Left: Guy from South Park’s WoW Episode; Right: Mr. T. in WoW commercial

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If you have played an MMORPG before and have chosen to tell a non-MMORPG player about playing said MMO, there is a good chance that the person you told gave you a weird look as if he was thinking something along the lines of: “But you don’t look like someone who plays MMOs.” or “I knew it. This person definitely looks like someone who plays MMOs.” This is because somehow, in the history of gaming, MMO players have been assigned an often negative stereotype. It seems like the general public is stuck on particular notions or ideas of how MMO players live, spend their time, and interact (or, according to them, don’t interact).

Not surprisingly, many of the stereotypes and stigmas that people hold toward MMOs and MMO players are wrong. For the rest of this blog post, I will examine some of these stigmas and stereotypes, compare them to statistical data on MMORPG player demographics and analyze whether or not there is any basis in these beliefs.

Note: Unless otherwise stated, data comes from The Daedalus Project.

Stereotype 1: “Almost all MMO players are male.” (Gender)

Actually, this stereotype is somewhat accurate. Most players are male. However, the percentage of male players is not as overwhelming as many people believe. Although the percentage of male players may have been greater in the past, currently only 60% of MMO players are male (BBC) and this percentage continues to shrink as more and more females are starting to play MMOs.

Stereotype 2: “Only single people play MMOs.” (Marital Status)

This stereotype is actually quite wrong. It turns out that 36% of MMO players are married or engaged. Females, however, are more likely to be married/engaged than males, feeding the “single male” stereotype. It is important to note that the 36% number does not include people who are currently in relationships who are not either married or engaged, so the real number of “non-single” players is probably quite a bit higher than 36%.

Stereotype 3: “People who play MMOs only play the game by themselves.”

There seems to be a general belief that MMOs are solitary games where people play by themselves. Besides the fact that what MMORPG stands for proves it wrong ( Massively Multi-playerOnline Role Playing Game, multi-player as in more than one person), there is statistical evidence that proves that most subscribers play and prefer to play with other people. 59% of females and 56.5% of males tend to group with other people. Almost 20% of females and 24% of males play solo due to “schedule constraints” or “lack of good groups.” 14.4% of females and 13.9% of males have no preference towards grouping or soloing and only 6.6% of females and 5.3% of males actually prefer to play alone.

Stereotype 4: “People who play MMOs tend to play with strangers that they don’t know in real life.”

Similarly, the belief that MMO players only play with strangers that they met through the game is wrong. 80% of players normally play with someone that they know in real life. Of this number, 25% play with romantic partners, with females being more likely to play an MMO with their partner. 19% play the game with their family members. The younger or older someone is, the more likely they are to play with a family member, with the 23-28 year old range being the least likely to play with a family member. Additionally, the family member is normally a brother or son, with older female players being more likely to play the MMO with their son. Finally, 70% of the people that play with someone that they know in real life play the MMO with a friend. In the younger age ranges, males were more likely to play the game with a friend, but the gender difference decreases as age increases.

Stereotype 5: “Most people who play MMOs are unemployed.” (Occupational Status)

This is another incorrect stereotype. Everyone seems to be aware that MMOs cost a lot of money to play, yet it never occurred to them that most people would need a job to fund this play. Over 50% of MMO players work full-time. Another 12% are working part-time and/or attending school part-time. 22% are full time students, 3% are home-makers, 1% are retired, and only 10% are unemployed. There is not a significant gender difference among the unemployed, proving that it is untrue that mainly males are unemployed.

Stereotype 6: “Most people spend an unhealthy amount of time playing MMOs.” (Hours of Play)

It is very difficult to define what “an unhealthy amount of time” is, so instead I’ll compare MMO playing time to the time that an average American spends watching TV. According to an AC Nielsen survey, the average American spends 28 hours watching TV each week. MMO players only spend about 21 hours per week on their game of choice, but only 7.7 hours per week watching TV. This brings them to about 29 hours spent on TV and MMOs combined, which is very close to the national TV “watching time” average. This suggests that MMO players are no less healthy in their habits than the average American TV watcher, whether you consider that amount of time to be “unhealthy” or not.

With these facts in mind, it is clear that many of the stereotypes about MMO players are quite wrong. Although there are certainly people out there who fit the classic MMO player stereotypes, there is no data to support that these stereotypes can be fairly applied to MMO players as a whole. Indeed, MMO players are a very diverse crowd, with only one similarity necessarily in common: they’re there to have fun.

  • Technohazard

    “Everyone seems to be aware that MMOs cost a lot of money to play”
    Really? $15/month is a lot of money? That’s about 2 hours of work at a minimum wage job.

  • cheryllryan

    There are not just subscription costs associated with playing an MMO. One must have a (relatively) up to date computer in order to just run an MMO, which can cost about $1000, more if you want the game to run smoothly and look decent. There are also costs associated with purchasing a microphone in order to communicate with others in an effective manner (many people prefer to communicate via voice chat). Additionally, a higher-speed internet connection is required, otherwise the game will be too laggy to play. Those costs, when added with the $15 a month are quite significant, particularly for someone with a minimum wage job.

    There are a lot of people out there who are barely making ends meet, even with a job that pays above minimum wage, and, just because you consider the costs to be minimal, doesn’t mean that the costs are minimal for them.

  • hotbabe86

    Firstly,
    cheryllryan,
    You dont need $1000 computer for MMORPGSs.
    All costs you mentioned are one time costs and they are not for MMOs purpuses only (work, studying, etc) or it can be a family computer.
    So, yes, Technohazard is rigth. MMORPGS are not expensive to play, the only cost to (some!) of MMORPGS is no more then 15$/month. It can be expensive only if you are 15 yrl odl kid living with mo…oh wait. another sterotype

    Anyway, article is crap.
    60% of women? CAN YOU REALLY TRUST surveys done by MMORPG players? c’mon people..

    Also, BBC article talks about gender ratio in ALL game ganres (including causals) If ratio mention in this article is true fro MMORPGS, then at least 2 out of 5 people that you hear over voice should be a female.

    most fo the steroptypes mentioned here are true. Deal with it..

  • cheryllryan

    hotbabe86,
    I did consider all costs when I made the statement in my post about MMOs. Since the computer, software, microphone, and internet access are all key parts of playing an MMO (can you play an MMO without a computer, the program, or internet access?), it is important that they should be considered in the equation. Again referring back to my experience in LOTRO, people have had to give up playing MMOs temporarily for monetary reason. These people were employed but needed the money because their spouse lost his/her job or for other reasons (there are quite a few). Anyway, I see little merit in arguing the semantics of one sentence in my post and what constitutes “a lot” of money. You are entitled to your own opinion of what should or should not be included, but regardless a job still is necessary to pay for the MMO subscription unless you fit under the category of a student and your parents are willing to pay for it.

    As for the rest of your comments, did you actually read the post or did you just browse through, without actually paying attention to the sentences that the words were forming? If you had read the post and if you had read the BBC article, you would notice that the 40% female, 60% male number is the gender ratio in a MMORPG, not including “ALL game ganres.” Coincidentally, according to the 2009 survey conducted by the ESA, that is also the same ratio for gaming in general, though if you look at just online games (which include games other than MMOs), it’s actually a 57% male-43% female.

    As for my experiences when playing LOTRO, around 2 out of 5 (or more) of the people I “hear over voice” are actually female. Just because you might play an MMO that does not attract a large number of female players does not mean that there are not other games out there that do attract female gamers. The point of this article was to judge the validity of stereotypes and, based on the statistical evidence that I have seen, the stereotypes do not seem to be accurate. Your only “argument” on the matter seems to be that you are claiming that the statistics are false. However, I did not gather and compile the statistics so if you have a problem with their accuracy then you may want to take issue with the researchers, not me.

  • Hunter

    $15/month is not much at all assuming you get enough entertainment out of the product for that month. $15 can get you one month of time for an mmo. Going to a movie once by yourself will cost that much if you end up getting a drink and some popcorn. One meal at a restaurant will cost just as much.
    Spending $1000 on a great pc is a worthy investment. No, you do not need anything spectacular to run an mmo unless you absolutely want everything you can get from the visuals, audio, and input. You could even get away with a $400 computer for the majority of mmos.
    That $1000 pc will easily last 3+ years
    Considering the vast amount of stuff that can be done with that pc over that large time period, the cost of the pc becomes insignificant in the long run, to the point where the cost would not even factor in to the subscription cost. If someone other than yourself will also use it, then the cost becomes even more insignificant.

    The same idea applies to purchasing the game itself. If you play it for many months, this cost becomes insignificant in the long run.

    Microphones aren’t necessary. People won’t shun you if you use text. They can be found very cheap though.

    The cost for internet access follows the same idea as the cost for the pc, except on a shorter time scale. If you solely use that internet connection for the mmo, then that mmo essentially costs you $50/month. If you use it for other activities though, the cost becomes more insignificant, to the point where this cost may as well not count towards the cost of the mmo.

    Yes, the costs factor in. The thing is that chances are you wouldn’t use those things solely for an mmo. If that were the case, you would basically be paying $100+/month for that mmo, which is just silly. Because those things are used for stuff other than playing mmos, the costs become so insignificant that the subscription fee may as well just be $15/month.

    Great article though

  • Andrew

    you never considered that they quit because they need to stop playing computer games and need to find a job?
    They’re probably trying to find a place to get paid since they’re partner can’t, or their partner just got laid off and get’s pissed to see someone just plaiyng computer games all day.

  • Billius

    “Microphones aren’t necessary. People won’t shun you if you use text.”
    Any serious endgame guild in an MMO won’t let people raid without a mic, or at the very least a headset. Typing takes way too long when one second can make the difference between success and failure in an encounter.

    Good list and good observations. In my experience with MMOs there are certainly people who fit these stereotypes, but for the most part they’re not true. In the guild I’m playing with right now about half of the regular raiders are women and there are quite a few married couples playing the game, including *gasp* my friends from real life who play in the same guild and are married to each other.

  • ov3rcl0ck

    The thing that kept echoing in my minds is. How the hell did he get these statistics?!?
    Honestly i think its completely made up. But then again it wouldn’t be surprising.

  • JJ_Dark

    cheryllryan, your comments lack any validity when referring to overhead costs of playing MMOs. Most if not all people use there computer/internet access for other things besides playing MMOs. 15 bucks a month is nothing for playing MMOs, mics are cheap, can get one for 10 bucks or less, you do not need a high end gaming rig to play MMOs. I find your post deficient of any accurate analysis of monetary measurement when it comes to you assessment of how much it costs to play. Maybe if a user ONLY buys a pc/internet for JUST playing MMOs and they feel the need to always upgrade their rig/monitor/accessories to get all the bells and whistles does your statement offer some validity, but in the real world, 15 bucks a month is petty cash and the majority of players use their computer for other things as well.
    ——–

    Good post overall other than some of the asinine comments.

  • Lyn

    The stereotypes are wrong.
    When I used to play WoW I found myself constantly playing with girls not including myself. The ratio’s very accurate. You had it backwards though. 60% men, not 60% women Furthermore, I could run WoW, SWG, and all the popular MMOs back when I had a 7 year old graphics card and low grade internet connection barely above Dialup.

    FURTHERMORE, having a good computer is not a cost of the game, that’s a cost of lifes essentials. You’re getting a decent computer whether you get the game or not and that’s all you need. You sound like a console player, because they are always whining about upgrade costs. >_> When in reality that’s part of having a computer and has very little to do with playing video games on one.

    Voice chat is not mandatory. Nor is it even the standard. You can very easily go without it and play. I get sick of people hugging their mics. The whole it’s faster thing is not applicagle to an MMO of all games. MAYBE an FPS might be able to make use of it, but an MMO? People must hate you for not shutting up. I can tell by the way you praise a mics “speed”. You either come prepared or you fail, no last second orders are going to change anything in an MMO.

  • catamari

    I found something interesting in regards to one of cheryllryan’s comments: “40% female, 60% male … is also the same ratio for gaming in general” I find it interesting because that’s also the same ratio of gender at RIT.

  • cheryllryan

    Lyn,
    I couldn’t find where I said 60% female, but if I did say that (typos happen) then yes, I did mean 60% male.

    I actually prefer PC games over consoles. I do own a console (PS3) but have a grand total of three games for it (Assassin’s Creed, FIFA 09, and Force Unleashed which sucked) and almost never play it. I use it more as a cool-looking-DVD-player-with-a-weird-remote than anything else. I did not mind the cost of the new console because it is a significant upgrade from the old PS2. Because I prefer PC games, I also build and upgrade my desktop computer based on my needs, which are, admittedly, related to whether or not I can run a given game without experiencing graphics related lag issues.

    I would argue with your point that a “good” computer is a life essential. From my experience, the most intensive thing that a regular person’s computer will ever be subject to is gaming (even a ridiculous amount of multi-tasking doesn’t slow a computer down like a game with even low to mid-range graphics does). I have a 6-year old computer, a 4-year old computer, even a 2-year old computer that I would certainly not consider “good” and are completely incapable of running LOTRO or any relatively new game for that matter, but that are very useful for performing the “essentials,” such as typing up documents, web browsing, updating/managing websites, photo editing via Adobe Photoshop, etc. In general, it seems like, when people interested in gaming purchase a new computer, they do so with the intention of being able to play a given game and as such, it should be at least partially considered in the cost of an MMO. It is probably possible to calculate the cost for the necessary hardware requirements for the essentials and put some of the other cost towards the “cost of gaming” but I, personally, have no desire to spend time doing that.

    About the mic issue, in the past, not having a microphone was not a problem, but now more and more guilds, even the more casual ones, are requiring that their members have a functioning microphone in order to participate in the end game content. This makes it an essential if someone wants to regularly do end game content in a semi-casual/semi-serious guild. Although it seems kind of silly, using a mic can really make a difference with some of the more difficult content. Most players during the difficult stuff are focused completely on what is occurring in front of them and do not have time or do not bother to look at the chat window, so using a mic ensures that everyone will get your message and, as Billius said, it might be the difference between success and failure. To further emphasize this, you would be surprised at the number of people who do not normally use their mic, but end up, by necessity, doing so during end game content since they just don’t have the time to type out the message (I’m one of these people)

    • DD

      Regarding mics: I have a hearing impairment that makes mic usage a non-option. Most of the gamers I’ve met are understanding; once they see I’m a good raider, know the routine and watch closely for changes/instructions they relax. I have met others who consider this a deal-breaker, but generally speaking, those are the sorts of people I don’t care to play with anyway, so no great loss.

      BTW, as a female player I’ve noticed one difference between male and female players:
      While I’ve never been asked my age by another female player, I am asked both my age and (usually) my marital status about once a week by random male players in mmo’s.

  • Arc

    I would have to say. Yes a 1000 dollar rig is nice and definitely an advantage. but also I spent a while doing end game in WoW using a set of earbuds and listening to whats going on. I mostly did that to wait out my set shipping. So a mic is not a *requirement* per say, its incredibly useful but most guilds can wait till you get one, and if they cant I suggest a new guild.

  • Xxav

    I agree with everyone that said MMOs are not expensive. An internet connection and a decent computer are pretty common these days. I am sure most MMO players would continue to have a computer and internet connection if they stopped playing.
    And a microphone? Really? Those are like $10. A one-time investment.

  • nomnomnomynous

    good article, i enjoyed reading it.
    good comments as well, especially by cheryllryan. she states quite a few points i would have made myself if i wasn’t too lazy to type them all out =).

  • Tmoore

    Thanks for the statistics – all very interesting and from my own observations playing WOW, accurate. a few asides.
    1) I don’t see the point in people arguing the definition of cost as that’s obviously going to be a relative number – based on income and priority. But personally, i’m a free lance designer,a pc gaming nerd and i have a couple computers, use my computers for work and play, and share a very high speed internet connection with an associate, and i still think that it’s valid to note the higher than average cost for MMO gaming. Specially vs. regular gaming. I don’t think anyone mentioned as well that WOW requires you to purchase it 3 times (game + BC and Lich king) Is it worth it? Sure, it’s alot of fun.

    2) Male female ratios: Are people just not reading this article correctly? 60% women? who read that? I didn’t. This all seems like a completely plausible number – i’ve gamed with a number of women, including my sister and her girlfriend, but i would also agree that i still observe a slight male majority.

    3) If you disagree with these findings there’s no sense in arguing against them unless you have some statistical information to back yourself up – otherwise you just sound childish. If you want to posit questions regarding HOW the Daedalus project collects it’s statistics, or point out a BIAS in the interpretation of the data collected, then you might not come across quite so moronic.

    Thanks Cheryllryan – interesting article.

  • Tony

    The cost of a MMO is $15.00(ish) a month…
    If I was to factor food, electricity, ISP bills, missing finding a wallet stuffed with cash in the street, not winning the lottery, scratching my ass it would be a lot more!

    It is assumed that you have the kit to play a MMO, before buying one. You don’t buy a car, just because you have a can of gas lying around!

  • Billius

    “1) I don’t see the point in people arguing the definition of cost as that’s obviously going to be a relative number – based on income and priority. But personally, i’m a free lance designer,a pc gaming nerd and i have a couple computers, use my computers for work and play, and share a very high speed internet connection with an associate, and i still think that it’s valid to note the higher than average cost for MMO gaming. Specially vs. regular gaming. I don’t think anyone mentioned as well that WOW requires you to purchase it 3 times (game + BC and Lich king) Is it worth it? Sure, it’s alot of fun.”
    The start-up cost of WoW is certainly more expensive than regular gaming, although whenever I seriously get into WoW I tend not to buy other games, which saves me money at that point in time. When I’m not playing an MMO I tend to buy one or two games a month ($40-$120 depending on what systems they’re for). When I’m playing WoW I usually don’t buy other games unless it’s something I absolutely must have (therefore this system tends to break down in late fall/winter when many of the best titles tend to be released [Bioshock 2 anyone? Can’t wait…]). So I often end up spending “only” $15 a month on games for my WoW subscription. When you take into account that I’ve been playing WoW fairly consistently since about 6 months after the game debuted, that averages out the costs of the games themselves to be almost negligible.

    Now this is completely in my own experience and can’t be said to be the absolute truth for others, although anecdotally I have verified this to also be the case for some of my friends.

    Ultimately I do agree with your point though (since you mention that it’s relative, it’s pretty hard not to). I just wanted to share my own experience with the costs of playing an MMO and how it CAN potentially actually save one money.

  • None

    Playing an MMO is healthier than watching TV.
    When watching TV all you do is sit in front of it like a lump and let your mind go completely blank as the TV projects it’s garbage.
    With an MMO you actually have to think and interact. You can’t just sit there an watch the action unfold. Proper planning and teamwork are the ONLY way to survive in some of the harder parts of the game.
    I’ll admit I’m one of the players who solo a lot because I can’t find an intelligent group.

  • Richard

    The only qualm I have with this is the comparison between TV time and MMORPG time. TV can be left on in the background and passively interacted with. These games, on the other hand, require attention. Also, retired and unemployed are much more likely to watch TV just on the basis of availability alone, thus inflating the average by sheer volume and time. It’s just not accurate to compare to TV.

  • Grudgeguy11

    Now I will agree that alot of rumors about MMOs are false but, being a player myself I must say that MMOs can be addictive, though they cost lower than a regular movie, meal or whatever. I find that they damage a persons social skills, their intellectual capacity as the article says, that time may be spent watching TV, but it may also be spent with friends, reading a book or other such activities

  • teab baggins

    I remember when ppl used to give me funny looks in the early 90’s when they would hear me and my other nerd friend talking about sending email, or bragging about a new 2400bps modem we got, or sometimes they’d just beat us up.
    The same looks they give MMO players now. But I used to make fake report cards in dot matrix for those same ppl on my Apple 2c for around $25 I would charge them, as apparently in ’92-93 i was the only one in my school who could do something like that.

    But yea, those same ppl are now all on facebook, and there the ones making faces about MMOs. My point is, MMOers are just a few years ahead of these goons called the general population and gen pop is all on facebook thinking its so cool like the buncha noobs they are, but frowning on MMOs…

    At least gamers can recognize a glorified chatroom from a mile a way and the general population is wrecking cars because they can’t get enough of txt messaging which is something alot of gamers scoff or did enough of in the 90’s

    MMOGamers are simply more evolved netizens because those judgmental goons on with their iphones/social networks can only play Mafia Wars for so long until they move on to a real game after realizing their social network actually sucks.

    So in closing- they’re all a bunch of hypocrits and I hope they show themselves in PvP if they ever outgrowing /poking one another.

    • Pablo Martin Podhorzer

      I wonder if this guy is still alive or already died from diabetes, another fatness-related illness, or something else. I am ashamed of the time I spend researching science or watching movies on my PC, I can´t imagine how would I feel if the time I have on Earth would get shredded by MMOs.

      • Hypatia

        Why are you ashamed to do things you enjoy? The only thing to be ashamed of is not doing things you enjoy because others think less of that activity. Who cares as long as we arn’t hurting others.

        • Pablo Martin Podhorzer

          You are actually hurting yourself. You have a limited time on this world, and watching the sunset in some island in Thailand with a thin Swedish blonde at your side is a better use of your time than a dark basement.

      • Baldurs Gate

        “or already died from diabetes, another fatness-related illness” another stereotype

  • Orchelium

    What I find most ridiculous out of all this is the volume of people willing to argue against valid sources without a single recourse or note of credibility. On a different note, it seems to me, in all of my limited human perspective, that most of the ways people with surplus money spend their time these days are equally unproductive and wasteful. If you are going to live your life as a hedonist go for it, but why bother condemning other people making all the same choices as you. If MMORPG players piss you off, then go do something on the other end of the spectrum and stop trolling the hedonists’ internet. Go support a charity or do community service.

  • femalegamer

    hmm.. when I think about all the money my non gamer husband spent on his hobbies, ei: guns, golf clubs, motorcycle, wine, photography, wood carving, painting supplies,scuba equipment, and I am sure I could list a bunch more if I could think of them.
    He has spent 1000’s of dollars on various items he no longer uses.
    I play a mmo game. I ride my bike, and walk the dogs. I also visit friends, but I have many good friends that I’ve met the online and over all I have a good life…

    But non MMO players would scoff at what I do.

  • bufkus

    I think MMOs are a costly hobby, however they are cheaper than just being into single player games – which you’d buy for $50-$60 every month or so. I consider my MMO habits to cost $15 a month only since the PC and internet access are expenses I would have gotten with or without an MMO (although to be honest I did buy a new computer to handle Aion, but I would have done the same for the latest Elder Scrolls as well).

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  • Lillae

    A $60 game every few months is different from $15 every month, because you’re more likely to have an extra $60 sometimes than an extra $15 every time. It also just seems easier to justify a one-time purchase than an on-going monthly subscription.

    Especially since, for $60, you can play the game for as many months as you want. As soon as you’ve kept and played that game for more than 4 months, it’s more cost-effective than to be paying $15 every month for an MMO.

    And spending $120 gets you two games for as long as you are capable of playing them, rather than having to play the same one for 8 months. You can spend the same amount on a library of games as you might spend on five years of one sub-based one.

    This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy sub-based games, but I tend to only pay for them a month at a time, because it really sucks to have paid $30 for two months of game time only to get bored with the game in the middle of that time and want to take a break from it for a few days. If you take a two week break from a sub-based game, that’s $7.50 down the drain.

    It’s much more complicated than “just $15 a month.”

  • Sean Vowles

    Never mind paged down past it :/

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    whoallfriends.blogspot.com
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