Raiding Research Online

Exploring and mapping the MMO raiding culture
Subscribe

Archive for February, 2011

Do we PVP? Oh and happy Valentine’s Day! :)

February 13, 2011 By: Ladan Category: PVP, raiding

So I was procrastinating from something else I was supposed to be writing tonight, which is how I found myself staring mindlessly at the realm rankings for raiding on wowprogress.com. I noticed something that had not really escaped my attention before, but was something I hadn’t really thought too much about either. When you look at the realm rankings for raid progress, the majority of the best ones are PVP servers. The EU rankings are heavily stacked towards PVP servers while the US servers tend to have a bit more of a mix, with even a couple RP-PVP servers ranking higher up there.  I was most intrigued by the US Lightninghoof server, with a fairly impressive number of successful raiding guilds, particularly considering it’s average population size and what people might usually think of when RP servers come to mind.

I mulled this over a bit. I like to think I’m deeply insightful about all of us and what makes us tick, but of course I can sometimes go too deep into my creative thinking: was it because we’re so competitive and PVP is a very competitive gameplay experience so raiding and PVP go hand in hand? Is it because the first big raiding guilds were on PVP servers and ergo the serious raiders made the move?

So I asked Diamondtear from Paragon because I reckoned he must know the secret. His response was characteristically laconic: “We have more PVP servers.” Surely it’s not that simple! Well, it kind of is; there ARE more PVP servers (on glance at wowprogress, that is). But I think it’s more than that. I don’t think it’s true that we all like to PVP just because we raid but I think for some reason the more successful raiding guilds seem to be housed on the PVP servers. Maybe it’s about the quality of things to do outside of raiding? Maybe it seems just that little bit less like being coddled…. like we’re tougher because we’re roughing it on a PVP server. But as Diamondtear reminded me, “World PVP is dead.”

But do we even like to PVP? Do we do it? I’ve found myself on a server that’s a bit Alliance-heavy (always seems to be one or the other) so it’s hard to see any epic PVP going on around me, but I wonder… do you like to PVP when you’re not raiding? Do you actually know where the BGs are? Have you heard of this thing called resilience or did you think that was a skin cream your grandmother uses?

The gender mix-up in raiding

February 10, 2011 By: Ladan Category: gender issues, Polls, raiding group size, raiding guild

We’ve all seen it before… a 25-man Horde raid with about 19 female blood elf characters… or a 10-man Alliance raid group with 6 female draenei and 3 female night elves… but that’s not a demographic correlation with who are actually playing those characters. We don’t have more female players than male. We just seem to like playing female characters. I remember this one time in my guild (Alliance). Over the course of one week about six of the guys (and I knew they were guys from talking to them on vent or knowing them in RL) had suddenly changed their previously very male character to a female character. Of course I had no idea until I took 5 seconds to look at them during a raid and then had to do a double take. “Weren’t you a guy last week?,” I wondered, alarmed at this sudden decision of quite a few guys to head to the gender reassignment clinic and get certain things snipped off while adding other parts…

Of course, changing gender isn’t a painful and prolonged surgical procedure in World of Warcraft (unless parting with cold, hard cash is painful to you) and from my chats with raiders it’s almost never done because the person has a deep need to explore their issues of gender identity through an online game. It’s usually far more practical or aesthetic in origin. Here represents a composite of comments I’ve heard from male players about why they’ve changed their character from male to female or why they prefer to play female characters:

  • A shapely female draenei is nicer looking than a male draenei. [Many raiders have commented that they think male draenei look like unattractive bricks; kinda feel sorry for them.]
  • Male blood elves look lame. [Actually some players use a more derogatory word here but I won't include it myself. :P ]
  • They would rather stare at a female character’s posterior while they play.
  • Their gear looks better on a female character.
  • They heard that female characters get more help. [This is an intriguing one, because it can also carry through to female players--to controversial effect.]

In my informal discussions with female players, it is rarer that they will intentionally create or roll up male characters. I’m not sure exactly why that is, but I will say that I have one male character (a death knight) and I am not as comfortable when I play him. It does not feel like a kind of virtual extension of myself. I wonder if the gender character choice is less important for some players because they have a more detached relationship with their character. They look at it as a kind of conduit, a conduit that connects them to the game world and is merely the means by which the player does his or her actions inside the game. As a result, there is no great deep thoughts (like what I showed you above) as to why they pick a female character over a male one. But then again, I do know quite a few raiders (myself included) who do put thought into their character’s look and name, so I’d not say we’re all completely arbitrary about it. I just think it’s not as important as, say, how we like to set up our UI for raiding or what spec we’re using.

So we like the look of a female character, apparently, but that’s not who’s sitting behind the computer. Based on the informal results of the poll (with almost 200 participating), it’s extremely rare that female raiders (that’s the player, not the character!)  are equal to or exceed the number of male players in their raid groups. Anecdotally, and after almost 4 years of raiding, I have to agree with this. Before the poll I actually posited that most raid groups would include 10-20% female players. I’d say 39% is not a majority, but it’s a significant amount, and it gets even more significant when you add the less than 5% to 33% results as well. Let’s look at the results:

What is your estimated average male/female player (not your characters!) ratio on your raids?

  • Between 10% and 20% female players. (39%)
  • An average of 20% to one third are female raiders. (22%)
  • Less than 5% female in our raid groups. (22%)
  • No female players raid with us at this time. (11%)
  • We’ve got an even split (50/50) of men and women. (3%)
  • We have more female than male raiders in our group! (3%)

If you exclude the extremes (even split of male/female players, more female than male raiders, and no female raiders at all), 83% of respondents have at least 1 female player raiding with them. And this can go up as high as 22% of respondents having as many as 8 female raiders in a 25-man raid group or approximately 3 (I can’t really say 3.33, as that would require slicing up raiders.. unless 1/3 of a raider is a gnome?) in 10-man raiding groups.

What I’d love to break down further are roles and responsibilities of male and female raiders next. Of those women in your raid group, what percentage are healers? Ranged DPS? Do you have any as tanks or melee DPS? Again, speaking here from my own observations, it’s less common (though it definitely does exist!) to have female players playing tanks or melee DPS. I seem to be quite stereotypical: I’ve only ever raided as a healer or ranged DPS.

And what about roles on the raid team. Do you have a male or female raid leader? What about class leaders? Who hands out things like loot? Calls out commands? Maybe you find it easier to hear commands from a female voice, if it’s less common? I myself have been in a raiding guild with a female raid leader and I thought she was excellent. There’s at least one other highly ranked raiding guild on my server that has a female raid leader and a couple of the world’s best guilds have female raid leadership. But you may find it more common to have female raiders in your guild taking on the role of GM or other administrative jobs (the Web site, social gatherings, etc). Often viewed as a job that requires intense people skills (especially if you have a really big guild with a raider/social member mix) and management ability, it may be a more natural draw for a female player. Also, a 2008 study of EQ players found that  female players tended to spend more time in the game, (Williams et al, 2008)  maybe making it more feasible for them to manage the house, as it were. The same study, incidentally, said that about 80% of EQ players were male, while 20% were female. I believe we may have a slightly higher percentage of female players in WoW (maybe 25%?), but I think, on average, we have less female raiders. The EQ study did not look at raiders, just MMO players in general.

Also, if any of you are in or know of an all-female raiding guild, I’d love to hear about that. I know there are some all-female competitive gaming teams out there, but I wasn’t sure how many were represented among MMO raiding. I do believe that part of the reason we have fewer female raiders than male are practical reasons: time and skill. Despite the fact that female MMO gamers may spend more time in an MMO (or in EQ at least), we don’t know when they are in game. Evenings (when raiding happens) may not be as feasible for them to participate, especially if they have household or family obligations–or feel more guilt if they don’t tend to them, at least. And with less available time, it may be harder to develop their characters to be raid ready, along with learning the fights. But this also correlates to busy guys who aren’t raiding. Some of us just don’t have the time to commit to raiding.

As far as females being excluded from raiding, I really can’t find any evidence of that. Even when I spoke to the world’s best guilds–who generally, though not always, have fewer females than the lower ranked guilds–they were emphatic about not caring if the raider is male or female. They worried more about performance. If a female raider can carry her weight, she’s more than welcome, is what I’ve been told time and time again. In my interviews with some of the guys from Paragon they have been almost forceful in their emphasis that when they raid, Xenophics (their only female member at present) is never even looked at as a girl, just as a raider. Some have pointed out those cases where a female player has tried to use her status as a woman (see the last bulleted item above, too) to get preferential treatment or attention. That is viewed as extremely offensive to players who have seen that in action. Often called the ‘tittie ticket’, there has been a practice reported of some female players who flirt their way into a high performing guild to secure valued raid spots and gear, despite their inability to perform. And often this causes a lot of tension amongst the raiders in the guild. It’s an ironic manifestation of the “sleeping with the casting director” problem that has many of us cynical over why a physically gorgeous woman who can’t act might get a part in a movie, when an ordinary looking woman who acts as well as Meryl Streep never gets a chance.

But this is where it always confuses me. We don’t judge raiders by looks. Often we may not even know what they look like (can you really trust that pic you were sent?). We judge on performance. So how can we allow a poor performing raider (of any gender) to stay in the group. Well, I suppose that’s our overall performance and forgiving nature coming into play. We can (especially in 25-man raiding) tolerate one really poor performer as long as everyone (or some of the group) exceed the average. And we do it a lot. And we usually do it for social reasons; they are a friend, they are family, they are the partner of one of the raiders, they are just a nice person with just crappy lag/gear/computer.

But at the end of the day, while elite guilds may have had the problem of the gender card being manipulated for personal gain, I think in general, a female player–as long as she can perform at the same level as everyone else–is as welcome on a raid as any other player.

Reference

Williams, Yee and Caplan (2008) Who plays, how much, and why? Debunking the stereotypical gamer profile. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13 (2008), 993-1018.

BBC article and radio show about WoW Raiding

February 02, 2011 By: Ladan Category: new media, raiding, raiding content, raiding culture, World of Warcraft

Note: I put this post up at Paragon’s site as well, but am cross-posting for those who might not have seen this yet.

Yesterday the BBC posted an article about raiding, particularly in relation to hard core or elite raiding and I was interviewed for this article for my “thoughts” about raiding and what my research is telling me. They also spoke to Paragon to get the added perspective from an elite raiding guild. Here is the article, if you haven’t seen it yet:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-12326825

(If you back up to the main technology page, they’ve got a pretty impressive image to advertise the article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology/, though I doubt that image will be up for too many days.)

The interview was also included in a radio show called Outriders, which is aired on BBC 5. I have no idea if folks outside of the UK can listen to it, but here’s that information if anyone is curious.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/outriders/2011/02/tracked_televised_taught_and_t.shtml

The segment on WoW raiding starts around 19 minutes into the show. Aside from the presenter mispronouncing my name, I think it’s a nice discussion about how raiding works. Kudos to the BBC for wanting to look beyond the alarmism that the media tends to prefer to focus on when it comes to games: addiction, obesity, antisocial behaviour.

I can’t say how much stock you can put into this, but my mother (who has very little understanding of video or computer games, let alone raiding in WoW) claims that she now understands raiding a lot better now having listened to my interview. Go Mum!