The Demographics of Role-Playing

In the multiple-choice section, respondents were given a loose, working definition of role-playing. Respondents were told that role-playing referred to "creating a novel persona for your character that fits in the context of the game world and interacting with others through that persona". Individual questions then explored in detail how elaborate their role-playing experiences have been. I began by asking respondents whether they had ever role-played in an MMORPG. Overall 60% of players (N = 2467) replied that they had role-played at one point or another. Female players were not significantly more likely to have role-played than male players, nor was there a significant difference with regard to age (except for the slightly lower responses in the 12-17 age range).


Background Check

I then walked through a variety of possible role-playing activities to gauge how involved players were in this space. I started by asking respondents whether they had ever created a detailed background story or history for any of their characters. Overall, about 44% of the respondents indicated that this is something they've done. Female players are slightly more likely to have created background stories for their characters.

Another point of interest is whether these background stories involved another player's character. This would be one way to gauge whether players tend to create these stories alone or deliberately weave other player's into their own character's stories. Overall, about 28% of players have background stories for their own characters that involve another player's character. Female players were about 50% more likely to have directly involved another player's character in their own character's background story than male players.



I then wanted to get a better sense of how regularly players role-played. After all, it could be the case that many players have created background stories for their characters, but very few actually role-play regularly. Overall, about 20% of players indicated that they role-played at least once a week in an MMORPG. We see a negligible gender difference in the response to this question, but a very mild age trend emerges. The likelihood of regular role-playing increases slightly with age (r = .08).

About 28% of players indicated that they belong to role-playing oriented guilds. There were no significant gender differences, but again we see the dampened response rate in the 12-17 age group that we've observed throughout this data set.


Size of Groups

Finally, I was interested to get a sense of how large these role-playing activities were. Overall, about 24% of players have role-played a scene/event with a group of at least 10 players (including themselves). Female players were slightly more likely to have done so than male players.

Overall, it would appear that the majority of players have at point or another tried to role-play (around 60%), but regular role-players consist of a smaller cohort (around 20%). There is a consistent age difference where players in the 12-17 age group are less likely to have role-played, but almost no age difference exists beyond that. Female and male players appear to enjoy role-playing just as much and role-play just as often, but female players are more likely to involve other players into their role-playing (both in their character's stories and the number of people they role-play with at the same time). This gender difference might largely to due to the differing social access points into these games.

See Also:

- Introduction to the Role-Playing Series
- Faces of Role-Playing
- The Protocols of Role-Playing