Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

MMO research, Part 2

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

In Part 2 I’ll focus on some of my more recent EVE findings, which I’ve presented at conferences but have not been published.  While Part 1 focused on transformational leadership in EVE Online, World of Warcraft, and Guild Wars, Part 2 looks at transformational and transactional leadership in EVE.

Transactional leadership has an interesting relationship with guild stability.  The more guilds an EVE player has been a member of, the higher their self-rated transactional leadership.  Yet the higher their transactional leadership, the less likely they are to leave their current guild in the next six months.  At first glance it may seem the more a player has to offer, the more they can engage in exchanged-based interactions.  Character age, as a proxy for character effectiveness (and by extension wealth) ought to then predict transactional leadership, which it did not.  In practice, character age may actually be a weak predictor of wealth.  Anecdotally, many players appear to reach a level of personal comfort beyond which they may not progress financially.  That is, they build up enough resources to play the game in whichever manner most suits them and only rebuild their wealth when it falls below the point at which their game actions are no longer sustainable.  Therefore, as players participate in many different guilds, they may stay just long enough to build economic and military connections that they take with them to the next guild.  As players increase their knowledge and connections and have more intangible resources to exchange with new guild members, it may take them longer to exhaust the possibilities of each new guild.  Put another way, prior guild experience may provide players with resources they can exchange with new guild members, extending their exchange-based usefulness and allowing them to build an increasing number of new connections before they move on to the next guild and repeat the process.

Also interesting: I compared the leadership scores of EVE players to the self-ratings of managers in organizations.  There are a host of reasons why this isn’t an even comparison (two very different groups, different context, and so on) but it’s still intriguing!  EVE players rated themselves lower in transformational leadership but they were actually higher in transactional leadership.  In both cases the difference was statistically significant.  The structure of the EVE really supports the exchange of resources and reward-based missions, so it makes sense that transactional leadership might be higher.  This doesn’t necessarily mean EVE is building strong transactional leaders — it could mean that transactional leaders are drawn to EVE over other MMOs.  What it does mean is those EVE players who do exhibit higher transformational leadership behavior, or who work on developing it, may better stand out in the crowd.  My advice to EVE players & corp leaders?  Keep doing what you’re doing from a transactional standpoint, but focus on transformational leadership and you’ll be ahead of the game.

MMO research notes, Part 1

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

Now that our Simulation & Gaming article is online, I thought it would be helpful to summarize some of our findings.  For the MMO study mentioned in the article, I surveyed players of EVE Online, World of Warcraft, and Guild Wars.  I asked them about their leadership structure (whether they had a single leader, a team of leaders, or no formal leaders), their own leadership role in the guild, and their transformational leadership behavior, both within the MMO and in their real life workplace.

I think the most interesting finding is that guild leaders in guilds with just one leader tend to report the highest levels of transformational leadership.  As the guild has more leaders, their individual transformational leadership declines.  I believe this supports one of the underlying assumptions of leadership research in video games, that leadership is even relevant and that guild leaders are acting like so-called traditional leaders.  Regular gamers might say “well duh” but from a behavioral point of view it is important to establish prior theories of leadership are even relevant in a virtual world context.  This also suggests that strong leadership may not be necessary when leadership is shared among several members or the entire group.  There’s not much research examining how leadership structure impacts performance in MMOs.

Another finding I think is very interesting and specific to MMOs is the type of leadership structure in guilds.  In EVE, only 25% of the participants said their guild was lead by a single leader.  Although leadership teams or “top management teams” have become popular in organizations, they are still the exception.  In MMOs a single leader or CEO is the rarer form of leadership structure.

One last takeaway is the different trends between MMOs.  Comparing WOW and EVE, players who said they were not in a guild tended to self-report higher transformational leadership behavior than players who were not in a guild in EVE.  When you get right down to it, leadership = influencing others.  In EVE, you can play solo for years without really interacting with anyone and still get pretty far in the game.  In WOW (at least at the time of the study) you needed to team up with other people to accomplish high level goals.  So in a sense, WOW was requiring all of its players to have or to develop at least some level of transformational leadership ability, whether they had it themselves (solo players) or by association through their guild.  Now, EVE guilds/corps appear to require or develop a similar amount, but only in WOW was influence also required for solo players.  You need to be able to exert some influence if you’re constantly trying to put together high level raids with strangers.  This is a great example of how a game will have a hard time inadvertently developing skills, like leadership, that are not built into the structure of the game.

I’ll post more tomorrow on one of my more recent EVE Online studies!

Simulation & Gaming article online

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Our Simulation & Gaming article “Leadership in Multiplayer Online Gaming Environments” is now online.  Hooray!  Should the article stoke your curiosity, there’s plenty more meat that wasn’t included but is available in my thesis and Ugur’s dissertation.

Our SIOP poster submissions were apparently not worthy this year, which is not surprising given their theoretical nature & gaming content.  We’ve resubmitted to AoM so keep your fingers crossed.  I’ll still be in Chicago and look forward to catching up with the small but determined cadre of researchers exploring organizational psychology through games!  I’m actually looking forward to fully enjoying the first SIOP where I’m not presenting anything.