Massively multiplayer games have a lot of opportunity for self-expression. You can customize your character’s race, their role in group play, and what you do with them day-to-day. There is massive potential for sociology and social psychology if you can somehow aggregate this kind of data. Second Life has been the poster-child for academic studies, but it really just doesn’t have the user base of World of Warcraft. Blizzard doesn’t release any of these type of statistics, but there are some services and people who are attempting to gather and analyze this type of data.
Warcraft Realms is one of the premier sites for contributing and retrieving population data and statistics. Players install an addon, then upload their data to the site to be integrated into the database. It’s unclear how accurate the data is, but it seems to be in-line with my experiences, such as the Alliance-Horde ratio on my server, class ratios, etc.
Gay-nerds.com recently posted a quick analysis of global statistics versus the statistics of Taint, the largest guild of The Spreading Taint family of guilds. Taint is a social LGBT-friendly (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) guild with open invitations; all LGBT-friendly people are welcome to join. Taint alone has 5,000 characters, and 2,493 were recorded on Warcraft Realms at the time of their study. This is a very large data set, making it excellent for analysis; Taint is largely accepted as the second largest World of Warcraft guild. Additionally, most of the members of Taint are LGBT, a significant difference from the overall player population. What differences did they find? Click-through for more.
This is the data that Gay-Nerds.com came up with:
I should note that I have a couple of issues with the way this data is presented. The “difference in percentage” is not a good way to represent this data when looking at how Taint members differ from the overall player base. As an example, if 5% of the overall population played Blood Elves and 10% of Taint members played Blood Elves, then twice as many Taint members play Blood Elves compared to all players. Gay-nerds.net’s method would reflect this as a “5% difference” when in fact it is a 100% difference. Going from 5% to 10% is a much ”larger” increase than going from, say, 50% to 55%. As such, here is my adjusted data set:
The percentage difference was calculated by (%overall/%taint)-1.
This is a very interesting data set. The percentage difference is much more meaningful here, but the results are largely the same. Let’s assume Taint is representative of LGBT players and see what conclusions we can reach.
LGBT players are 16.2% more likely to play a Blood Elf and 9% more likely to play a Tauren. Gay-nerds has this opinion:
I believe that this is because Blood Elves is the prettiest/most human looking race and the Tauren is one of the most empathetic/kinder looking races (relatively at least compared to Orcs, Trolls and Undead). Does this mean gay people are more superficial than average or do we pick according to whom we can empathize better with? Perhaps another thing to follow up on at a later date.
Blood elves are certainly more aesthetically pleasing than the other Horde races, so this may be indicative of a culture with a taste for style. Though cause and effect are unclear, it is also important to look at the class data when considering race choices: blood elves cannot (currently) be warriors, which are very unpopular among LGBT players. As such, the “loss” of these potential warriors could be represented by less LGBT players of races besides blood elves, all of which can be warriors. Tauren are also the only Horde race that can be druids, and as druids are more popular among LGBT players, this may also have an effect. However, just as many gay people may identify with the effeminate aesthetics of blood elves, the tauren are close to the gay “bear” culture, which exemplifies “working-class masculinity” in the form of a heavy-set body and body hair.
The class data is much more pronounced. Melee DPS proves to be very unpopular. Warriors, rogues, and death knights are all more than 25% less likely to be played by LGBT players. Warriors are a whopping 39% less likely, rogues 26%, and death knights 35%. It seems that the idea of grabbing a sword and running into battle doesn’t strike a chord with the gay community. Hunters also were very unpopular.
Priests had a very high showing at 46% more likely to be played by LGBT players. The next two are mages at 24% and warlocks at 21.3%. The thesis of Gay-nerds.com was that gay players tended to be healers, but two of the most played classes are pure magic damage-dealers. We can’t say if the priests are more likely to be healers, but if the shadow to healing spec ratios are similar (or within 50%) to the general population, then spell DPS is by far the most popular among LGBT players. I’m not surprised by this result; I think a lot of LGBT players play WoW to be in a world of magic, not swords.
The remaining classes with increases all seem to be of the healing variety. It is not as pronounced as the other differences; all the differences (except for priests) are less than 20%. My overall conclusion is that LGBT players prefer magic-based classes, especially damage-based ones.
There are some caveats to this analysis, so let me outline some assumptions and weaknesses:
- Taint is not solely for players who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. All players are welcome as long as they are LGBT friendly. While this open recruitment gives a large number of players and eliminates many other factors, not all players are LGBT.
- Taint is not a perfect representation of LGBT players. It is a specific guild and the overall LGBT population may vary in habits.
- Taint is primarily a social guild and attracts a certain type of player. Hardcore raiders are likely to join a raiding guild in The Spreading Taint or otherwise.
How do you interpret the data?