NCBI ROFL: The ideal elf: identity exploration in World of Warcraft.

By ncbi rofl | March 22, 2010 7:00 pm

2974645378_8d6eece492“In this study, we examine the identity exploration possibilities presented by online multiplayer games in which players use graphics tools and character-creation software to construct an avatar, or character. We predicted World of Warcraft players would create their main character more similar to their ideal self than the players themselves were. Our results support this idea; a sample of players rated their character as having more favorable attributes that were more favorable than their own self-rated attributes. This trend was stronger among those with lower psychological well-being, who rated themselves comparatively lower than they rated their character. Our results suggest that the game world allows players the freedom to create successful virtual selves regardless of the constraints of their actual situation.”


Photo: flickr/CavinB

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: duh, NCBI ROFL, teh interwebs
  • Matunos

    Well hello, Dr. Obvious… we meet again!

  • Dash

    Ha, I’ll second that. I think it’d be interesting to see how these explorations and alter egos, if you will, affect the players’ psych health… Does it reinforce their negative image? help them deal with problems dissociatively?

  • Lauren

    I kind of always wondered if they would chose an idea image of of themselves or something totally opposite- like a middleaged guy using a young hot female character. I would also like to know if they looked at female players’ choices in that study. Although it may have been difficult to find female gamers because of stuff like this:

  • Psychophile

    In response to Lauren, actually quite a few males play female characters in these games, particularly WoW. Numerous given reasons, and I won’t try to say why or if it even indicates anything at all about the person.

    One other thing to keep in mind, particularly with WoW avator creation, is that character selection is limited in regards to body type. All characters have extremely fit body images with selection limited mostly to hair type/color and skin tone. That and species, but not sure how you assess choosing a cow over a human character, but I will read through and see what they did.

  • Illusions

    Lauren, I watched the video at the link you provided. I can tell you that I do not feel it is the use of exploitative highly sexualized female images that is putting a fair number of women off video games, no matter how much some sociologists may want to think so. I am a female gamer, and have been for over 25 years, which I think gives me some small insight into the matter. For one thing, women love highly sexualized scantily clad female images. Pick up any annoying fashion magazine, and you will see more broody pouts and exposed breast and butt in those than you will in any popular video game. It isnt the female images that are keeping women from some games. I have a mix of male, female, and “other” toons on my games. I guess I must be choosing them to represent various aspects of my personality, instead of one template that I use for my whole self. Who knows.

    (Although I will say, to those graphics designers for the MMO’s that as a female I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to have an option to make an attractive female character that had some muscle and more reasonable sized breasts. If you are listening. Would be nice. Thnx.)

    Plus, there are other factors going on in when it comes to males choosing female toons. Some do it so they can look at their own butts as they run. (Yes really) Some choose female toons because they are interested in flirting with other men, I think there is a lot more going on than just creating idealized images of the self, though that is certainly going on too.

    As for choosing animals, (cows, orcs, whatever) a logical reason for that is that different races offer different advantages when it comes to certain classes. Not all choices are about the self and aesthetics. Some people choose races simply to make the very best of a certain class that they can, and the developers are the ones setting the tone for those kinds of choices.

    Interesting stuff though.

  • Rashad Ujaimi

    I’m a wow player. I used to create different characters and never stay on one character! My main was a warlock, and also played hunter, those are pet owners (like me :) ) and also played priest, but for the demand only with groups, played also Tank but based on demand. In my real life the connection between to this (in wow game) i’m continuously jumping between hobbies and never stay in one, i started diving, but later went and done horse riding, karate for awhile, now days photography and astronomy, so yes, the game somehow reflects the persons real life.

  • Leveling Guide


    In response to Lauren, Psychophile and others, I can confirm that many males play “female characters” in Warcraft, and many frequent world of warcraft male game players also have several in game characters. They do this for various different personal reasons.


  • Zygor Guide

    In response to “…the game world allows players the freedom to create successful virtual selves regardless of the constraints of their actual situation.” Yes, that is often the case, but it’s rather connected to player’s low self-esteem and self-image, I’d say. And yes, the game world can “neutralize” some of our perceived, negative traits.

    Tim Sewell
    Author of Zygor Guide

  • Ilene Kafton

    I’ve had enough I can no longer wait till Blizzard releases cataclysm.


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NCBI ROFL is the brainchild of two Molecular and Cell Biology graduate students at UC Berkeley and features real research articles from the PubMed database (which is housed by the National Center for Biotechnology information, aka NCBI) that they find amusing (ROFL is a commonly-used internet acronym for "rolling on the floor, laughing"). Follow us on twitter: @ncbirofl


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