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Hi everyone, I've been playing WoW for a year now, and when I noticed I had the option to do one those classes about WoW, I immediately signed up. I've finished my research and wrote my paper. There's a link for it attached. I would appreciate it if some of you were to read this and provide me with some feedback or your general reactions to it. Thanks, and enjoy.

Motivational Differences Between PvE and PvP players in World of Warcraft


    Since the 1970s, video games have captivated many individuals across the globe. Since this time, video games have substantially improved from the white bars and blips of Pong to the massive multiplayer online games (MMOs) of today. One such MMO which has taken the world by storm is World of Warcraft (WoW). Over ten million people worldwide play this game. It is quite possibly the most complex video game ever created. One aspect of the game is the type of servers available to play on. One type is called Player vs. Player (PvP). In this type of gameplay, players are able to move about the world, and when he/she confronts a player of the opposite faction, they can fight one another if one of the players attacks the other. The other type of server is called Player vs. Environment (PvE). In this mode of gameplay, players cannot attack each other.

    The game is still fairly new, and most studies being done on the game haven’t been completed yet, considering the length of time it takes to complete a scholarly study, but one study that has been completed has found that one difference between PvP and PvE players is that PvP players play, on average, for one hour more per week (Ducheneaut et al., 2006). This study also found that PvP players were more likely to play in a group than PvE players, suggesting that PvP requires teamwork if players expect to do well in their server. Building on this data, this study attempts to find more differences between PvE and PvP players.

    This study will be identifying differences in motivations to play the different types of servers, and finding differences in players’ characteristics between servers. Most likely, it will be found that that PvP players are more aggressive, at least in-game, that PvE players. Also, because of their found experience in groups, I also expect to find that PvP players will be more social and utilize better teamwork than PvE players.



    My study consisted of 100 participants. Half (50) of the characters played on a Player vs. Player (PvP) server (Frostwolf), and the other half played on a Player vs. Environment (PvE) server (Silvermoon). The participants represented both Horde and Alliance, and also represented up all ten races and all ten classes. All the PvP players were horde and all the PvE players were alliance. All the players interviewed in-game at the time had level 80 characters. I used the cities of the two different factions, knowing there would be many players in concentrated areas here.

    Although the interview was short, players had to complete the whole thing to be included in the study. The interview only had two questions. Only the second question was used to collect data for the study. The first question existed only to get the player’s attention and permission to use them for research. To my surprise, many players whom I asked for their attention didn’t respond at all, so they were not used in the study. Even after getting their attention, many players chose not to respond to the question asked for data, and they were omitted from the study as well. The interviews continued until 50 in each server were completed. The interviews took place between 4:00 and 5:30 MST, so all the participants were playing at this time.


    I was able to complete the study with two previously made characters, one on a PvE server, Silvermoon, and the other on a PvP server, Frostwolf. My PvE character was a level 60 human rogue named Fillmore, and my PvP character was a level 52 Orc Hunter named Suey. To conduct the interviews, I took Fillmore to Ironforge and Suey to Ogrimmar. Ironforge is the largest city of the Alliance, and Orgrimmar is the largest city of the Horde, so there would be plenty of level 80s concentrated in these areas for me to contact and ask for participation in my study. In each city, I would leave my character halfway between the auction house and the mailbox. In this area, there was always a surplus of characters running around, more than enough of which were level 80. I would click on a level 80 player, and whisper him or her, saying, “May I ask you a question for research?” Over half the players I asked wouldn’t even reply to this question, and those that did had a wide range of responses that could be interpreted from being eager to help out (i.e., “Sure”) to passively agreeing (i.e., “Um, I guess”). However, nobody outright declined this request for research. Once acquiring permission, I asked the research question, “What are your reasons for playing PvE/PvP?” This question is open ended, leaving the participant to say as much or as little as he or she wanted, and to talk about whatever aspect of the game he/she chose. This research was done with a method of grounded theory. Observations were made of the participants, and common themes throughout their answers were identified. Even after asking this question, some participants left without answering, possibly out of frustration of the vagueness of the question or simply not knowing their own answer. If the participant did answer the question, I would record the character’s name, race, class, and answer. Some answers were clear and concise, and were recorded straight as a quotation, but others were vague, wordy, or contained lots of jargon, and the gist of the response was recorded. This process was repeated until I obtained 50 responses from Horde characters in the PvP realm, and then 50 responses from Alliance characters in the PvE realm.



    All the participants used in this study had reasons for playing which ever type of server they chose to play. From my results, players on PvP servers tended to show more aggressiveness than players on PvE servers. Such responses from PvP players included “to have fun and start a war (Demgraw – Tauren, Warrior),” “it’s the closest I can get to killing someone (Aladizamn – Blood Elf, Paladin),” and “to dominate and separate yourself from noobs (Inocencelost – Troll, Shaman).” In total, 13 of the 50 respondents displayed some notion of aggression, including 6 who expressed hatred for the alliance These 13 aggressive respondents were made up of 4 taurens, 5 orcs, 2 trolls, one undead and one blood elf. Divided into class they were 3 warriors, 4 shamans, 2 druids, a rogue, and a paladin.

    15 respondents didn’t show outright aggression, but did state they like a challenge or a variation in their game, or that they like the idea of players against each other rather than a computer. Such responses of this type included, “PvP is more challenging and requires more skill (Tsukera – Blood Elf, Priest),” “It’s a good break from just raiding and doing quests all day (Talji – Troll, Hunter),” and “It adds a level of skill that PvE does not (Nobahd – Tauren, Shaman). These respondents consisted of 4 taurens, 6 blood elves, 2 orcs, a troll, and 2 undead, which consisted of 2 priests, 2 druids, 2 rogues, 3 paladins, 2 death knights, a warrior, a shaman, a priest, and a hunter.

    The rest of the respondents had answers of their own, but they did not fit into either of these two categories. The other respondents’ answers didn’t address the fundamental difference between PvE and PvP servers. Rather, many of these players liked minor aspects of the game which they thought to be better on PvP servers than PvE servers. These responses included mentions of raiding. One respondent, Asg, a Troll Mage, said, “Raiding takes too long on PvE.” Another respondent, Cthon, replied, “Raiding is more of a rush [on PvP].” Only one other player mentioned he liked raiding on PvP, but none of the respondents stated any specific reasons why PvP raiding is much different or better than PvE raiding, except Asg. Two participants stated that they played this serve because their friends were on it, and the rest were all over the place, including five participants who just didn’t have a clear reason, they just thought it was fun. In all, the fifty PvP respondents included 12 taurens (24%), 9 orcs (18%), 6 trolls (12%), 5 undead (10%), and 18 blood elves (36%). In terms of class, the respondents were 4 warriors, 4 hunters (8%), 7 shaman (14%), 5 rogues (10%), 11 paladins (22%), 8 druids (16%), 4 mages (8%), 3 priests (6%), 3 death knights (6%), and a warlock (2%). All races and classes available were represented in this survey.


    Not surprisingly, players on PvE servers displayed less aggression than players of PvP. The general trend of PvE players is that they are more relaxed and less competitive than PvP players. 18 respondents in total expressed their disdain of PvP servers out of not enjoying the competition and stress of playing PvP. One participant said, “I play video games to decompress, not get stressed. (Reganimal, Night elf – druid)” Another said, “I don’t like getting ganked. I just want to do what I want without worrying. (Rated, Dwarf – Hunter)” Of these 18 respondents, there were 7 humans, 4 night elves, 2 draenei, 4 dwarfs, and a gnome. In terms of class, these respondents were 2 warriors, 2 hunters, 3 death knights, 2 druids, 2 paladins, 3 mages, a priest, a rogue, and a shaman.

    Another main difference between PvP and PvE players is that 12 PvE players reported enjoying a social aspect of the game. Much more often than PvP players, PvE players stated they play their server because a friend was on it. 6 PvE players, as opposed to 2 PvP players, expressed this opinion. Other participants talked about how they enjoy playing with their guildmates and that raiding was more fun on PvE than PvP. Deatth, a human death knight, said, “I like to raid more than I do PvP.” Like the PvP players who also liked raiding, the PvE players did not state any specific reason why PvE raiding was better than PvP raiding, they simply said they liked it more.

    The final difference between PvE and PvP, according to our participants, was the emphasis on gear in PvE. 8 players included something about enjoying the gear on PvE servers. One participant, Arcanea, a human mage, replied, “I enjoy getting new content and improving gear.” I then thought the interview was over, and she then linked me a certain tunic she was wearing, and then said, “You can’t find this on PvP servers.” These players’ races were from 6 humans and 2 dwarfs. Their classes were 2 warriors, 2 hunters, a mage, a death knight, a paladin, and a priest.

    Most of the other responses didn’t fit into a category, and were obscure and weird enough not to contribute to a significant finding. One participant, Kryostasis, a Gnome Warlock, said, “The story and game content are better designed for class mechanics.” 25 of the respondents to this survey (one half) were humans, 11 were night elves (22%), 6 were dwarfs (12%), 2 were gnomes (4%), and 6 were draenei (12%). In terms of class, the PvE sample of this study consisted of 9 death knights (18%), 4 warlocks (8%), 7 hunters (14%), 8 mages (16%), 5 warriors (10%), 5 druids (10%), 6 paladins (12%), 3 priests (6%), 2 rogues (4%), and a shaman (2%).


    The general difference between PvP and PvE players is that PvP players tended to be more aggressively oriented towards video games (34% of PvP players expressed interest in aggression or competition, as opposed to 0% of PvE) and PvE players tended to be more socially oriented towards video games (38% of PvE respondents mentioned friends and social aspect, as opposed to 8% of PvP respondents). This means one hypothesis of mine, that PvP players are more aggressive, is correct. However, I thought, because of the group work between PvP players that was found in the Ducheneaut et. al study, that PvP players would be more social, but I found the opposite in my findings. One PvE player even said, “People in PvP just yell at each other. They don’t work well as a team (Calee, Human – Priest).” Although it is not consistent with my hypothesis, it does make sense considering the high intensity, high competitiveness, and high aggression in PvP servers. PvP players are probably more aggressive because you would have to be to play on a PvP server. On PvP servers, players are not just up against easy-to-kill bots. They have to kill each other, to get each other out of their own way, and when one person aggresses you, you aggress back, and if you win, you survive, and you keep playing. For this reason, there is a reinforcing quality to aggression on PvP servers, and the more aggressive a player is, the more initial damage he will do in the beginning of the fight, and the greater advantage he has to win the fight, and continue going about his routine. On the other hand, PvE players are more social and laid back because they can afford to be. Easygoing players would not succeed in PvP because someone would gank them without allowing them to become aware, and this would frustrate the player. There is no threat of being ganked on a PvE server, and so players don’t worry about this. They can spend more time worrying about their friends, meeting up with them in-game, and making new friends, not merely new acquaintances that would simply protect each other mutually. Another thing I noticed while conducting this study was that the PvE interviews took less time to obtain than the PvP interviews. This means that a higher percentage of PvE players asked to do the survey agreed to do it than PvP players. In addition, the PvE player’s responses were clearer and made more sense, grammatically and contextually, than PvP players’ responses. This finding could be related to the overall finding of this study. If PvP players are more competitively focused, they would probably be less concerned about how they present themselves intellectually, and more concerned about how they actually perform. By the same token, if PvE players are more socially focused, they would be happy to help out a researcher by providing clear answers. Two PvE players even went so far as to ask curiously about what I was doing my research for.


    This study was not without its limitations. All the participants included in the study were taken from in-game interviews. I felt this was the best way to obtain information from the players, since this was the way to best find players in their element, but by not taking out-of -game interviews, and not taking long, extensive interviews with anyone, this study possibly missed out on the intellectual side to some of their answers. With more time to come up with responses, players could have thought their answers through more, and provided stronger, more complex answers than they did. Players were not aware they might be used for research until I, the researcher asked them. Many of them were possibly caught off guard and could have provided stronger, more insightful answers if they had agreed in advance to be interviewed.

    It is possible that the data in this study does not say so much about the differences in PvE players and PvP players as it does about the differences between horde players and alliance players. All the PvP participants were in the horde, and all the PvE participants were in the alliance. This could mean that, rather than PvP players being more aggressive and PvE players being more social, horde players might be more aggressive, and alliance players might be more social.

Future Directions

    This study examined the reasons for choosing what type of server to play on. Future research could examine the reasons players have for choosing what faction, race, or class they choose to play. Many players may be more selective about these factors than about what server they play on, and these choices may say more about the player than the server he/she plays on.

    A more in-depth study for looking at the differences between PvE and PvP players is also needed. This study only got initial responses from players that weren’t all very well thought through. A study similar to this one utilizing in-depth interviews instead of single-question surveys would be useful. Perhaps a study looking into the lives of players to see if PvP players’ lifestyles outside of WoW really are aggressively oriented and if PvE players really are more social outside of WoW.


    The more one knows about the people he/she interacts with, the more smoothly that interaction will take place. With this knowledge about the temperaments and personalities of one’s fellow gamers, one can make for a more fun gaming experience. Also, with this information, new gamers can easily decide what type of game is for them, based on who plays it and how similar he is to those players. Games are about having fun, and any information available to enhance the enjoyment of any experience is helpful to anybody looking to take part in the experience.


  1. Nicolas Ducheneaut et. al (2006). Building an MMO With Mass Appeal: A Look at Gameplay in World of Warcraft. Games and Culture. 1;4, 281-317.
  2. Dmitri Williams et al. (2006). From Treehouse to Barracks: The Social Life of Guilds in World of Warcraft. Games and Culture. 1;4, 338-361.


I just touched up the formatting for easier reading. I'll try and take a look at it later this weekend. Just Alerting You Small Howbizr(t·c) 6:55 PM, 5 Jun 2009 (EDT)

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