WoW was their crowning achievement. I loved the new achievement system and I loved the fact that if you 'worked' hard at something, it ~felt~ rewarding when you finally accomplished it. I think they just made it TOO easy to the point where it took the challenge aspect away from the game, and in taking the challenge away, they took away the psychological feeling of 'reward' and accomplishment, and with it, the addictive nature of the game.
And now, they're bring in an expansion that, in my opinion, taints the entire franchise. It makes me really sad, but I quit my job to take up a RL profession I've always wanted to do, so I guess RL isn't so bad after all. ;)
Have you ever considered try studying a game that actually functions as an economic/social/politicial simulation, rather than WoW which has very formulaic and restrictive gameplay? EVE would be an interesting example.
@Campana: (I wrote this a bit earlier in the comments, but just for the sake of consistency) As some additional reasoning behind the WoW choice, apart from the larger player base, is that Blizzard is one of the few game companies that releases public data on characters. For example, the Armory provides over 3,500 behavioral variables per character (without counting any of the transaction data from the auction house). That kind of in-game behavioral data is not accessible by third parties in any other online game. A third reason is that the same game has been localized in many regions, so it is possible to do cross-cultural comparisons with meaningful numbers of participants (say EU vs US vs China). So it's really these combinations of reasons that has made WoW the best candidate for these initial studies.
Clearly, WoW is not the only online game out there, but considering that it has a player-driven economy and many collaboration and competitive possibilities between players, claiming that WoW isn't an economic and social simulation is a little disingenuous.
Nick you wrote :
As some additional reasoning behind the WoW choice, apart from the larger player base, is that Blizzard is one of the few game companies that releases public data on characters.
Take a warning from an older scientist (quantum mechanics for me) and beware the syndrom of "As I have a hammer, all problems are nails".
With the sample as you define it, you will answer the question "What are the motivations of WOW players?" but not as you wrote "How our behaviors in virtual worlds may relate to our real world demographics and personality?"
The heaviest bias comes, I believe, from the biased demographics.
WOW, as opposed for example to story or gameplay driven MMORPGs (Everquest, LOTRO, AD&D etc) , has probably a significantly lower average age.
This has for me always explained the commercial success of WOW - a 10 years old can play WOW while he would not or could not play other more complex, demanding or "ambitious" MMORPGs. And it was Blizzard's genius to tap first this hitherto unexploited potential - the kids.
For instance I think that a majority of your original data basis (like me) doesn't play or doesn't play anymore WOW because we are all a decade older ;)
It is for that reason which should be of course founded on a demographic comparison between WOW and other MMORPGs, that WOW would simulate behavioural patterns of children and adolescents rather than adult's social and economical behaviours.
Now such a sample has obviously a value per se and Blizzard would certainly be interested by better understanding their customer basis.
But I am not sure that it extrapolates to the rest of the MMORPG population.
I quit WoW at the beginning of this year after playing for 4 years. I have often taken breaks to try out a new MMO for a couple months, but this time I got into a heavy raiding guild in EQ2 and my spouse did to (actually, he left first and I followed, which is how it always goes when we end up leaving WoW for a bit). We both wanted to raid, and had a hard time finding a raiding guild in WoW, so this worked for us.
Funnily, now that it's the holiday season, I am really missing WoW. I have played WoW for the holiday season for the past four years I have been away from my family. Having the thanksgiving, christmas and new years festivals in game gave me something to do to help me cope with not being home. My spouse isn't in to holidays, but he'd do holiday quests with me and that would fill the void. I can't afford a WoW subscription right now, and it's so hard because I am so homesick and don't have access to my home-away-from-home in WoW. While I have friends in EQ2, it's not the same. Strange, huh?
Great article, thank you again for wtriing.
I am very interested in your studies, thanks for your work and good luck!
I have just signed up to participate in the study and was quite baffled as to how to identify the 'gender' of my character. While my (main) character's sex is female, opposite to my own real-world sex, the notion of gender becomes a little more complex and fluid, especially on a role-playing (RP) server. While I cannot change my real-life sex, my utterances in-game do not always conform to my real-world sex, my in-game sex, or prescribed notions of gender performance. As I research in this area, I am curious to see what emerges in your study!!
Very curious about the results!
I have recently written my BA dissertation about gender identity and WoW, and benefited greatly from your data and research. So, great work and many thanks!
I'll be keeping an eye out for when it is published.
Like a lot of people, I've played for 6 years or so and am slowing down on the time I spend in WoW. Burnout, community changes, a lot of things factor into that, but it's happening. It's extremely hard to leave characters that you've had from the begining because they become sort of a part of you. But time marches on, and so do games.
I read somewhere up above asking about where players were moving to. In my case, Age of Conan, Rift, and soon to be Star Wars: The Old Republic and Diablo III, along with about half of my raiding guild that's split off to SWTOR.
If you have other studies or branch out to other games, I'm more than willing to fill out more ticky boxes to help them along.
I played WoW for almost 5 yrs and loved every moment of it until they started preparing for the Cata launch. I stopped playing last march 2011, all my friends has stopped playing and frankly it was lonely, many times i was the only one in the guild online. i am a raider at heart and miss that horrible but raiding was only fun with friends.
i keep up with what Blizz is doing and the changes they are making to WoW and am most disappointed in what i'm reading.. not to mention the stupid idea of cute pandas... no not likely to go back.. so sad really because at one time it had been such a large part of my life.