While reading Nardi’s et al’s Learning Conversations in World of Warcraft (2007) recently, I was struck by a passage describing their methodology:
Our research is based on participant- observation fieldwork. Each of us created at least two characters and joined at least one guild. We have jointly played for over 25 months and continue to play.
How much experience did they really have in World of Warcraft? Was the 25 months calendar time or in-game time? These are the questions that immediately went through my mind. I quickly concluded that it was not 25 months of in-game time as that would be more than 18,000 hours of play. Even among three people, that seemed unlikely even if they had been playing since the game was released. That led me to think about measuring game experience in immersive worlds, like World of Warcraft.
Typing “/played” in World of Warcraft will tell a player how many days, hours, and minutes they have spent online since creating that character. This can be a more useful measure of a player’s experience with the game than elapsed calendar time. For example, I have been playing since World of Warcraft’s public release date in February 2005. My /played time is 268 days on my main character over a 69-month period. Contrast that with someone else who, over that same period, only plays two hours a week. Their /played time would be about 25 days (see Figure 2). I obviously have more experience in the game, even though our elapsed calendar time is identical. There is an assumption there that I spent the time doing something in the game and not just chatting or idling, but it is going to be a more accurate measure of experience.
Credit: Michelle A. Hoyle under an Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
Figure 1: Screenshot of questions in April survey
I asked respondents to report their /played time for three types of characters: their first character ever created, the character on which they currently spend most of their time, and the character on which they enjoy playing the most. If the characters were the same, they were asked to repeat the information. When I did my calculation, I ignored any entries that were obvious duplicates.