Personality profile of a magical being

A 1993 study on the personality of Dungeons and Dragons players finds kinda what you’d expect.

The personality of fantasy game players

British Journal of Psychology
Volume 84, Issue 4, pages 505–509, November 1993

Neil A. Douse, I. C. McManus

Players of a fantasy Play-By-Mail game were compared with matched controls on personality measures of decision-making style, sex-role, extraversion, neuroticism, empathy, leisure interests and personality type. Most players were male. On the Bem Sex-Role Inventory the players were less feminine and less androgynous than controls. They were more introverted, showed lower scores on the scale of empathic concern, and were more likely to describe themselves as ‘scientific’, and to include ‘playing with computers’ and ‘reading’ amongst their leisure interests than controls.

Obviously, times have changed since 1993 and now that RPGs are hip I’m sure that the personality profile of gamers is completely different. And anyone that says different will taste the cold steel of my vorpal sword. No saving throw.

Link to study abstract.

10 thoughts on “Personality profile of a magical being”

  1. Femininity? Introversion? Those aren’t stats in any RPG I know.

    Although I can see it happening in some weird Japanese one where you play someone who is basically a sex offender.

    They should have rated them on Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma.

  2. I’m a roleplayer (although mostly I’m writing up my PhD right now). Over the years I’ve met enough roleplayers to have noticed that a small proportion of roleplayers have a fantastic imagination, combined with slightly poorer than average theory of mind skills. Not all of them you understand, just a small proportion, but higher than in the population at large. This is one reason why I think us geeks are the mildest form of the autistic spectrum 😉

    There’s also the suspension of disbelief to consider, i.e. managing to engage in the game as if it is real (to a certain extent) and not just make believe. Children do this easily, but most adults have lost the skill, with the exception of roleplayers, and method actors. As the method actors will tell you, it can sometimes be very stressful being in character, and this is something that many roleplayers experience too, except that we’re not taken as seriously as De Niro et al.

    Both of these skills (theory of mind, and suspension of disbelief) are complex metacognitive skills. Its made me think that in some ways, people suffering from schizophrenia are unable to *not* suspend their disbelief, which explains their lack of scepticism about their delusional beliefs. Both roleplayers and schizophrenics live in a fantasy world, some of the time, but sadly its one that the latter have problems in leaving behind 😦

    1. I agree with Tom Michael that while not all RPG players have “issues”, it does tend to “attract” more than its share of those who do, especially Asperger’s folks, who of course are basically hi-functioning Autistics. Narcissists are another group I believe it attracts (as does the whole online world). While Aspies have difficulty with close interpersonal relationships due to their lack of empathy and trouble recognizing emotional “cues”, Narcissists (the clinical kind) are attracted to the opportunities for “control” and living out their sense of “grandiosity”, “specialness” and “entitlement”. Whether one is an online troll, has a Facebook account with 3,000 “friends”, or has literally has “magical thinking”, it’s all much the same drives being “satisfied”.

  3. Well, that study seems to have been of players of a fantasy PBM, or Play-By-Mail game. That’s quite a different animal than Dungeons & Dragons and similar RPGs, or Role-Playing-Games. The latter are inherently social activities, involving small groups of players who gather and interact both within and (usually) outside of the context of the game. The former are fundamentally asocial activities, involving the designation of “moves” or “turns” in a set format which are then posted to the referee of the game, who then sends a response to each of the players indicating the new configuration of the game (in response to the effects of the actions taken by the players, and given what each player is allowed to know).

    1. Do you think that’s true, or do you think that’s a stereotype from people who don’t have much experience with RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons? I know that, in my experience (as a gamer for over 3/4 of my life, with varying levels of active participation), there are quite a few women who game.

      Also, let me reiterate that this study was not about games like Dungeons & Dragons.

  4. I think it all boils down to who you end up playing with. My friends and I played D&D primarily, but other RPG games growing up, but basically it was just one of many things we did together. We tried in college to game with some random people at a gaming shop, and this was an epic fail for us. It seemed to be stereotypes of people, many whom memorized the stats aspect, but had minimal roleplaying. For them the “Power” of their character/items seemed the key ingredient, and the roleplaying apsect usually was suspect. More concern about dice rolling, and staring at various books/sheets seemed to me a means to salve one’s ego via the game, like many other games.

    We continue to play a few times a year, since we are old and have children, and live in different places. But nothing really compares to playing a cooperative game (vs. all the competitive games out there) and getting to exercise our imagination. I suppose I always found it sad that for many, adulthood seems to kill one’s imagination, or the imagination is used to ruminate about fears/anxiety/or striving for gold pieces and ways to improve the cosmetics of their keep.

  5. an example of sinchronicity , I was looking up the meaning of ‘vorpal blade’ over on wikipedia before checking in on the sites on my favourite bar ( which includes Ming Hacks of course)

  6. As others have commented, play-by-mail RPGing is the most anti-social way that you can play, with no human contact at all (unless you count receiving a letter from someone you’ve probably never met as ‘contact’). DnD is intrinsically social, as you need at least three players (in the same room) to play, and five or six for a worthwhile game.

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