Thursday, September 24, 2009

MBTI and WoW

Kae at Dreambound with the help of Nertok has been running a survey of the personality types of Warcraft players. The instrument they are using to measure personality type is the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). This attracted the Innkeeper's eye because she happens to know that her Bartender, when not spilling mead all over the customers, has a great deal of professional experience with MBTI and Jungian psychology. As all employees know, when your boss e-mails you and says, "it might be a good idea" this means "do it now or you're fired." But I don't mind the task because it will keep her distracted and not notice that the barkeep is into the goods (if you follow my (hic!) drift) and that this is the real reason yours truly spells tips as "tits".

Since it's tradition in the MBTI community to always reveal your type when talking about type, I'm an INTJ. This post assumes you know what those letters mean as it's beyond the limited space here to introduce the whole theory of the MBTI.

The first note I want to sound is a note of caution. The MBTI is an instrument and like all instruments it's only as useful as the competency of the person who wields it. A person's MBTI result is frequently an inaccurate description of their true personality type because responses to the questions are subject to cultural, social, and age-related influences. The MBTI should always be used as a starting point; not treated as a final answer. The single biggest confounding factor in any web based survey using the MBTI is the reality that there is no way to tell if the person is recording their genuine personality type; professional assistance is required.

Despite this caution about the accuracy of type identification, the results recorded by Kae and Nertok are for the most part what Jungian theory would predict. If you had asked me prior to reading the results who most role-playing gamers are I would have said the dominant type would be an INTJ. Certainly IN. Everything about on-line gaming screams INTJ for the same reason that this type dominates in research, academia, and the law. It's a quiet activity where individuals can use their analytical skills to create systems that push the boundaries of the possible. The concept of an ordered progression (gear levels, class levels) is what we mean by judging (J). That data is taken in and manipulated analytically (think Elitist Jerks) is what we mean by thinking (T). That this activity takes place in an imagined space is part of what we mean by intuition (N). That this activity takes place in a space of limited extroverted interaction is part of what is meant by introversion (I). The common remark that INTJs are the unusual combination of imagination (N) and reliability (J) is well illustrated by reputation grinds, dailies, dps rotations. Once they find something that strikes their imagination they just want to do it over and over again, sometimes well past the time that is healthy. Alexander the Great (ENTJ) raided Persia; Napoleon Bonaparte (ENTJ) raided Russia; INTJs raid Ulduar.

As this table shows, the overwhelming majority of the respondents are introverted or intuitive and of the top five types three are introverted intuitives. Interestingly, the top two introverted personality types are the INTP and the ISTP. Both of these types are actually dominant thinkers and secondarily intuitives. The two dominant intuitives are the INFJ and the INTJ. The poor representation of the INFJ and the middling representation of the INTJs suggest that Warcraft is less of a game for people with imagination than it is for people who think. With the lone exception of the INFP, all the top introverted types use thinking as their dominant or secondary function. This makes perfect sense if you consider that most of the community around the game is based upon sites that emphasizes the usefulness of data (Wowhead, Thottbot) or thinking through the possibilities in data. Elitist Jerks is a beautiful example of the INTP personality writ large.

To those who don't know much about how Jungian personality types work the popularity of the ENFJ might seem a real outlier. But ENFJ is the description of the extroverted type that is most interested in exploring the values of others in the world. They are the prototypical socials that Gevlon likes to deplore; the ones who want everyone to win; the ones who will sell their Runed Orb for 10g to help out the guy around the corner. I would also guess the type most likely to be casual players as Warcraft would be only one of the many activities they do. For reasons to complex to get into here, I would also suspect that they are almost entirely under age 30. ENFJ are also a very popular type in fields like career counseling and I suspect that their dominance in the results also comes from seeing the MBTI advertised. They are one of the extroverted types most interested in personality, although almost always another's personality and never their own.

One aspect of the data I found puzzling is the Feelers. Role playing gaming is intrinsically structured imagination; it's not a feeling activity at all. So while the absence of the ENFP is to be expected, the presence of a large number of INFP respondents is remarkable. The American cultural female stereotype is INFP. It's possible that many of these players are women brought into the game by their boyfriends to do the traditional female role of healing. There's some support for this in the fact the data shows that most of the feelers are in classes that have a healing role (Druid, Paladin, Shaman) and that feelers shy away from the classes known for tanking (Warriors, Death Knight). In other words, the feelers are not into the game as an end in itself but as a way to support their feelings about others. This theory is further buttressed by the almost complete lack of any sensing feelers in the game. It would be most illuminating to know where those INFPs came from and their sex. If they were American women then boyfriends is reasonable answer. If they are not, it's an interesting development warranting further research.

Kae's and Nertok results are right in line with what Jungian type theory would predict about who plays role-playing computer games: introverted intuitives and introverted thinkers. The top four types (baring the ENJF) are the INTP, INFP, ISTP, and INTJ all of which are either primary/secondary thinkers or primary/secondary intuitives. The results so far suggest that thinking types are dominate but a surprising large numbers of intuitive feelers, most likely drawn to the game in support of their feelings about others.
In particular, the involvement of the INFP in Warcraft is an area warranting future investigation.


Rhii said...


Like many of the original survey's respondents, I am also an INTP. And right in line with their results (more percievers favor mages, judgers favor locks), my main is a mage. Crazy.

Flex said...

Twelve years ago I took the MBTI professionally and came up as INTP; I recently did an online version and came up as INTJ. Either way it seems I'm still in the target demographic.

I didn't see such an analysis of the MBTI vs hardcore/softcore, social/casual/raider on the dreambound/nertok blog - perhaps I missed it. I think it would be very revealing in finding the roles E/F types play, but at the same time it's very likely that certain personality types simply didn't take the survey, and so skewed the results.

Tesh said...

Interesting. GamerDNA has a lot of graphed metrics, too.

Oh, and I wrote this a while back:
INTJ, Bartle and Scorpion Dragons

The game design definitely swings to the min-max crowd (Achievers/"thinkers") rather than the Explorer crowd (the "imaginative crowd"). It's easier to motivate an Achiever with a treadmill than an Explorer who wants new content.

spinksville said...

*hide* ENTP here, what should I be doing with my spare time instead of MMOs? :)

Elnia said...

@flex. It's possible that there are a ton of ES types that are playing WoW but just don't respond to surveys about personality. But I think that's an unlikely scenario in this case. Given the inherent IN nature of on-line RPGs the more likely situation is that they are not responding because they are not playing.

@Spinks. You should spend some time on Elitist Jerks. That's you turned the other direction. It's perfectly reasonable for an ENTP to play an RPG but the key is that you will respond to it in a different way than your INTP brethren. All NTPs spend a great deal of time thinking through the possibilities. ENTPs are, however, are much more visibly entrepreneurial than their introverted brethren.

spinksville said...

Oo, good point. Maybe I'll start a blog! :)

Hatch said...

It looks like one of the reasons WoW is so successful is that it appeals to so many different personality types!

I'd be even more interested to see what activities each type favors, ie is your entire raid intp/intj, etc. Would also be interesting to see how these pan out along gender lines, though a lot of that is redundant given how influential cultural ideas on gender are in supressing of amplifying the "right" personality traits.

Elnia said...

@spinks. And I think you should get a Twitter account too!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post.

forthebubbles said...

The low representation of INFJ could also be due to the low number of INFJ's in general.

I am an INFJ myself, and while my main is (now) a healer I also have TWO tanks and a pure DPSer. But it's a DPSer with a cute fuzzy pet...hmm.

Firespirit said...

Amazingly fascinating. I guess I fall right in line - INTP here :)

Elnia said...

@Hatch. Yes, cultural confounding is a huge factor. I actually test as a weak ENTJ but that's because I was raised and trained in an extroverted culture. It's one reason why I caution about reading too much into the MBTI without professional assistance.

. I should have guessed; it certainly explains my love hate/relationship with your writing. Love the playful vision but stop it with all the god damn fucking feeling, ok? Drives us thinkers batty.

Kae said...

It's good to read your more scholarly, researched analysis of the results :) It's halfway a boot to the rear as a reminder that I've been procrastinating on tallying the rest of the results... *cough* I am such an INFP.

Regarding your curiousity about what drove an INFP female such as myself to the game... that is a story that I think will take an entire blog post in response. I don't think it is at all out of place for an INFP to be a role-player or want to play an RPG, however :)

krizzlybear said...

Considering the data, I fall under the less common ISFJ. It makes a lot of sense, considering the environment that I game in. I'm with an easygoing guild that I value more for their companionship rather than their raiding abilities, and I work hard as a means to better contribute to the group rather than for some personal gain.

I would be interested in your further analysis of SFs as to why they are in such small numbers.

Altoholics R Us said...

I had to write a paper about this just a couple of weeks ago. I personally am an ISFJ, and yes, the personality type suits me very nicely.

However, I have played all roles and classes in the game now... but of course, healing is what I'm best at.

Interesting post!

Thanks for sharing.

pewter said...

One aspect of the data I found puzzling is the Feelers. Role playing gaming is intrinsically structured imagination; it's not a feeling activity at all.

I'm not really sure how you draw this conclusion. I'm an INFJ, and playing MMOs and other RPGs are pretty much my exclusive gaming experience. I feel for the characters, I 'feel' for my toon, I play intuitively sometimes; and on other times I min/max depending on what is the most fun for me at the time.

I'm an INFJ, and I started out as a healer (and was also a guild 'aunt' and web admin) but moved on to melee and ranged dps. Never played a tank though.

Elnia said...

@pewter. Because in Jungian psychology 'feeling' isn't used in the ordinary sense of the word as a kind of emotionality. "Feeling for" your toon is really a kind of empathy and is not what the MBTI means by feeling at all.

Feeling in the MBTI refers to value. When Krizzlybear writes, "I'm with an easygoing guild that I value more for their companionship rather than their raiding abilities..." that is introverted feeling. IF's ask the question, "What's important to me?" Only an introverted feeler would start off a sentence with the words "I value" in the same way an IT will start of a sentence with "I think".

In any event, as your own post shows, your not a dominant feeler at all. INFJs are dominant intuitives. Your opening shot is to object to the way I limit possibilities which is the key affront that bugs the piss out of dominant intuitives.

I invite you to go read Kizzylbears response yet again. When you compare and contrast your comment and his comment you have beautiful illustration of the key difference between an ISFJ and and an INFJ.

Kae said...

I made my post about my gaming background and how I started playing MMOs... but I wanted to also partly explain a bit more about what has kept me in it, as an INFP.

- I like helping people. The guild works together as a team to achieve a goal, no matter what my role in it may be.

- I am a perfectionist on myself. This is what gets me through the very boring routine of dailies and rep-grinds, though I have yet to finish off the oracles because it's soooo tedious and repetitive. However, it's lead for me to research ways to make myself better, and try to understand how my abilities work, and how best to use them to help others.

- I want others to learn how to be better, too. This is what made me an officer, and a blogger.

- My role as officer has always been a back-seat, referee/suggestions type of officership. I act as a mediator in the guild, and hate when frustrations over a boss fight result in short tempers.

- I highly value cooperation, teamwork, and adaptibility. This, tied to my own self-perfectionism, drove me to panic attacks when trying to lead a more casual-play guild whose main force of progression was to apply heads liberally to brick wall, until over-gearing the fight made it crumble. I also value loyalty and friendship, and it nearly destroyed me to have to leave the guild as the conflict within me warred.

Hopefully this may help you in your curiosity about my personality type, as gamers :)

Azryu said...

I scored ENFP... which interests me incredibly because you said there is an absense of them!

Im slightly unsure as to what it means, but why do you find it expected that there is just a small handfull of us ENFP's?

What does ENFP say about me as a gamer?

I play a mage, and am male- if that adds anything to the equation.

This intruiges me a lot- I can't wait to hear what you (Larisa or Elnia) have to say!

Elnia said...

@Azryu. I clicked on the link for your blog and I am glad that I did. Based on the results in your post, I suspect that you are not an ENFP at all. Though you didn't say where you got your results from, read my qualification about professional interpretation.

The only clear preference you show is for intuition. The rest of the other scores are so weak that I would not rely on them in any way it terms of making a final determination as to your exact type.

Azryu said...

I used HumanMetrics to get the ENFP.

Now CareetTest is saying I'm INFP.

Apparently 5% of the population is ENFP and 1% is INFP, according to CareetTest. I must just be one hell of a wierdo xD

But it seems between the two, the FP at the end, being the same, could hold some meaning. Ill do more later when I'm not so tired.

Anonymous said...

You're getting the MBTI theory wrong. Extraverted intuition is supposed to be a very creative process. It's an auxilary function in introverts yes but nothing to dismiss. INTJS are not "more" creative then INTPs. In fact the opposite may be true since a dominant perceiving function makes you more receptive to alternate lines of thought.

Anonymous said...

note that studies on INXPs showed they tended to be more right hemisphere dominant. Which is supposed to be correlated to gestalt-creative pattern thinking.

Elnia said...

. I was wondering if anyone was going to pop in and make the claim I got it all wrong. Even though I use their instrument I am no fan of CAPT and CPP. My take on the MBTI comes from a much more pure Jungian perspective than in does from a post-Jungian perspective. The debate over whether it's Keirsey or the Jungians or the CPP folks who are 'right' is much too much to get into in this type of format.

inscognito said...

Very interesting. Thanks for posting this. I'm an ESFJ and my personality matches my role in game pretty well. I off-tank for raids and main tank or heal as secondary spec for heroics. One description I read of my type was "provider guardian" which the guardian fits the tank role and the provider the healing role. Never thought about MBTI with WoW, but now that I do it makes a ton of sense. Any other Druid or Pally tanks out there ESFJ?

Raphael said...

INFP male here, and yes, I've got maxed out versions of every class that can heal save priest, and that's my current pet project! Everyone who knows me knows that Im the feelings oriented player, more interested in my fellow players than my own end-game aspirations.

donovitch said...

I recently did hours of online testing on several sites and correlated my answers and the resulting data with several friends and ex-girlfriend and came out with intj- I understand the basic idea of it and as I enjoy figuring out the game mechanics of fights and classes and theorycrafting my own gear and specs- I am not totally sure I am correct in my results. Do you know of any ways short of professional council to further narrow down my personality type?

Hinenuitepo said...

Eh, MBTI and other similar 'tests,' are, as I'm sure you know, rife with problems.

Most notably, they aren't empirically derived and as such, any and all results must be examined with great caution. As a 'professional' tool, it has very limited utility. Clinicians (well, I don't mean to be too high horse, but licensed clinicians) rarely use MBTI for more than generating interesting discussion.

Which is certainly what you've done here! ;) Kudos!

It's certainly not that I'm against the method, I just want to caution folks against taking the test too seriously and what it has to say about you. If in fact you have genuine concerns, please do see professional help.

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