Wednesday, March 7, 2012

WoW Survey Results: Looking at crossplay

Actually a dude
There's a bit of an adage about World of Warcraft that the men are men, and so are the women. This is to say that no matter what the gender of the character you're looking at is, it's likely a guy playing that character. Now, given the percentage of female players that some studies have shown and the percent of the time that players of both genders play oppositely-gendered characters, this is actually unlikely.

For this article, and forever on until I manage to find a better one, I will use the term "crossplay" to refer to when a person plays a character whose gender is different from their gender.

In general, from my survey results, male respondents engaged in crossplay ~33.96% of the time and female respondents engaged in crossplay ~9.19% of the time. Right of the bat we see that men engage in crossplay far more than women do, almost 4 times as much. If you ask, most male players would likely tell you that you spend all of your time in this game looking at your character's butt and they would like to enjoy looking at what is presented to them.

Is that all there is too it? Guys, why do (or don't) you play female characters? Ladies, why do (or don't) you play male characters? Well, we can look at this ourselves a bit while we wait for potentially helpful comments. Let's get some breakdowns in here. Unfortunately, as in the past, I can't supply a breakdown of crossplay for female respondents due to an insufficient volume of female respondents. I'm so totally bummed about that. So, if I fail to stipulate it later on, I'm just talking about crossplay by male players.

Percent of crossplay for male respondents for each class
PriestPaladinMageShamanRogueDruidHunterWarlockDeath KnightWarrior

What immediately springs out for me is something that I've noticed before. We find the warlock, Death Knight and warrior are at the bottom of a list. We saw this before when I was looking at gender and class, when those were 3 of the 4 least played classes for female respondents. It's interesting that three of the four least played classes for female respondents are the least crossplayed classes for male respondents. Although pinpointing why it's this way will have the same troubles that we had back then. The correlations between armor type, role, location in battle, and theme will confuse the analysis. We also see that our light-wielders, the priest and the paladin, hold solid leads in the top spots with the cloth-wearing mage in the third spot. Let's look at this a few different ways.

Average crossplay by armor type
This table shows a pretty clear trend that indicates that as you go from the lighter armor types to the heavier armor types, the average amount of crossplay by male respondents decreases. This probably plays into the aesthetics of the armor as many male players probably don't imagine a male hero wearing a robe or a female hero wearing bulky plate.

Average crossplay by role
No HealHeal
No Tank32.5241.61
This table show us that healers tend to have more crossplay while tanks tend to have less crossplay. Does this show that male players consider tanking to be a masculine role and healing to be a feminine role?

Average crossplay by fight location
Here we can see that male players tend to crossplay less with characters in melee and more with characters at range. I feel less certain that this one plays into real feelings and feel that it may just be a correlation with the effects of role and armor type.

The three tables above really break down what I think are some of the predominant factors that influence whether a male player will crossplay. I think that armor type and how it affects aesthetics and role/fighting location and how that affects perception really make up the most of it. I'll admit that I am not immune to this as well, but I'll get into that after this next section. Now let's look at how race influences crossplay.

Percent of crossplay for male respondents for each race

There is some wide variance here, huh. Analyzing the races is different since they can't be broken into groups as easily as classes can be. The thing that tends to stick out to me, is the comparative of the female model, especially when that is compared to the male model. We see that the female models that are the most attractive (according to human standards, of course) are at the top of this list. I have complete faith that the patented female Draenei hip wiggle has played no small role in vaulting them to the front of this list. Gnomes, while certainly not having human proportions, are much like tiny humans, which is probably the factor that has placed them in the number 5 spot above all the "monstrous" races and the dwarves. Interestingly, although dwarves are quite human, moreso than the gnomes in my opinion, they are at tenth place here. I guess guys just tend to be too shallow for them. They probably couldn't handle a playing a dwarven lady anyway. One last table for this section, you probably noticed this yourself with the last one.

Crossplay by faction

This combined with the fact that the Horde has fewer female players than the Alliance means that the Horde is a bit of a sausage fest, comparatively. Sorry Horde bros, that's just the way it is.
Also really a dude

In full disclosure I must admit that I am not immune to the draw of the female characters, although I believe my percentage is lower than the average. My very first female character was a Night Elf priest (how typical, right?) and my second female character is a human warrior, which I've talked about before (and need to play more). I honestly can't remember any others that I may have.

So it seems that the trends that drive men to play a female character are the oft-quoted attractiveness and their perception of in-game gender roles. What I'm particularly interested in is why there is such a difference in the percentage of crossplay between male and female players. Do women play so few male characters because female characters tend to be more attractive? What other components are there to this?

But wait, there's more - Age and crossplay
There is an age component to all of this, too. In general, older male players are more likely to play female characters than younger male players. Going back to the two groups that I set up for my post about the ages of male players and how that impacted what they played, I found that in general, the 18 and younger group played female characters 27.62% of the time while the 25 and older group played female characters 34.65% of the time. Futhermore, the increase from one group to another was not uniform, some groups saw a higher increase than others.

Crossplay by age for class
YoungerOlderComparison of odds*
Death Knight17.65%27.75%1.79

So every group except for the hunter and the mage saw an increase in their amount of crossplay among the male respondents at they ageds. When looking at this chart, however, some of the classes increased less than the average increase. So while female characters tend to appeal more as we move from the younger group to the older group, some don't increase as much. In summary, as male players age
  • Decreased: hunter, mage
  • Increased<Average: priest, shaman, rogue, paladin
  • Increased>Average: warlock, Death Knight, warrior, druid
One thing to notice is that the classes that had the lowest percentage of female players among the younger group saw the biggest increases. It's distinctly possible that as male players get older, they tend to throw away a bit of their preconceived notions about in-game gender roles. This isn't to say that the older male players are an enlightened bunch, but just that they don't subscribe to those gender roles as strongly.

Crossplay by age for race
YoungerOlderComparison of odds*
Night Elf47.58%47.11%0.98
Blood Elf44.44%52.02%1.36

 In summary, this is
  • Decrease: dwarf, draenei, orc, Night Elf
  • Increase<Average:Blood Elf
  • Increase>Average:goblin, human, troll, worgen, gnome, undead, tauren
 One thing to notice here is that in addition to being more open to crossplay, the older male group also seems to have lost their qualms with the "monstrous" female races, with all of them except for the orc receiving significant gains in popularity. Quite frankly, I can't come up with a reason that the orc and the dwarf would have a decrease in popularity. It's puzzling to me.

I could have done the various breakdowns that I normally do but I think what we saw was pretty clear and that I would spare you all.   ;-)

Male crossplay is something that has many factors. In general, it seems to be affected by the attractiveness of the female model of the chosen race as well as the aesthetics of the class's armor. Futhermore, it seems to be affected by the in-game gender roles that the players seem to ascribe to their character's PVE roles.

As male players get older, things seem to change. They seem to become more willing to crossplay in general. It seems likely to me that this isn't due to an increased desire to play female characters but a loss of feeling that they have to play male characters. Furthermore, they seem to becomes more open in how they crossplay, not feeling as strong a pull to tend to those perceived in game gender roles and becoming more open to crossplaying with races that they might not find as attractive as others.

All in all, no matter how much analysis I do here, we can't conclude anything about why a particular person engages in crossplay or why they crossplay with the particular character(s) that they do. For some, it could just be about having something nice to look at. For some, it could be for roleplay purposes. For others, it can be part of their transition process as a transgendered person.

In the future, I'd like to be able to take a look at female crossplay. The fact that it is more rare makes the possibility of analyzing it all the more appealing. If I get the chance to do a study like this again in the future I will go to great steps to get a large enough number of female respondents so that I can achieve such an analysis.

Next time, I intend to look at what I'm calling "class correlations." I'll be looking at what classes tend to be played by the same person and how if one person plays one class, how likely is it that they play the other classes. Are there some classes that are much likelier to be played together than others? We'll find out.

*The comparison of odds column is calculated as follows. If p(young) is the percentage of female characters for the young group and p(old) being the same for the older group, with both being between 0 and 1, then the comparison of odds,
This is a measure of the increase in crossplay from the young group to the male group. It is the odds that a older respondent crossplays for that class divided by the odds that a younger respondent crossplays for that class.