Monday, March 23, 2009

Do players from different countries have different mindsets?

The non-breakable barrier between the EU servers and the US servers has always intrigued me. I’ve kept wondering what’s hidden behind it. And I bet my curiosity just comes out of the wall. If it wasn’t there, if I had free access to any server in the world, no matter of continent, I probably wouldn’t care much about it.

I reckon some things are pretty much the same. The setting, the environment, the quests, it’s all the same. Even the bugs are global. When the ice stone melts, it melts all over the world, at every single server.

The language would be pretty much the same too. Belonging to one of the smaller languages, I’m assigned to an English speaking server, and English is the language I play on, except for when I’m in an all-Swedish party, which happens pretty rarely nowadays. There are quite a lot of UK players on the server, so I guess the English we speak is more UK-oriented than US, but to be honest, the differences are pretty small, at least for a foreigner. I don’t think much about on which side of the Ocean an expression or a spelling belongs, I mix it up happily all the time and it works decently anyway.

So language and setting would be the same. But would the players be? Could I expect to meet a different mindset in a US guild than in a European one?

Yes, if I should believe Euripides at Critical QQ. He had a post last week, which was about an ongoing forum discussion about arenas, but his statements are pretty general. I’ll give you a couple of quotes:

“I think the difference between the top classes for EU servers and US servers has everything to do with the mentality of the players.

For pure example’s sake, let’s say every player has two values: they want to win, and they want to have fun.

For EU players, it’s the latter value that’s more important. They want to play the class they have fun playing. They still want to win, but that’s secondary to doing what they liked doing in the first place.

US players are a little different. That whole having fun thing is secondary to winning. American players want to win, no matter what the cost is.”

So the US players are more winning oriented and competitive than the European ones? Is that really so, or isn’t it just on old stereotype of the American obsession with financial and professional success?

If you look at the world top raiding guilds, according to Wowjutsu (for whatever it’s worth), all of the current 10 in top are European. As a matter of fact the first US guild appears on 18:th place. I do understand that this may have to do with time differences in the moment of the release of WotLK, but still I think it shows that Europeans certainly are as interested in competition as anyone else.

It’s the same if you look at the PvP ranking. Of the Arena teams listed at SK-gaming, 6 out of 10 in top are European and 4 are US. For individual players, 8 of 10 in top are from Europe. And the player with the highest achievement points in the world plays on a EU realm. Of course.

Studying blogs could be another way to capture the mindsets of players from different countries. Is there any difference between the European, the US and the AU bloggers? For a long time I tried to see it. I looked at the blogs through my stereotyped glasses and tried to see a pattern where US bloggers were cheerful, optimistic and perhaps a little bit superficial, always with a smile on their face, no matter what happened to them. The Europeans on the other hand, I expected to be a bit dull, depressed, introspective and analyzing. Like the cinematic tradition.

But after more than one year of blog reading I must say that I couldn’t tell which blogger is from Europe and which is from US, if you would hide the about-page and just showed me the content. There are cheerful blogs, that don’t intend to give anything more than a laugh in both places. And there are low profiled, thoughtful posts coming from US as well as from UK (or Sweden for that sake).

Perhaps globalization has had a smoothening effect on us all, for good and for bad. Or maybe we weren’t as different as we thought we were from the beginning. It was all about prejudices.

I can’t be sure though, since there’s no way I can peek over the wall. I know there are a few players who have played on both sides. What’s your opinion in this matter? Would I be likely to notice a difference in the atmosphere if I joined a US guild?


DeftyJames said...

My gut reaction to this post, without giving it a lot of thought, is that the smoothing effect is not globalism but MMORPG gaming in general. As someone who has lived in both the US and Europe I can say that the mindset of the cultures are indeed different. But on-line gaming is not the type of thing that appeals to most people. Rough estimates put the US WoW population at about five million which is actually slightly less than 2% of the total US population of 300 million. In other words, simple statistics would suggest that WoW players are more like each other than they are like the typical European or American.

In other words, whatever the differences between EU WoW players and American WoW players, these differences likely pale in comparison to the differences between EU WoW players and EU non-WoW players. I don't know that to be true, but it seems a reasonable guess.

Siha said...

I'm an Aussie player on a US server, but it's a US server with a very high Aussie population (as it was the unofficial 'Aussie server' before Blizz launched the Oceanic realms).

The cultural differences are noticeable. One big one is that Aussies don't tend to take anything seriously, and mock each other as a sign of affection or friendship - friendly teasing is much more common than sentiment. The occasional Americans in Aussie guilds find that really weird and hard to deal with; they don't take kindly to the friendly teasing, and the Aussies don't appreciate the (stereo)typical American earnestness about stuff. (Not to mention that Aussies are as self-deprecating as any Brit, so the American ability to be honest and straightforward about one's good points is viewed with suspicion and cynicism from the Aussies.)

Elleiras said...

I play on a US server, but my guildmembers hail from all four hemispheres. There's the South American contingent, a handful of Aussies and our token British rogue.

I honestly don't see any cultural differences -- but then, my guild probably isn't a representative sample, since we have a distinct culture of our own.

spinksville said...

I know that back when I was LARPing, some of the games we played had been run on both sides of the Atlantic.

According to the GMs, they noted a theme that EU players tended to be more cooperative/group oriented and US players tended to be more competitive/individual oriented.

So if a challenge needed a bunch of people to work together to overcome it, the EU players would almost always organise themselves and do it earlier in the game than the US players would.

Gevlon said...

If it helps: my blog that praises individualism has 2x more North American visitor than European, although the amount of WoW players in the two areas are roughly equal.

Hagu said...

It is easy to make too much of stereotypes and globalization has smoothed a lot. But your blog sample says that English-speaking Europeans are similar to English-speaking North Americans, which isn't quite a random sample of either.

Similar to @defty 2nd paragraph,
I remember in a marketing class where the point was made about culture: they said the people in the Upper West Side of Manhattan had more in common with the people who lived in the (I forget the #) Arrondissement in Paris than with the people who lived in Harlem 5 miles away. So people who self-select to play WoW may be more similar (e.g. tolerant of lag and buggy tooltips) than the population as a whole.

That said, my initial reaction was to accept the CQQ assessment without a lot of critical thinking.

Anonymous said...

My situation, before my comment is this: 38 year old British male who plays alongside his wife. We used to live in Asia and played WoW on US, then Oceanic servers - then we moved to the UK and changed to EU servers.

So, my views:

US servers are fairly polite, not overly venomous and, by and large, rules are respected. Generally a pleasant experience. Far more social than EU servers.

Oceanic servers are more relaxed, the players really go for fun first. Probably my favourite experience.

EU servers are like pits of immaturity with some diamonds hiding deep in. I play on one of the "most repsected" servers - AD EU RP/PVE and everyday seems to be an uphill battle against the idiots. EU is all about the win, the loot, the more more more.

But, as I said, just my views and before anyone says anything I would not call myself a USA-lover infact quite the opposite, in real life.

Dreaming said...

I'm playing on both sides since nearly a year now, though spending much more time on the EU servers where my main is up to now.
One thing that really surprises me is the size of guilds.
Most of the EU guilds I know are around 15 to 40 people, on a server you perhaps get a few bigger guilds, which are often the top guilds of the servers, or some kind of "friendly everyone in" guild.
Most of the US guilds I know are 100 people large, some even break 200 or 300 people.
I think raiding is very very different in a 40 people guild than when you have more than 200 "raiders". Bonds and getting used to raid together, knowing what you can expect from one tank or your raid dps on a night, just by looking at names is something I've get used to like.
But I'm more a "family" type of player, so I just enjoy smaller guilds.

Dw-redux said...

I honeslty think that the only reason for the "The non-breakable barrier between the EU servers and the US servers" is the fact that the game would be unplayable if you where to use servers set across the atlantic.
Im sure the Oceanic server people would agree on this, since (the last time i checked) they play on servers set in the US and thusly have a lat of ridiculus hights.
i know this isnt as interesting as culturel differences in personalities from across the globe. But i think its closer to the truth tbh.

Larísa said...

@DeftyJames: it sounds reasonable. I also guess that I'm making it a bit too simple when I'm suggesting the US to be one cultural unit as well. I've only been to the US twice, but I must say that NY felt pretty European in comparsion to California. Maybe I'd have more in common with an East coast player than with one from the West?

@Siha: it sounds pretty much as I imagine aussies. Easygoing. I've never been there, but I was to NZ, and they were for sure very very relaxed and friendly, really easy to get along with. One prejudice thing I have about aussies though is that they're extremely old fashioned when it comes to gender issues. The guys have som sort of need do constantly show their masculinity, while females just are expected to be shy and subordinate. I hope I'm wrong, at least in game...

@Elleiras: it sounds like my guild. We're from all over Europe and I guess we're pretty much cross-cultural.

@spinksville: that's interesting. It could explain why the 17 highest ranked raiding guilds are European...

@Gevlon: I think it says more about how much people are into blogging and where the majority of the blogging community connected to the BlogAzeroth sphere originates from. I've got the same proportions as you, mostly US readers. And I don't think it's connected to the political values (or lack thereof) that are expressed in my blog.

@Hagu: that is so true. I think I chose the example of US since it would be possible for me to play there, if it wasn't for the wall. But more interesting is probably how the dynamics are in Chinese or Russian guild. This is completely out of reach though, so it wasn't on top of mind. Not that I'm not curious, I really am, now that you mention it.

@Anonymous: it's interesting that you really have seen big differences. And I'm condemned to dwell in a pit of immaturity. Tough luck!

@Dreaming: I sometimes read about those huge US guilds and it really seems quite different to what we see in Europe. They may exist somewhere, but I've never encountered one. I must say that I actually enjoy the about 40 accounts sized guild. It's not more than that you can get to recognize people, you don't stay anonymous. It must be much harder in a big guild. I guess you'll have to work more actively on keeping a good friends list.

Larísa said...

@Dw-Redux: yeah I guess that's the reason. However: the technology does constantly improve, doesn't it?
If the day will come when it will be possible to cross the ocean without too much of lag, I really hope they'd make some solution to make it possible to take the leap and servertransfer world-wide. I can't see any reason why not.

Kromus said...

@Deftyjames"simple statistics would suggest that WoW players are more like each other than they are like the typical European or American."

I agree there 100% mate, two flowers unique to their countries still seek the same thing; Light- and grow towards the sun.

With WoW- most of the us will want the same thing thus thus be similar in what we want- but totally different in our life expieriences.

However- if you have played Gary's mod or Coutner-Strike Source, for example, you will notice the environment is different- there maybe stereotypes are correct, but their are arseholes EVERYWHERE, and nice people EVERYWHERE, extremists in EVERYTHING.

great discussion sparking post there :). In overall, i think the only thing that changes in terms of nation to nation via WoW is the Timezone ;) - although i have no evidenc to back this, this is my hypothesis.

*vlad* said...

I used to play Phantasy Star Online, which allowed people from all over the world to play on the same servers.

I don't think there was too much difference between the US and EU players (except the US players were more vocal!).

The big difference in behaviour came between the Japanese players and the Westerners.

Bubble speech was limited to drop-down menus, unless someone could use both languages, so communictaion was quite difficult, but it was quite usual for Japanese players to mark their parties as 'JP only'.
Now this may have been down to difficulties of communication, or lag (seeing as the servers were in Japan), but it was seen as xenophobic behaviour by some people.

A German friend of mine got very friendly with a Japanese player in the game, and his friend came over to Germany to visit him.
Although they got on very well, the culture clash was very apparent, and they found it quite hard to relate to each other in the real world.

Rhii said...

Wow, thought provoking!

I think I should move to Siha's server and join the Aussie guild. Here in New England, affectinate sarcasm is one of the primary forms of communication and we're pretty skeptical of the sentimental. So the US can't be crammed wholesale into one particular cultural context.

My brother plays EVE, and they mix continents freely in that game, so I asked him if he saw a difference in his European Corp-mates, and he told me he only knows a handful of Brits, but that on the whole he finds the only difference from the Americans he plays with is their accent. He said, if anything, they're slightly more reliable than their American counterparts, but he attributes that more to age than to location. His British corp-mates (and I think most of the EVE player base) are older than he is (college age).

Darraxus said...

I seem to play with a lot of Aussies as well as Americans. For me, the Aussies are always laid back and fun. You never really hear them really pissed off. If you want to play with more Aussies, play late at night on a US server.

Fish said...

Call me naive, but I always figured they were grouped by continent for convenience: i.e. most of the server will be on around the same time. . .And I agree with not being able to tell in general which bloggers are where without looking at details. . .

Akiosama said...


You are definitely onto something there, in regards to the Japanese. For all that the world thinks of the Japanese due to all the pop culture emanating from Japan (in the form of music, games, manga, and anime), the Japanese are traditionally a very xenophobic race, and the fact that their language is so vastly different than the rest of the western speaking world doesn't help that. In my experiences, the Japanese tend to show a good face to foreigners, but they never really let them into the 'real group', and I'm sure that shows in MMORPGs and other online games. It's actually like that in Japan, as well, and the segragative nature of the Japanese is not really hidden very well. In other words, they say 'no' politely, but it's still 'no, because you're not Japanese'.


I don't think that there's any really inherent difference between how the EU players and the US players feel about competition. I've seen in my experiences in other games, both fun-loving people and more 'hardcore' people on both sides of the proverbial Pond, and I didn't see any major differences in attitude. I'm curious to see if that stretches down to Australia as well, given their reputation for being a little more laid-back than the rest of the Western World.

Where I do seem to see a difference is in the Asian groups. As Vlad mentioned before (referenced above), the populations there tend to be much more insulated, and much more results-oriented. I don't know how much of the POPULATION of players are so results-oriented, but the group as a whole has been dubbed as such. The Koreans are putting together a team (according to Joystiq) for WoW Arena where their top player is being paid roughly $475K to join the team. The Japanese, on Final Fantasy XI, were responsible for many 'fishing farms', areas where bots were doing the fishing, driving other groups out of that market, as SquareEnix Japan refused to combat the problem. It's rumored that a lot of the 'Goldbotters' in WoW are in China (True? I'm not sure, but in my experiences there's always at least a little truth in stereotypes...)

So I think you're right that region may influence the overall group thinking and dynamic to how a game like WoW is set up. I'm not sure, though, if there's that much difference in the Western world, but I definitely see one between the East and West.

(And for the record, I'm Japanese-American by background, and I fall into the US casual background, not the more Asian one. And yikes, this was longer than I intended - Sorry, Larisa!)

My 2 yen,

Akiosama said...

@Akiosama: The laid back "Aussie" thing is sort of a general attitude to life.

"She'll be right mate" (or she'll be apples" is pretty much a standard (and something that often isn't understood by other cultures from my experience". basically whether you are knee or neck deep in the sh&t, don't worry, it will all work out fine.

But, there is no question that Aussies (and Kiwi's as well) are competitive. Generally Aussies grow up playing at least one sport, usually 2+. From memory we have the highest per-capita ratio of elite sportspeople in the world. Yet, if you met those elite sportspeople you would most likely be astounded at how laid back they are (when not on the field, track or swimming pool)

Klepsacovic said...

If you hadn't mentioned it once I wouldn't know you were from somewhere other than America.

There's probably a difference, but other factors would be more important at the high end since in any population you'll have people with a "me win first" mentality. I'd look at environmental factors such as internet quality or workday, with shorter days/weeks meaning more time for raids.

Larísa said...

@Kromus: I guess it's a combination of lag, timezones and in some cases language barriers. Hopefully we're passed the stage where there were real barriers in the world (f.e. the Berlin wall)?

@Vlad: all-world servers... that must have been interesting. And yes, from the little I know (or think I know - it's probably mostly prejudices) about Japan I think it would be pretty hard to really get to know them.

@Rhii: the differences between different states in the US is really nothing we know a lot about or recognize in the Europe. We know that East and West coast are different, but that's about all. But I imagine it's quite natural - after all its a huge continent. I mean Euorpe isn't just Europe. I bet you weould find people in Sweden and Spain quite different in temperament as well..

@Darraxus: sounds fun to play with Aussies, but out of my reach, I'm afraind, unless there are some in exile in Europe.

@Fish: but the time differences within US are almost as big as between UK time Europe and East coast time, aren't they?
Anyway: people play at all hours, some prefer playing night time, others daytime, due to work. It would be great if you could choose freely.

@Akiosama: don't apologize for long, well written, interesting comments! Thank you very much. I really appreciate it!

@Gnomeaggedon: at least the kiwis are definitely up for epic deeds. I'll never forget when I hitchhiked in NZ and got a ride with a guy who said that he used to hunt boars and kill them with just a knife (and possibly a dog). He walked in shorts all year round, no matter of whether. He seemed pretty much obsessed of not being a sissy... Bring a bunch of those to a boss fight...

@Klepsacovic: I think you're right that socialogical factors will have an impact. Maybe that explains the success of European players? Quite a few people that are unemployed and have time to play, but still have enough of income from social security to make internet connections and Wow subscriptions available to them?

Rhii said...

Re: time zones

GMT is 5 hours ahead of US Eastern Time. Pacific Time is 3 hours behind that...

So the time difference is almost twice as large between Westernmost Europe and me on the East Coast as it is between me and California. ;) Just for clarification.

Alyviel said...

I wish I'd seen this post sooner. >.> :P

I'm a UK player on a US server, boyfriend is the same (we met there). We often chat about the differences in attitudes between ourselves and the US types. I'm not a fan of the seperated servers, I think it'd be much better if they weren't. I've met a few European people on my server (Argent Dawn) just because of the times I play.

I do think that the US players n my guild have been changed a little by having a few Europeans around. I notice the difference when I raid with people that have only ever grouped with Americans. They tend to be a little more insular (as well as shocked when I tell them what time it is here).

I tend to find that the US players take things more seriously (especially themselves!) and just treat each other differently. Yes, UK folks make fun of each other and themselves constantly but I also think there's less serious bashing, at least among the people I know.