MMO research, Part 2

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.

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