I was never much of a gamer. Of course, I built my fair share of Sims houses and Zoo Tycoon cages, but never anything beyond that.

My boyfriend however can’t stop talking about them. After 2.5 years of being together, I have heard all about the Warhammer 40k lore, Stellaris expansions, Bethesda dropping quality due to their tenfold of staff, The Witcher games being produced by a Polish (!) developer… I’ve even gained an aversion towards EA.

After some time, he convinced me to try some of these games. Some of all were too stressful (Tomb Raider, Halo, Minecraft), but most of them turned out to be very much fun. The first game he showed me was Portal, one of the classics. This is up till now my favorite game (and that has only a little to do with the catchy tunes of Still Alive).

After Portal I was ready for the more strategic games like Stellaris and Crusader Kings II. Recently I started trying RPG’s like Oblivion and Fallout: New Vegas. As of today, I am completely hooked on the latter.

There is something in the environment that’s so appealing, and that is vanitas: impermanence. The game is set in a desert where everything is in post-apocalyptic state: radioactive lakes, perished cities and mutated people in a wasteland America.

While the setting may be something you like or dislike, another interesting aspect of this game is your influence on its course. Tasks (or: quests) appear along the way, but only if your choices up till that moment allow it: if you’ve for example declared your loyalty to one party, the other one will likely not ask for your assistance.

So how do you make these choices? These RPGs are roleplaying games where you can be anyone you want. You can be an intelligent scientist avoiding combat, a heroic soldier with a strong moral compass, a deranged woman in business wear who only fights with melee weapons (me). You can climb in the skin of any person!

But how do we decide who we want to be? Is there a link between people’s identity in real worlds and virtual worlds? Turns out, three scholars at Queensland University of Technology have researched just that in relation to Fallout: New Vegas.

In Personality and Player types in Fallout New Vegas (McNahon, Wyeth and Johnson 2012) shows there is a significant relationship between player types and personality. Assuming four different playing types (check the article if you’re interested in your type) and the FFM five-factor model of personality, there is a significant relationship between player types and the personality traits conscientiousness and openness.

Conscientiousness is associated with self-discipline and order, whereas openness reflects one’s complexity of thoughts and desire for new experiences. It appears people who play games as a Manager (they compute every move and think very strategically about their course of action but give up when the game gets too hard) score the same on both scales, whereas the Participant (this player is story-oriented, looks for emotional connections with characters and is much more likely to persevere with a game rather than give up) scores much lower on conscientiousness than openness. The Conqueror type (they are highly goal-oriented and not too concerned with the story: they just need to finish the game) is highly correlated with the conscientiousness personality trait, reflecting one’s self-discipline.

It seems the approach that best fits our personality decides whoever we become in a virtual world. The story-oriented players like myself might think long and hard on what kind of person we want to be, choosing gear and weapons accordingly, whilst others will just pick the decisions and character that helps them get through the game quickly.

Do you like role-playing games? What style do you maintain when you’re free to pick your character?  

  1. Personality and Player types in Fallout New Vegas. McMahon, Wyeth and Johnson 2012. In Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Fun and Games, Association for Computing Machinery, Toulouse, pp. 113-116.
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