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Qualitative Research Blog Post

Josh Foreman

Joel Weiss

15 April 2019

The motivation for our research question was to figure out why experienced players who had been playing the game for years still had the drive to keep going, even after multiple years and characters. Therefore, our research question was not just “Why do you play WoW,” instead it was “Why do you still play WoW.” We used inductive coding based off of human analysis of the responses we received to categorize both reasons for initial playing of the game and continued playing.

To solve our research question, we mainly focused on looking at the responses of more experienced players. To do this, we looked at two sources of data: interviews with characters in starting areas and forum posts. The populous starting areas were filled with experienced players starting new characters and the users active on the forums are experienced in the game, having played for multiple years.  We coded 13 forum responses and 3 player responses from the data. We found that the forum responses were typically more useful, as they were more detailed and nuanced than the in-game responses. This also allowed the forum responses to be coded into multiple categories.

Through our coding we found reasons for continued playing to be following certain themes. We organized these responses based upon the themes and further upon the coding. The most common theme found was Escape, that it, using the content, communities, or challenges found within the game to distract the players from real world problems or stresses. Similar to the Escape theme, we found players enjoying the Sense of Progress they found within the game. Some players enjoyed leveling up multiple characters, while others liked to explore the world with just one.


“Q: Why do you play World of Warcraft instead of other video games?

        A: -ive played forever

                    -why stop now

Q: Why create a new Priest now?

        A: -lol

                    -for the giggles n !@#$z”

                    [Chat filter was turned on; likely “giggles n shitz”]

–          Alengery-Hyjal, Level 1 Human Priest, Male


(Silvermoon, Azshara, Daywalker-Winterhoof, Lvl 19 Tauren Priest)

-What aspects of the game have kept you playing the game?

Wow is a skinner box lol

Accomplishing minor achievements releases dopamine to my brains


Narthexia – Level 110 Orc Death Knight

I play it because:

1.It smooths out my brain giving me excellent serotonin boosts, it’s a real moodmellower and improver.


Based off of our initial research, coding, and further analysis, we believe that there is ample opportunity for further research within the bounds of motivations for repeated playing. As the lifespan of MMOs increase, the sense of commitment to the game that players have tends to grow as well. Despite this, MMOs are losing active players every month. Through finding the factors that led to inactivity researchers will be able to find reasons for repeated activity.

Qualitative Observation and Analysis of the Post-Cataclysm Gnome Starting Area in World of Warcraft

Josh Foreman

Joel Weiss

Research Question:

How are introductory areas designed to introduce players to the game?


Introductory Area Studied:

Gnome Starting Area (as of 4/10/2019)


Field Notes (taken by Joel Weiss):

Notes taken in italics are recorded after observation and cross-checked with video recording of the starting zone.

    Intro cinematic, skippable

First start with interacting with npc to get quest, teaches player basics of interacting with other

Have to return to quest giver to complete quest

characters (looking at stats, accepting quests, etc.)

Start out with combat, learn how to use sword(warrior) and fight easy to beat enemies

Next start “rescue” of others, teaches player how to navigate map, find objectives, and use items

(teleport stone)

Must use a vehicle to decontaminate yourself

Then navigate your way through to where you need to be cleaned off for a virus, then teleported to the surface

Once on surface you must look for spare parts to build a robot

Forces you to explore surface to see scope of world and learn to navigate a larger map

Once you find your objective, more combat

Multiple quest givers in the area at the same time.

Must explore “toxic airfield” to find objective

Must look for certain items and return them to specific npcs

Then do two quests at once for a single npcs

Two quests were from same person at same time instead of having to find 2 separate npcs.


Summary of Findings:

Our research question was: how does an introductory scenario such as the gnome starting area teach players how to deal with advanced game concepts that will come up later? We gathered our data by creating new gnome characters and going through the game introduction.

Each introductory area begins with a skippable cinematic. This is done to expose the player to the current situation within the area as well as the characteristics of the Gnome race. The Gnome area is notable as the player starts en media res as the player escapes the contaminated area. The ambiance in the area is therefore hectic and adds a sense of urgency to the introduction.

The player starts in a cramped room, with a quest giver and some other non-dialogue NPC’s, non-player-controlled characters. This makes it clear that the player should now talk to the quest giver, who tells the player to clear the enemies blocking the path out of the room. This action introduces the player to a few simple elements: simple linear movement and single enemy fighting. The player is also assisted by a few of the NPC’s in the room. The quest gives more information to the player than the action, however. It begins a very simple introduction to the minimap as well as the quest tracking interface, both of which will be explored in the very next quest. The most important concept shown to players here is backtracking. Once the player finishes the objective for the first quest they must return to the quest giver to complete it, something that comes up very often in World of Warcraft.

The second quest given requires the player to go into a larger room and use an item to rescue other gnomes, which allows the player to learn how to explore and use quest items on objectives as well as become more familiar with the minimap. When this is completed and the player returns to the quest giver they are once again sent on another quest, this time to find a Gnome quite a bit away from the player. Here a player unfamiliar with minimaps or 3D environments can accustom themselves to the experience without combat constantly keeping most of their attention. This quest leads to another, which requires the player to enter a vehicle, in order to sanitize the character. This is done quite comedically, with the character being strung along a car wash inspired cleaning mechanism. The game mechanics involved are not complex, with the player only needing to click on the vehicle to enter then press W to move forward down the ‘car wash’ line. Later on in World of Warcraft, this mechanic is expanded heavily, such that players must combat enemies, dodge attacks, seize objectives, and even siege objectives. After the player is cleaned they finally leave the introduction area by teleporting out after talking to another NPC, thus ending the Gnome starting area.

Origins and Ideology of the Pandaren Race

In the video game World of Warcraft, the Pandaren race featured as playable characters is heavily tied to Asian culture, specifically that of feudal Asia. The characters firstly are humanoid pandas, with the name of the race being a clear hint to that point. Originating in Asia and becoming a key symbol of the continent, the use of pandas sets a clear precedent that prepares the audience for further references to Asian culture. In the game, a Pandaren character has to choose between joining one of two factions, the Horde and the Alliance. To make this decision, an option panel appears on the screen, describing both choices while providing a join option. Besides these descriptions are banners representing the factions, with the Pandaren written language found on the banner WoW Pandaren Faction Choice UI). The script is clearly reminiscent of Asian script, with characters sporting numerous distinct strokes and other features consistency found in the real world inspiration (“Kanji”). The architecture is also derived from Asian culture- specifically Japanese. The major city of the Pandaren race sports massive castles with curved roofs that instinctively return the player to picturesque scenes of feudal Japanese architecture with wide sloping roofs topping the castles.

Despite the aesthetic references, the ideology of the Pandaren race is less derived from common Asian ideologies and stereotypes. Rather than be interested in familial values or hard work, the Pandaren race is instead originated in wanderlust. The race came from a group of wandering Pandearen explorers who settled on The Wandering Isles; a giant turtle with an island on it’s back. This origin brings about the hint of a naturalistic ideological point of view. This is proven further when the introductory story to the character centers around calming the agitated native creatures and finding the missing elemental spirits. The main ideology lies in philosophy, however. The Pandaren’s choose one of the two factions based off of the two philosophical values that the Pandaren hold with each. With the Alliance, the Pandaren follows the Tushui philosophy, regarding meditation, rigorous training, and morality as necessities in life. With the Horde, the Pandaren follows the Huojin philosophy, which warns against inaction.


“Kanji.”, 3 Oct. 2018,

WoW Pandaren Faction Choice UI. Blizzard Entertainment Inc., 21 Oct. 2011,


Is WoW Addicting?

Studies have found that there is a distinct connection between video game addiction and mental health issues, however the same study also called for a clearer definition of video game addiction, as it is often confused with video game engagement which shows no connection to poorer mental health (Loton, 2016). An article concerning Ryan van Cleave and how World of Warcraft affected his life attests to the dangers that video game addiction and World of Warcraft addiction holds, as he lost his job and almost lost his family (Lush 2011). Anything used for coping can become addictive as those in use turn to abuse instead of confronting issues in their life, as seen in the past two sources. One study found that in nine cases of video game addiction treatment, escapism was one of three reasons for initial video game engagement. In that same study, five out of the nine cases were addictions to World of Warcraft (Beranuy 2013). These sources show us that, while World of Warcraft is not addicting in every instance, it can still be addictive and the consequences can be dire.



Beranuy, M., Carbonell, X., & Griffiths, M. (2013). A Qualitative Analysis of Online Gaming Addicts in Treatment. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 11(2), 149-161.

Loton, D., Borkoles, E., Lubman, D., & Polman, R. (2016). Video Game Addiction, Engagement and Symptoms of Stress, Depression and Anxiety: The Mediating Role of Coping. International Journal of Mental Health & Addiction14(4), 565–578.

Lush, T. (2011, August 29). At war with World of Warcraft: An addict tells his story. Retrieved April 3, 2019, from


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