WoWconomics: Introduction to Networks

For my first post I thought I would attempt to mix two of my favorite past-times into one single fascinating article: The Economic Theory of Networks, and World of Warcraft.

Still reading?

For those who have not spent endless hours questing around the mythical world of Azeroth, World of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) for short. Most of the characters that you interact with during your time in the “World” are in fact actual live humans. With over 10 million active users, it is sufficient to say that there is an area of interest in studying this world, especially for the study of Networks.

I found an article that we will only use about half a page of right now, but which may become more relevant later in the semester, which can be found right here. (Please go to page 14 and read from point 4.5 Player Independence)

What this segment of this paper talks about is player in- and inter-dependence. What the study found is that the majority of players do not share great quantities of time working together, but there appear to be a small group of people that do work together. These cooperative types generally only have one or two companions, which seems consistent with the idea of “real-life” friends.

However, this section does not discuss the idea of Guilds, which are player created networks that would attempt to assist in cooperation amongst a seemingly independent player pool. These guilds often are the most effective way of defeating the most difficult challenges found in the game, and yet, it appears from this study that a majority of players do not associate with two people enough, let alone the 40 or 50 people that typically make up a Guild, to be making use of this game mechanic.

In terms of networks, it appears that the majority of players are social islands, playing alone or with a mere one or two acquaintances  instead of making use of the plethora of potential companions.

My question is why? Please feel free to comment!

Nick Hakun

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8 thoughts on “WoWconomics: Introduction to Networks”

  1. This article was extremely interesting. I like the connection between networking and the RPG. I believe that the possible cause of the stated phenomena could be that people become overwhelmed by too much of anything. As opposed to looking at everyone playing, even in just a Guild, and optimizing their networks, players may tend to see all the possibilities and become shaken, choosing to only connect with a few other people.

    1. Thought I like that idea that kkleeman1 presents about the overwhelming task of introducing yourself to such a large and potentially saddening disappointment causing a state of apathy. That idea has merit if you ask me, I think that its because World of Warcraft is or appears as an intrinsically single person game. Unlike Starcraft! Which features large team play in the form of battles between armies where coordination is key, your victory over a team of 4 or more can be totally dependent on the partners you choose and quality of their play. It is not strange to end up joining Clans and playing against others as you get better either and eventually transcend into better team networks.

  2. Love the incorporation of videogames and economics, and I think these types of studies will become more and more prevalent as these games get larger and larger in scope and size; great post.
    I think WoW players become “social islands” because friends in WoW are made much in the same way friends in face-to-face interactions are made, but WoW players suffer from having only WoW as the primary form of communication.

    We make our friends based on how often we see them. In a college setting, these potential friends are our roommates, classmates and people who join the same clubs or organizations as we do. Through these daily interactions we build friendships with these people we see most often and then we seek to see these friends in different settings – – bars, breaks in between classes, and the like. From here we meet our friends of friends thus widening our social network making more friends through these different interactions.

    In WoW, friendships start in much the same way. As the article points out, these partnerships of pairs are formed based on what times two people log on. People who are playing at the same time have a high chance of playing together, and if they log on at this same time every day and play together every day, a friendship is formed. This WoW friendship cannot go any further in development, unlike a face-to-face friendship, and these friends are not getting the chance to be exposed to larger networks of other friends and thus potentially meeting up with members of these larger Guilds. For a player to join a Guild, his or her original friend would probably have to be in a Guild and invite the player into the organization. Even then, enough of this Guild would need to be playing at roughly the same time for the player to take advantage of this Guild.

    As much as a player may want to use the benefits of a Guild, this player may not be exposed to the right people to join a Guild.

  3. I don’t play WOW so i could not even begin to try and explain why their isn’t more teamwork involved in the gameplay, but I did find an article which presented the idea of a “videogame economist”. These economist are essentially hired by video game companies to analyze the networks of gamers that arise through online gaming. I take it that RPG’s are rich with data sets as players have a high level of freedom to interact with other. For example, if another player had an axe I wanted i could offer him gold in exchange. So, in a very general sense these online communities can represent a real economy with player decisions and interactions determining, say, how much I would have to pay for that axe. Data from how these online communities interact could prove to be very useful as such an abundance of accurate information rarely exists in the real-world. These online gaming communities could ultimately serve useful in our understanding of economies both online and offline. If there was an answer to your question, it would be much easier to find in a world that exists online rather than off it.

  4. I don’t play MMO’s, but several of my close friends do. In my observer-only experience, they play with people they know in real life much more frequently than they play with people they met in the game. I think it comes down to who do you trust, and who do you enjoy being around? When I’ve watched my friends play MMO’s, they all have microphones and are constantly talking to each other. But I would guess that they are only discussing the game 25% of the time. The rest is about current events in their lives, much like friends would discuss over a phone call or coffee.

    So my experience has been seeing the social side of MMO gaming, and I believe that players choose to play with people in their network with whom they have built trust. They would rather play alone rather than risk trusting some random avatar to watch their back and not stab them in the back and steal the prize.

  5. I have played World of Warcraft before, and I found this article pretty interesting. Kudos to you. I believe that the majority user’s do not feel inclined to work co-operatively because most user’s do not make it to the level cap, where working in a team is quite necessary to achieve goals. Blizzard studios tries to make leveling up, or advancing one’s character, as easy as possible without sacrificing gameplay. This also means making it quick to do, so relying on other people to achieve goals would be counter productive.

  6. I used to play WoW along with a bunch of other MMORPG’s. The article proved interesting for me but because it doesn’t delve too deeply into guilds (or other ways of ‘social networking’ within/regarding the game, i.e. forums, websites, etc.), I feel like it’s blind to a lot of the ways people actually are connecting and spending time together. When I played games, I had a set of friends (in real life) that I did play with, as well as a set of friends that I never physically saw, and managed to advance in the game by connecting with other players through these people I already ‘networked’ with. In MMORPG’s, I think networking is encouraged, and may even be designed into the gameplay, as grinding is the only way to level by playing independently without help from other people.

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