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British Journal of Educational Technology doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2010.01064.


Vol 42 No 4 2011


Exploring game experiences and game leadership in massively multiplayer online role-playing games
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YeiBeech Jang and SeoungHo Ryu
YeiBeech Jang is a Ph.D. candidate at Serious Game Lab in the Graduate School of Culture Technology, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. She has been participating in a 5-year project ‘Effects of Educational Games’ from 2005 to 2009 funded by Korean government. Her research interests include creative industries, games and social and psychological impact of interactive media and new technologies. SeoungHo Ryu is a professor at Department of Visual Culture, Kangwon National University (an adjunct professor at GSCT, KAIST). He is also a vice president of the Journal of Korea Game Society. He directed a 5-year project ‘Effects of Educational Games’ from 2005 to 2009 funded by Korean government. His research interests include games and cultural industry. Address for correspondence: SeoungHo Ryu, Department of Visual Culture, Kangwon National University, 192-1 Hyoja-dong, Chuncheon-si, Gangwon-do 200-701 Republic of Korea. Email:

Abstract This study explored the in-game experiences of massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) players focusing on game leadership and offline leadership. MMORPGs have enormous potential to provide gameplayers with rich social experiences through various interactions along with social activities such as joining a game community, team play and others. In this study, a total of 808 Korean online gameplayers participated in an online survey. Amongst them, 300 MMORPG players were used as the final sample group. The results showed that joining a game community and playing in teams may help players build their leadership experience in games. The findings also suggest that there is a significant positive relationship between in-game leadership and offline leadership. However, there were no significant differences in gender regarding in-game and offline leadership. This study suggests that MMORPGs offer a useful place where people can grow their leadership skills and potentially transfer them into the real world.

Introduction At present, online games have emerged as a popular leisure activity that everyone can enjoy. When playing online games such as massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), players engage in a variety of social interactions, and it affects their social and communication skills (Papargyris & Poulymenakou, 2004). In today’s information society, e-leadership may be useful when a task is performed through information technology. Even if communication between a leader and followers takes place via information technology, it could surely be as inspiring as it is in real life (Avolio, Kahai & Dodge, 2000). Online game guilds have a hierarchical leadership structure that enables gameplayers to complete missions in groups (Chen, Sun & Hsieh, 2008). Reeves, Malone and O’driscoll’s (2008) article mentioned that game leaders perform organisational and strategic activities that are similar to those in real life such as recruiting, assessing, motivating, rewarding and retaining team members. Reeves et al. (2008) focused on 12 game leaders; however, in this research, the focus was on general gameplayers and their leadership experiences, based on a qualitative approach. In our work place and school, we create teams and complete tasks together. Gameplayers also
© 2010 The Authors. British Journal of Educational Technology © 2010 Becta. Published by Blackwell Publishing, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.

online games can be an efficient tool for gameplayers to develop their own leadership skills and engage in enriching holistic leadership experiences. & Braswell. guild leader. the term community is defined as a group of players who uses the same MMORPGs and takes specific roles (eg. The online game environment possibly becomes a third place for people to improve their leadership skills. many educators agree that virtual environments. including MMORPGs. Players were asked if they belonged to any of the game communities. participating in raids and eventually pursuing one shared goal. We suggest the following basic hypotheses 1–3: Hypothesis 1: A game community group in terms of game leadership is higher than that of a nongame community group. The process of delivering projects in a team-based system is quite similar to that of accomplishing missions in a team-based guild system. When enjoying online games. We assumed that the game community will influence players’ leadership experiences as they play games. Meanwhile Ducheneaut. Sometimes. collaboration. blood pledges and other similar virtual teams. (2005) have posited a possible relationship between online games and improving leadership skills. Later we divided them into two groups as game community group and nongame community group. In this sense. To elucidate this relationship. accomplishing the missions. 2006). . R. D. R. Coordinated actions refer solving the quests. This study explores the relationship between game communities and game leadership. The last assumption was that gameplayers’ game leadership will influence offline leadership positively.Exploring game leaderships in MMORPGs 617 cooperate with other players within their own subguilds. British Journal of Educational Technology © 2010 Becta. If a player belongs to a community. MMORPGs appear to have similar qualities to those found in real life in the sense that we meet real people with which to converse. he/she gains more exposure to leadership-improving opportunities by interacting with other players. virtual teaming and many others (Freitas & Griffiths. the game community refers to certain groups that people organise to achieve common goals. followers and so on) to execute coordinated actions following the community-developed guidelines. In this research. Community possibly plays an important role in nurturing leadership skills. This study explores the relationship between gameplayers’ in-game leadership experiences and offline leadership using an empirical approach. In this regard. In general. According to Childress. M. 2007). (2006). This includes guilds. In the process of gathering and teaming up. the game community plays an important role as it provides players with leadership experiences. Also whether the player prefers playing together or playing alone will be another important factor in terms of game leadership. play and interact persistently (Chan & Vorderer. In this article. & Moore. N. people communicate with each other in various team-based situations. The only difference is that it happens online. game communities include guilds. Those issues include leadership. people naturally go through some sort of leadership experience regardless of whether they are leaders or followers. middle-ranged manager. a game leadership scale was developed that measures the types of leadership experiences that gameplayers have while playing games. © 2010 The Authors. small teams and similar groups. not much research based on quantitative methods has been conducted thus far. however. are able to support education and address potential research issues. MMOPRGs facilitate cooperative learning and training and they also addressed practical examples of the use of MMORPGs. players participate in game guilds or make pledges to win. there is often the possibility that a certain level of leadership is triggered when a player experiences various types of events. Game communities and game leadership In an MMORPG. Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) and game leadership In the real world. blood pledges. J.

three questions were asked regarding leadership experience in peer groups. (2) I often take a leader role in informal meetings and (3) I tend to influence other people regardless of my social position. Playing together is the essence of an MMORPG. only those with complete answers were included for analysis. The scale uses a 5-point Likert response format ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree) in which a higher motive score indicates stronger agreement. Chicago. in which they were required to complete a questionnaire. SPSS Inc. The scale has a total of 30 items as verified by experts and a group of World of Warcraft players. Players enjoy themselves while connected in wired and bonded teams. . The game leadership scale is based on the MLQ. Game leadership and offline leadership In game studies.926. Hypothesis 3 is one of the first steps in finding an answer to these types of academic questions. Independent variable: Game leadership Given the lack of an established scale that measures in-game leadership experience. In MMORPGs. Avolio and Bass (2004) developed the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) to measure transformational leadership. hence. Transformational leadership is one of the generally discussed types of leadership in many different academic fields Bass & Avolio (1994). players must work together in teams to accomplish certain types of missions. Cronbach’s alpha was 0. a game leadership scale was developed. or what type of in-game experiences assist with this type of transfer. many researchers have questioned if game experiences affect real life events. Total 808 samples were used for final data analysis. hence. and each item deals with a specific game experience that may potentially improve game leadership. Avolio and Bass (2004) suggested that transformational leadership consists of five © 2010 The Authors. 820 South Korean online gameplayers participated in an online survey. which attributes of a game. Those questions are as follows: (1) I often take a leader role in peer groups. in this research the focus is instead on leadership skill transfer between online and offline situations. Avolio has published several papers on transformational leadership and e-leadership. SPSS software (version 12. British Journal of Educational Technology © 2010 Becta. informal meetings and personal influence on any surrounding people. The average time to complete a questionnaire was under 20 minutes. Methodology An online survey was conducted in order to measure gameplayers’ game leadership and offline leadership. It is difficult to discuss a causal relationship between the two variables. Hypothesis 3: Gameplayers’ game leadership positively correlates with offline leadership. Hypothesis 2: Game leadership in a team play group is higher than that of an individual play group. Factor analysis Through the validity test results. one item was removed and the remaining items were used for a factor analysis. Measures Previous leadership experiences To control players’ previous leadership experiences. The mean score of the three questions was used as the measure of previous leadership experience. During almost 2 weeks. and if they do. Of the 820 respondents. The data were collected from April 10 though April 17. Game leadership is assumed to have a positive relationship with offline leadership when controlled for previous leadership experiences. This study assumes that team play will provide more opportunities to experience leadership than individual play. This figure is relatively high.618 British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 42 No 4 2011 Gameplay style and game leadership Team-based activities are examples of fundamental environments that serve to build up leadership.0. it was considered that the scale shows high validity as a game leadership scale. 2008. IL) was used to conduct the analyses.

LAI consists of five factors of leadership: focused drive. LAI is a leadership measurement scale originally developed by Warren Bennis and Linkage (Giber. the Leadership Assessment Instrument (LAI) was used. Re-examine critical assumptions to question whether they are appropriate to win the game. Instill pride in other team players for being associated with them.636 0. .766 0. Factor load 0. Help other team players to develop their strengths. Act in ways that build others players’ respect.731 0. Dependent variable: Offline leadership To measure offline leadership. Carter. which refers to leadership in real life.Exploring game leaderships in MMORPGs 619 factors. Reassure other players’ that obstacles will be overcome. Suggest new ways of looking at how to complete in-game missions.721 0. etc) with other players. building trust.. Goldsmith. 1985). Each factor has Table 1: Factor analysis Value factor Factor 1 ‘Value and motivation-oriented’ Item ‘When playing games. emotional intelligence. The ‘Intellectual stimulation-oriented’ factor explains leader’s behaviours that stimulate others by encouraging new ways of thinking and problem-solving skills. By removing nine items making up two of the factors. conceptual thinking and systems thinking. I . Table 1 shows the factor analysis results. Many studies have discussed this mismatch between the theoretical categorisation and empirical leadership experiences.’ Talk about the most important values and beliefs (winning.512 Factor 2 ’Trust and respect-oriented’ Factor 3 ‘Intellectual stimulation-oriented’ © 2010 The Authors.758 0.647 0.594 0. Often talk about our team’s vision and value of accomplishing the missions with other players. Go beyond my self-interests for the good of the team. they were not clearly classified according to the theory of Bass and Avolio..770 0. Although these five factors were identified initially. Spend time teaching and coaching other players. Get other players to look at problems from many different angles. intellectual stimulation. Talk enthusiastically about what needs to be accomplished for our team.665 0. The ‘Value and Motivation-oriented’ factor is related to the ideal and inspiring behaviours of the leaders.755 0.713 0. three factors were finally suggested to identify game leadership components. British Journal of Educational Technology © 2010 Becta.727 0. It was found that there are common important behavioural factors regardless of the different personal characteristics of great leaders (Bennis & Nanus.735 0.654 0. 2000).729 0. The ‘Trust and respect-oriented’ factor explains leaders’ ideal behaviours such as respect.588 0. These factors being idealised behaviour.751 0. trust and faith. Express confidence that goals will be achieved. Encourage other players to rethink ideas which have never been questioned before. individualised consideration and idealised attributes. Provide an exciting image of what is essential to consider winning the game. Specify the importance of having a strong sense of purpose with other players. Make personal sacrifices for the benefit of other players.633 0.735 0. Articulate a compelling vision of the future. Listen attentively to other players’ concerns. Talk about the importance of trusting each other. inspirational motivation.

Lineage2.1%]. according to their gaming patterns. However. Their mean average history was 27. In addition.19 3. The weekly average for time spent on online gaming was 1340 minutes. Table 2: t-Test results Means and standard deviations Variables Game community Game community group (n = 160) 3.4 years (SD = 5. The average time spent playing an online game per session was 202 minutes.732. ***p < 0. there was no statistically significant difference between males and females in the game leadership measure. ‘11–20 members’ [21.001).314** Game leadership Three factors of ‘Value and motivation-oriented’ game ’Trust and respect-oriented’ leadership ‘Intellectual stimulation-oriented’ **p < 0.219.9%]. Offline leadership is the mean score of the total of the means of the five factors.87 t-value 3. Game community According to descriptive analysis results. Table 2 shows the differences between the game community group and the nongame community group in terms of game leadership. p < 0. The most-played MMORPGs were the Korean MMORPGs Lineage1.3%]). the American MMORPG World of Warcraft and the Korean MMORPG Mabinogi. (2) I prefer making teams with my game friends.32 2. approximately one-fifth of the players (23.49 3. the game community group showed a higher mean score in the three factors for game leadership.01.8%) reported they were in ‘21–30 member groups’ (‘fewer than 10 members’ [11.3. Regarding the community size. (3) I prefer making teams with my friends in real life. There was a clear difference in ‘Value and motivationoriented’ (F = 16. (4) I prefer making teams with people that I meet (instant group) and (5) other ways. The number of average weekly sessions was 4.9). the mean score for game leadership was significantly different amongst each group. The questions were concerned with whether they preferred playing alone or playing with others. British Journal of Educational Technology © 2010 Becta. 172 were male (57%) and 128 were female (43%). which is 22 hours and 20 minutes. The average age of players was 25.14). The answers were as follows: (1) I prefer gaming alone. . They were asked to answer questions in five different categories.42) compared with the nongame community group (3. © 2010 The Authors. Those who belonged to a game community were asked how long they had participated. the results showed that the game community group had a higher mean score in game leadership (3.620 British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 42 No 4 2011 10 items and LAI has a total of 50 items that use a 5-point Likert response format ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).9%]. A notable difference in game leadership was found between the individual play group and team play group. Game community participation According to the t-test.1%] and ‘larger than 50 members’ [21. which is 3 hours and 42 minutes. in terms of gender difference.866** 3.42 3.917** 2.001. The MMORPG players were questioned about their gameplay style. ’31–40 members’ [8.9 months. amongst the 300 participants 160 belonged to a game community (53%) and 140 did not belong to any of these types of communities (47%). Interestingly.17 Nongame community group (n = 140) 3.611*** 2.14 3.57 3. ‘41–50 members’ [13. Results Demographic of gamers Of the final 300 MMORPG players. Following in order are game leadership (F = 14.

Exploring game leaderships in MMORPGs 621 3.76 0.9 2.69 0. ‘Trust and respect-oriented’ (F = 7.80 Partial correlation with offline leadership 0.635 0. . three factors were positively correlated with offline leadership. Table 3 shows the mean scores. p < 0.493 Variables Game leadership ‘Value and motivation-oriented’ ’Trust and respect-oriented’ ‘Intellectual stimulation-oriented’ Mean 3. British Journal of Educational Technology © 2010 Becta.538 0.603 Standard deviation 0.5 Game leadership Factor 1.35 3.89 0.29 3.7 3.634 0. All correlations are significant at 0. players go through a variety of experiences that possibly enhance their game leadership skills.001) and ‘Intellectual stimulationoriented’ (F = 7. age. © 2010 The Authors.596 0. According to the correlation analysis for game leadership. p < 0.001).001).29 3. game leadership and the three factors were statistically significant. informal meetings and personal influence on any surrounding people.01.527 0. standard deviations.565.45 3. three subfactors of game leadership. Game leadership and offline leadership Due to the rich social interactions in MMORPGs.69 0.5 3.7 2. This may influence their leadership skills in real life. three questions were asked regarding leader experiences in peer groups.03 Mean 3.3 3. The independent variables are game leadership.721 0.76 0. Value and Factor 2.9 3. Figure 1 presents graphs of the mean scores in game leadership and the three factors based on ANOVA results. gender and the average number of hours of MMORPG play for each session of gameplay.45 3. Trust and Factor 3.1 2.634.03 Correlation = zero-order correlation.35 3. The control variable is previous leadership experience.89 0. Although the correlation was lowered in the partial correlation results. In this research. Intellectual respect-oriented stimulation-oriented motivation-oriented Play alone Team play with game friends Team play with real-life friends Team play with any players (instant group) Figure 1: ANOVA results Table 3: Correlation and Partial correlation results Standard deviation 0. the final hypothesis was ‘Is game leadership positively related to offline leadership when controlling for players’ previous leadership experiences’? To control players’ previous leadership experiences.80 Correlation with offline leadership 0. p < 0. Partial correlation = correlation of offline leadership with other variables controlling for previous leadership experience. correlations and partial correlations amongst the independent variables and offline leadership.

leaders are no longer those who take important information and distribute it from a superior position. Game leadership and the three factors also show that certain types of experiences may be influential to our real-life attitudes or behaviour. Teaching leadership in real world requires a large amount of human resources. factor ‘Intellectual stimulation-oriented’ (0.622 British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 42 No 4 2011 Participants reported the highest levels of experience for game leadership (0. were not significantly correlated with offline leadership. This is an interesting finding. Instead it is easier and more enjoyable way to achieve leadership skills when people access the web and play MMORPGs learning leadership roles and activities.721).603) and factor ‘Trust and respect-oriented’ (0. This survey only targeted South Korean online gameplayers. They can assign students each leader role in MMORPGs. Despite how many hours they spend playing games. especially MMORPGs might have much potential in acquiring leadership skills and transfer them into real-life situations. In addition. Leaders are those who make rapid decisions and persuade team members. At this moment. time and money. In terms of gender difference. it is quite difficult to measure intangible leadership experiences. Yee (2006) used several simple questions based on self-assessment to measure leadership skill acquisition. Implications can be various from leadership education for students to leadership training for work employees. These games provide us with easier ways to experience what we cannot experience in real life. the survey should be delivered on an international level.596). leadership itself remains an ambiguous concept. . MMORPG players’ certain experiences in an organisational and strategic environment possibly enables them to acquire leadership skills in these virtual worlds. teachers can use MMORPGs as one of their leadership teaching tools in the classroom. there was no statistically significant difference between males and females in the game leadership scores. the types of experiences they go through in gaming may be more important in improving offline leadership. rotate. Following in order is factor ‘Value and motivation-oriented’ (0. play and discuss what they go through. in the 21st century. It will be a good example for companies that have to spend enormous cost on training employees. Hypotheses 1–3 were all supported so that we confirmed several important findings. As the finding shows. further research should be conducted as well. However. Discussion The main contribution of this research is that it raises the issue of the positive potential of online games in terms of leadership. game leadership experiences possibly enhance offline leadership.634). many studies give their own definition. Although there are numerous leadership theories and studies. while listening to others’ opinions and modifying and integrating them to pursue higher missions. age and the average number of hours per MMORPG session. Another interesting finding was that gender. designed settings. It supports the research on positive relationship between online game experience and improvements in real-life leadership proposed by Yee (2006). For example. Measuring them through online surveys and relying largely on self-reporting based on a scalar grading system is another limitation. Further research may © 2010 The Authors. Those results indicate that if players tend to belong to online game community and prefer team play. In order to generalise the outcome of the study. MMOPRGs are suitable environments for people to have this type of leadership experience. various discussions about leadership studies are ongoing. there are several limitations to this research. he/she faces more opportunities to experience game leadership. It is also very cost effective. this result acclaims that cyber worlds offers more chances of experiencing leadership regardless of one’s gender. As Avolio & Kahai (2003) wrote. This is why online games have potential power as educational tools and have power in other serious applications. British Journal of Educational Technology © 2010 Becta. Despite of many people’s stereotypes of males as dominant leaders and females as obedient followers in Asian cultures. online games. Moreover. In order to determine the level of leadership skill transfer from game leadership experience to real-life leadership roles.

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