Introduction: The RL Demographics of World of Warcraft

In the last survey, WoW players (N = 1019) were asked to list the character on their account that they enjoy playing the most currently. While not a comprehensive measure of all characters a player has, it is hoped that sufficiently interesting information could be extracted from this crude measure. The goal of most of the articles in this issue of the Daedalus Project is to explore how RL demographics and motivations intersect with in-game race, class, and gender. For example, are younger players more likely to prefer certain classes? What's the RL gender distribution of in-game characters? Which character classes do min-maxers prefer?

Most of the individual differences listed are hard to interpret alone, but overall a coherent picture seems to emerge. For example, consider the consistent clustering of Undead and Tauren on one side and the clustering of Gnome and Dwarf on the other side in the race differences article. Another example is the Shaman. Players who prefer the Shaman are significantly different in several consistent ways. They tend to be younger, more achievement-driven, and more likely to be min-maxers.

Who we choose to be in cyberspace depends on who we are in the real world. Players who choose to play Dwarves are not the same players as those who choose to play Night Elves. The same is even more true for the different classes. This intersects with class balancing in two interesting ways. First, the differing quality of classes effectively drives away or attracts different play motivations. For example, nerfing Rogues may have a significant effect on driving away younger, achievement-driven players. Second, more achievement-driven players may be more vocal with class enhancements and more likely to get them. Click here for an overview of the motivations framework that the rest of the articles will reference.

The survey data also provides a different way of understanding and complementing the PlayOn census data. The play patterns of different classes can now be understood in terms of motivational and demographic differences. The character classes that were shown to have the quickest leveling times (Mage, Priest, Shaman, and Rogue; see PlayOn data) are also the character classes that score highest on the advancement motivation. The survey data highlights the importance of taking individual differences into account when interpreting the PlayOn census data. I haven't had time to compare all the survey data with the census data, so if you spot any interesting patterns, please feel free to comment about it below.

And to all the respondents who don't play WoW, I have not abandoned other MMOs. This was just a good opportunity to provide a detailed demographic exploration of one game in particular.