Who and why play World of Warcraft (Orr & Ross, 2009)

This post is what I picked up at 2009 CPA convention in Montreal.


Motivation and personality isn’t my research portfolio, I like to see what pushes a person around at the mesosystem (interactions with friends or people on the internet, etc.) to exosystem (e.g. mass media or watching anime) level (see Bronfenbrenner’s). Emily Orr and Craig Ross of the University of Windsor were the first speakers at the social and personality online symposium at CPA convention 2009.


McKenna and Bargh (2004) argue that the use of online communication tools will, in part, be determined by personality characteristics and motives. World of Warcraft (WoW) is an online gaming venue that allows for the formation of personal connections through interactive game-play allowing for potentially rich social relationships. The present study investigated the types of individualswho use WoW and their reasons for using WoW. An online study was conducted with undergraduate students to explore these research questions. Self-report measures were administered to assess WoW use, personality, and motives for playing WoW. Results revealed that Conscientiousness was negatively correlated with time spent using WoW, indicating that frequent WoW users are less likely to be responsible and scrupulous in their daily chores and activities. Moreover, it was found that time spent on WoW was positively correlated with entertainment and relaxation motives. Conversely, motives for showing affection, appearing fashionable, feeling involved, and being sociable were negatively correlated with time spent on WoW. Surprisingly, the motive of escaping problems was not correlated with time spent on WoW. The implications of these findings, as well as limitations of the study and directions for future research will be discussed.

This abstract is taken from the abstract book for the convention, and their study is ongoing and if anyone’s interested, please participate in their online study here. Once again, the info is from my memories and the slides they provided.

Looking at the background info slides, it seems that they study massively multiplayer online games (MMOG) as another online communication interface. Of course, it is outright acknowledged that there’s the gaming part. What I’m saying is that they’re trying to see from a broad theoretical base from which comes from in the form of a question: “what motivates people in using the internet?”

Other motivation theories on video games and, by extension online video games, have existed. The self-determination theory has touched on video gaming thanks to the works by Richard Ryan and Andrew Pryzbylski (no I haven’t read that 2006 paper, yet.) Nicholas Yee of Palo Alto Research Center has explored on the motivation and personality subject (I forgot he even wrote it). Dmitri Williams (with Yee and Caplan as co-authors) has an article on motives on Everquest 2. Richard Bartle also explored into personality, mainly on gamer personality of which his research has lead into the Bartle test (not creating by him).

Nevertheless, it’s good to look from a broad perspective as they have convincingly argued: “The different tools offered online will interact with motives and personality characteristics to determine usage variables” (Bargh & Mckenna, 2004).


Participants: 80 World of Warcraft (WoW) players participated in an online survey. I believe they posted ads in their university and not on the internets. I forgot. Average age is 22.23 (SD = 4.29), 68.8% are female.


Personality Inventory (IPIP): a personality measurement freely for anyone who can use it effectively. They used parts of it that looks into the five factor personality. I once used the IPIP in my first undergraduate research project.

Motives questionnaire: based from a previous study (Leung, 2001) that assessed ICQ users’ motivations. They adapted it for use in their study. This measure assesses on several dimensions: affection, entertainment, relaxation, fashion, inclusion, sociability, and escape.

My first thoughts were that several dimensions would have no or little bearing in gamers’ motivation, notably fashion. But given the large number and variety of the player population in WoW, I’d say it would’ve been okay in theory. However, getting a representative sample of WoW players is difficult. One difficulty is that we might be missing players who spend considerably less time or is minimally involved with WoW (people who infrequently lurk on the forums or is playing because of friends or family), assuming the survey is publicised online.

In addition, the original measure is meant for ICQ users, so context has to be taken into account. Hence the video game-specific motives questionnaire.

Nevertheless, getting participants through real life may rectify this difficulty and their study seems to indicate an interesting solution and yes, it seems that I drifted off-topic.


length of involvment (Orr & Ross)

minutes spend on WoW daily (Orr & Ross)

A majority had played WoW for less than 6 months and going by hours per week, 70 % have played WoW between 1 hours and 10 hours per week. That`s pretty far off from Dmitri et al.`s data in terms of gender and hours of play per week in that age range. So, it’s possible we`re not looking at a representative picture of the WoW population (because Dmitri looked at EQ2 players and not WoW players).

Looking at factors that relates to usage: There`s a significant negative correlation with conscientiousness, affection, fashion and inclusion. There`s a significant positive correlation with entertainment. I would understand the negative correlations seeing that online video gaming is primarily for gaming and entertainment, and communications is a secondary activity (albeit important). Other communication avenues exist for these kinds of motives, for example the fashion motive would probably take prominence among Myspace users or any communications tool (perhaps for Second Life users) that allows users to display and customize their looks and style. The affection and inclusion motive would probably take prominence for, say dating sites, or social networking sites, like Facebook. These kinds of motives would guide them to individuals to such sites or online activities.

As for conscientiousness, it`s argued that those scored high in that area might have better time management concerns and skills that they are less likely to spend time on WoW.

Results on the interactions between the five-factor personality and motives

Conscientiousness: not significantly correlated with any of the motives dimensions.

Neuroticism: positive correlations with inclusion, sociability and escapism. Those who scored high on neuroticism might be associated with problematic gaming, given that they might want to avoid the insecurities of real life social interactions with the “consequence-free” interactions of computer-mediated communication.

Extraversion: negative correlations with inclusion and sociability. Some readers might think that this doesn’t make sense. From a point of view, it makes sense since they already have an established social network, while establishing a social network in a video game environment seems fine, it seems that extravert might prefer other online avenues that offers a greater degree or focus on social network (e.g. Facebook) and it’s quite possible that the extraverted players play with others that they know in real life. Remember World of Warcraft can just be a game for some people.

Openness to experience: negative correlation with fashion. Meh.

Agreeableness: Positive correlation with affection and negative correlation with escapism. Those scored low on agreeableness might be associated with problematic gaming. Those who scored high on agreeableness would benefit the positive feedback they get from their affective behaviours with others, thus making it an enjoyable experience.


Let’s see beside the motives questionnaire being adapted from a motives questionnaire directed towards ICQ users. The authors argued the lack of comparison with motives for offline communication in their study and that WoW is only studied and should consider other MMO games too. It’s possible that highly conscientious individuals might like MMOs that cater to their personality characteristic. The authors argued, for future studies, to explore the use of open-ended responses in using MMOGs.

A warning is that we must consider that personality traits are spectrums and there is no dominant personality trait among many individuals.

Orr, E. S. & Ross, C. (2009, June). Who plays “World of Warcraft” and why? Paper presented at the Canadian Psychological Association convention 2009, Montreal, QC.


3 thoughts on “Who and why play World of Warcraft (Orr & Ross, 2009)

  1. Pingback: Words to the Abyss » Peein’ in a bottle cuz’ we’re grindin’ all night…

  2. I really enjoy this new WoW guide I found while searching on Youtube. It has some great tips, and now that I reached 60 and need an epic mount, am planning on using it all that much more. It has graphic maps and is just wonderful. Some of the stuff is really fleshed out and given walk-throughs are really easy to follow. Shameless plug I know, but in case someone else is looking for a guide like this I found one.

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