World of Warcraft is one of the most popular and most successful MMORPGs of all times played by millions of players from all over the world. The game offers its players a huge fantasy universe with extensive and compelling storylines, in which players have the freedom to be and to do whatever they want to. This comes at a price, as players are required to pay a monthly subscription fee in order to play the game. The game also requires a lot of time and commitment of its players. People who invest their time, money and effort in a game like World of Warcraft are often the victim of negative stereotypes regarding gaming and its consequences on players and society. Yet, what has often been neglected is that gaming can bring a lot of joy as well as positive consequences to its players, because players are driven by a motivation and consciously select and play this game in order to fulfill certain individual needs. Players have to create a character in order to play World of Warcraft, which mainly consists of choosing a race and a class. The game’s latest expansion has offered many new options for this character creation on which recent research has not been done yet. To contribute to the gap in the academic field and to emphasize the positivity of gaming, this thesis aimed to analyze players’ motivations behind the creation of their character’s race and class in World of Warcraft. It also explores players’ persistence in playing the game and how this relates back to players’ motivations and characters. This research was done through participant observations and semi-structured online chat interviews. The data was then analyzed using thematic analysis to identify themes. The results have shown that players create their characters in ways that match their motivations to play the game as well as a certain need for identification with the character. Players with strong social interaction, escapism and immersion motivations have expressed strong identifications with their characters and selected a race and class that was either very similar to the player or that reflected an identity the player wanted to experiment with, which helped to conform to their motivations to play. Players with strong challenge and competition motivations have expressed weak to no identifications with their characters and generally selected a race and class based on strategical reasons in order to conform to their challenge and competition motivations. Persistence has shown that players continue to play the game because of the satisfaction of the needs for relatedness, competence, autonomy and meaningful context, as well as the joy that derived from their gratified motivations. This has shown that, in contrast to the negative assumptions around gaming, players actively choose to play WoW and create their character in a way to fulfill certain individual needs, which is beneficial to the players and shows that gaming also has positive consequences on its players.

Additional Metadata
Keywords media, culture, society, Player Motivations, MMORPG, Identification, Character Creation, World of Warcraft
Thesis Advisor J. Jansz
Persistent URL hdl.handle.net/2105/50080
Series Media, Culture & Society
Citation
N. Vermeulen. (2019, June 24). WHO ARE YOU IN AZEROTH? A qualitative study of player motivations behind character creation in the MMORPG World of Warcraft. Media, Culture & Society. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/2105/50080