Afternoon Experiment #1 – Fantasy Characters

I was bored at work on Thursday (not a rare occurrence these days), and randomly thought back to my Masters thesis on the psychology of character creation. I had loads of ideas of how to take my study further- but I was lucky enough to get a job straight after graduating, so had little time to work on things.

But at that point I had Facebook at my disposal and a friends list full of people who were likely to respond to a simple question. Thursday’s question was:

You are starting an RPG game and are given the choice of Human, Elf, Minotaur, Demonborn and Demi-angel. Which would you be LEAST LIKELY to pick and why?

7 hours later, I had close to 40 responses- and they’ve made for interesting reading. Minotaur was the runaway winner (or loser, maybe) with many answers alluding to their stereotypically ‘brutish’ strength and hands-on melee approach to dealing with enemies. Human gained the second highest number of votes, which wasn’t unexpected; my thesis found that people admit to playing games as a form of escapism from real life, so wanting to play as a race other than your own is a good place to start.

But it wasn’t just the numbers that were interesting to me. It was the reasons people gave, and some of the unspoken stereotypes that they used in support of their answers. Many people who made Minotaur their least likely choice referred to their animal-like qualities and the strength aspect that harks back to mythology. I get the feeling that the cow-like Tauren from World of Warcraft may have been an influence on some respondents, as it leans heavily towards endurance and strength and is typically chosen for a tanking role (although my brief affair with playing a Tauren proved they were decent healers too). A number of people said they preferred playing as a humanoid character, so the more animal-like minotaurs were not to their taste.

I purposefully put in two races that are not seen in many RPG games to see if anyone would go for them and why. Demonborn and demi-Angel are intended to be the embodiment of the traditional ‘good and evil’ stereotypes, and also pull on the same sort of mythology as elves and minotaurs would. Demi-Angel gained a number of responses- but only because it is an unheard of choice that many people were unsure about. Everyone has heard of elves, dwarves, minotaurs, humans, demons- but offer someone a ‘demi-angel’ (essentially an angel/human hybrid) and they have no frame of reference and experience to go with it. Perhaps if presented with a set of statistics, typical characteristics or a racial background, there may have been more people willing to take on the demi-angel as a possible option.

I was glad to have a varied age range of respondents- my oldest (but not by much!) respondent named the minotaur and demonborn as her least favourite choices, as she ‘doesn’t like being on the side of the baddies’. I read this and could immediately see why- especially as she is a mother of three very well behaved and ‘properly brought up’ young children. You try and ward your children away from the ‘baddies’ of the world, and it seems she does so to her characters in the games she plays too.

Many thanks to everyone who responded and gave feedback- I hope to do some more of these quick little experiments in the future.

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~ by Tegan on January 27, 2012.

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