The Demographics of Character Creation

MMORPGs are designed to elicit personal and emotional investment. On a superficial level, we can point to the time investment that many MMORPG players put into these immersive worlds. On a deeper level, we can point to how players derive tremendous satisfaction and infuriation from their character’s successes and failures. And because players are personally invested in the character and the world, every decision they make within the construct becomes personally revealing.

Let’s consider a fairly crude example of getting at the complexity of projection. Most games make the character creation process as elaborate and fun as possible – an attempt to create a sense of uniqueness and individuality that is entirely yours. In a recent survey, respondents were asked to select the attributes they favored most in character creation among 4 choices. The gender differences were significant and for the most part expected.

Male players favor physical attributes that have an effect in physical combat, while female players tend to favor mental attributes that contribute to support spells and non-physical combat. Looking at the age differences, we find that younger players tend to prefer the STR/END and DEX/AGI while older players favor WIS/INT.

This has fairly interesting implications in terms of the individuals that make up a group in the game. The data suggests that the primary and secondary tank classes tend to be composed of younger players, while the offensive and support spell-casters tend to be composed of older players.

But the data on age differences is itself interesting. Notice that there is not much differentiation among attribute preference among players between the ages of 12-17, and that the differentiation occurs slowly after this point – the preference for STR/END and AGI/DEX decreases while the preference for WIS/INT increases.

As MMORPGs become more sophisticated and allow more character customization and in-game social decisions, the ability for these environments to elicit personally revealing information increases. As opposed to traditional techniques for projective personality testing (like the Rorschach inkblot test), the MMORPG also gives us an existing computerized framework for easily collecting this data. One could easily imagine tapping MMORPGs for personality assessment and screening techniques in the future.