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Games Science

Usernames Reveal the Age and Psychology of Game Players (sciencedirect.com) 262

limbicsystem writes: Your online name can reveal a lot about you. Researchers from the University of York and Riot Games have shown that information harvested from the usernames of players who signed up to 'League of Legends' can sometime reveal both their ages and how they behave online. And the short story is that both younger players and players with obnoxious names are more likely to exhibit toxic online behavior.
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Usernames Reveal the Age and Psychology of Game Players

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  • And this is news? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BarbaraHudson ( 3785311 ) <barbarahudson@gma i l .com> on Thursday November 12, 2015 @08:58PM (#50918751) Journal
    And "the short story is that both younger players and players with obnoxious names are more likely to exhibit toxic online behavior" is news? The opposite finding might be ... but not this.
    • by Fire_Wraith ( 1460385 ) on Thursday November 12, 2015 @09:01PM (#50918765)
      I could've demonstrated that with 30 minutes on XBox Live voice chat in any FPS.
      • by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Thursday November 12, 2015 @09:24PM (#50918871) Homepage Journal

        In my experience, sometimes you need to research the 'obvious' because sometimes what seems clear-cut turns out to not be. It's part of the reason that people say things like 'data is not the plural of anecdote'.

        And once you've done the research you have to write the paper to justify the expenditure of resources and time to verify the results.

        • I don't think that actually applies in this case. People who play games frequently have played with hundreds or thousands of people online, and heard their voices. There is no shortage of data. And if you thought you might have a personal bias, you could just ask someone with similar experiences, as they'll have essentially performed the same observations independently. While there is some value to doing things "formally", that value is probably very low in this case.
          • While there is some value to doing things "formally", that value is probably very low in this case.

            On the other hand, you have 'lots' of graduate students who need to write a paper for their doctorate...

        • In my experience, sometimes you need to research the 'obvious' because sometimes what seems clear-cut turns out to not be. It's part of the reason that people say things like 'data is not the plural of anecdote'.

          And once you've done the research you have to write the paper to justify the expenditure of resources and time to verify the results.

          That still doesn't make it news.

      • Quick - submit it. Like those bogus auto-generated science papers, it WILL be accepted :-)
      • I do not even try to be into a multiplayer game. It is not exactly healthy.
        • I do not even try to be into a multiplayer game. It is not exactly healthy.

          There are some multiplayer games that aren't plagued with jerkoffs. I'd tell you the names of those games, but then all the jerkoffs would show up.

          But mostly, multiplayer gaming is just a big bag of turds.

          • by Lotana ( 842533 )

            I have an untested hypothesis: Ratio of immature, vindictive brats slowly fall off the longer the game is out.

            Don't have any proof, just a gut feeling. Wait for about 8 months since the game launch before trying the waters.

            I have no idea what variables affect this...

      • And any MMO.

      • Which is why my first step in the settings for any multiplayer game is to disable voice chat. It is just plain stupid.
    • by TwentyCharsIsNotEnou ( 1255582 ) on Thursday November 12, 2015 @09:30PM (#50918911)
      There's a difference between anecdotal evidence and properly correlated research data.

      Research that confirms an expected answer is not useless.
      • So, then what do the usernames of slashdot posters tell about the age and psychology of slashdotters?
      • by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Thursday November 12, 2015 @11:32PM (#50919347)

        There's a difference between anecdotal evidence and properly correlated research data.

        Agreed. The problem is the "properly" qualifier, which most published studies have trouble meeting, and the percentage of valid conclusions goes down even further when you try to measure nebulous social science issues.

        Research that confirms an expected answer is not useless.

        While what you say is literally true, the problem is that "research that appears to confirm an expected answer" is frequently "useless." Anyone who has been following recent attempts to reproduce studies in various fields know that Ioannidis's claims that most published research findings are false [nih.gov] has been shown to be an accurate assessment again and again.

        And everything gets even worse in a situation like this. Even if researchers have the best of intentions, there are fundamental cognitive biases they are working against in setting up the experiment. There is potential to unintentionally (or intentionally) bias the data collection, the measures chosen, the categories and analysis system created, the ultimate statistical measurements used to determine significance, etc., etc. at every stage. When such an "obvious" hypothesis is the starting place, this is GOING to happen in the vast majority of cases.

        So, I'd go so far as to say that 90% of research that APPEARS TO confirm an expected answer is useless... because it probably didn't actually measure things accurately or have enough statistical power to support the conclusions beyond what was already expected in most cases anyway.

        And here's the thing -- even IF some researchers manage to overcome all of these biases and did a study like this and found NO correlation -- would they even publish it? Would a journal accept it? "Yeah, we looked for a correlation and didn't find any strong evidence." Note that's different from finding strong evidence AGAINST a correlation, which would likely take a different experimental design. Instead, they would have just found a negative result for their hypothesis... which seems uninteresting, and may be nearly unpublishable unless they found an interesting way to spin it.

        So, publication bias means it's even MORE likely that studies like this are completely useless.

        There's only ONE REASON why a study like this is generally useful -- it sets up a scientific "standard" in an official publication which COULD make another future study that proves the opposite publishable. Because now if another study comes along and can't find this correlation, they can argue it IS interesting, since it contradicts previous "science."

        This study itself is likely useless, if it's like most studies of the sort. Its only usefulness is if it actually leads someone to disprove it or to qualify it with further nuance that partially disproves it. I wouldn't take it as evidence of anything without a thorough review of the procedure (in likely much more detail than would appear in any publication).

        • by narcc ( 412956 )

          While what you say is literally true, the problem is that "research that appears to confirm an expected answer" is frequently "useless." Anyone who has been following recent attempts to reproduce studies in various fields know that Ioannidis's claims that most published research findings are false [nih.gov] has been shown to be an accurate assessment again and again.

          You see this pop up every time you see a study to which someone viscerally disagrees. It's mostly used as a bludgeon by extraordinarily lazy internet forum demagogues. The correlate, naturally, is the study which confirms someone's preexisting beliefs being touted as infallible truth handed down by the god of science.

          It's this sort of ruthless irrationality from the self-described rationalists that is responsible to the public mistrust of science we've seen growing over the past few years. The science ch

          • You see this pop up every time you see a study to which someone viscerally disagrees.

            Note that I agree with the results of the study. Identifying young jackasses by user name isn't generally hard.

            Nonetheless, I agree with GP's comment. Most studies of this sort, for a variety of reasons, aren't worth the (metaphorical) paper they're printed on....

          • You see this pop up every time you see a study to which someone viscerally disagrees. It's mostly used as a bludgeon by extraordinarily lazy internet forum demagogues.

            Uh, I agree with the results of TFA -- or, well, I at least think it's highly likely to be correct in its findings. What I'm saying is that even if it happens to be correct, experience and MANY, many studies of high profile articles in major journals have shown that such studies usually don't have the statistical power or unbiased design to actually demonstrate what they claim to.

            The correlate, naturally, is the study which confirms someone's preexisting beliefs being touted as infallible truth handed down by the god of science.

            Only if that someone is an irrational idiot who doesn't believe in a proper scientific method.

            It's this sort of ruthless irrationality from the self-described rationalists that is responsible to the public mistrust of science we've seen growing over the past few years. The science cheerleaders are actively working against their own interests.

            Huh? So, are you arguing that we

    • by Xyrus ( 755017 )

      They used players who signed up to League of Legends. By definition, they're all toxic. That's why I stopped playing. I prefer to enjoy the games I play.

      • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

        What is so toxic about words on the internet?

        • by dave420 ( 699308 )

          Well, as you have demonstrated over your illustrious Slashdot career, when people start making massive damnations of great swathes of the population (such as your fantastic "women can't be scientists" rant), it can spread to other less-critically-adept people, which can cause problems for the rest of society which has to deal with lazy-thinking muppets such as yourself.

        • Really?

          Words are words. Internet or not. Say you're with some friends, and one has to leave to run errands for his wife. If you were to call him a "pussy-whipped beta fag and that his wife is a bitch and that all women are stupid bitches out for money", he might not want to hang out with you.

          If you were on the internet playing an MMORPG and a player in group logged off to run and errand for his wife and you called him a "pussy-whipped beta fag and that his wife is a bitch and that all women were stupid

    • I know this seems obvious, but this is one of the things science is for: testing what seems obvious, because sometimes what seems obvious is in fact wrong. Common sense got society to maybe the 17th century, which sucked. It took the ability to question our natural understanding of the world and test it with the scientific mindset to get beyond all that.

      So yes, this is what I would have guessed. But knowing it is a different thing, and we can all say that now.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      For example, in WoW, there have been guilds that only take older players and players with acceptable names for ages. While there are nice teenagers that can fit in well with a guild or group, unfortunately many do not.

      Seriously, this is at least 10 years too late.

  • by xevioso ( 598654 ) on Thursday November 12, 2015 @09:01PM (#50918767)

    My username reveals nothing about me. :-( So I can be obnoxious online in anonymity.

  • Fuck "Toxic" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    What's with sociology and weasel words?

    Toxic is meaningless. In high enough doses, water is toxic (and can lead to water poisoning). It's just a slightly stronger way of saying "problematic", which is another weasel word (everything has pros and cons - so everything is problematic).

    Words like "toxic" and "problematic" just mean "I don't like it, and I think it's a bad thing on balance but I can't prove it". If you can't prove it's a bad thing for some squeaker to tell me to fuck my mother, maybe you should

    • People started using "problematic" in the wrong sense to try to look intelligent. Don't bother arguing with them, it's not worth it.
    • by lgw ( 121541 )

      What's with sociology and weasel words?

      Toxic is meaningless.

      The study actually looked at LOL players and how often they were reported or given whatever in-game thingy LOL has to "like" someone. So they're not measuring their own arbitrary interpretation here of bad behavior, but instead community reaction. That seems like a reasonable measure. However, their definition of "anti-social names" could well be arbitrary.

      I was quite amused that their finding of "old players nicer than young" was in the age range of 12-26, no older players were actually studied, just ki

      • no older players were actually studied, just kids and young adults

        The wife and I are regular WoT players and both in our 50's. We basically ignore chat and just play the game. The wife has been playing for a few years, she used to get rattled by trolls until I explained they're just bored kids in their pyjamas waiting for mum to send them to bed.

    • You are a good demonstration of the problem.

      • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

        Why? Because he questioned the narrative?

        • No, because his comment is brainless and moronic. He (or she or whatever) is questioning the use of words like 'toxic' and 'problematic' while at the same time asking the authors to prove that something is 'bad'.

      • by tgv ( 254536 )

        No, you are.

        No, YOU are!

        No, YOU ARE!!

        Ad infinitum.

    • by mvdwege ( 243851 )

      Toxic in this context means: "Antisocial, liable to scare people away". In an activity that is meant to be social (multiplayer-gaming), and meant to have a large audience (LoL is a commercial product, after all), it is a nice, pithy description. What is your problem with it?

    • >> What's with sociology and weasel words?

      It passes the time until the next person in line orders their coffee.

  • The only thing that they will be able to find out about me through my nickname is that I may be not human :-)
  • Yawn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 12, 2015 @09:39PM (#50918953)

    What age are the original names? And do they use the age when I CREATED the name? (25 years ago, offline) or do they use the age when I first used it online (20 years ago)? Or do they use one of the many years in between then and now? I mean WTF. I have handles from when I was 10 years old BBS'ing. And the name is even on the list of legal names in Iceland. (did you know you have to have your name approved by the gov't in Iceland? But I digress.)

    This whole concept is officially stupid. Only people who want to be known as assholes will pick asshole names. No News Here. NNH.

  • ... is Walter Mitty, what does that say about me?

  • Makes me wonder (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Thursday November 12, 2015 @10:09PM (#50919057)
    So how do I skew the evidence? I chose my nickname in 1986 when I was young, and I still use it today. Since it hasn't changed at all I wonder how they presume to associate any "age" data with that.
    • Yeah, I chose my name around 1986 as well. I can't take credit for making it up, but I've been using it for almost 30 years. The sad thing is that I missed out on grabbing the .com domain name.

      • I've had mine since the late 90s when I found out several sites already had somebody with my original handle which I had since the 80s, and most folks I know have likewise used the same handle for ages so I really don't see how you can confer anything by a handle other than maybe someone with a handle like "suxdeeznutzb1tch" is probably an asshole.
    • by eth1 ( 94901 )

      So how do I skew the evidence? I chose my nickname in 1986 when I was young, and I still use it today. Since it hasn't changed at all I wonder how they presume to associate any "age" data with that.

      Well, if you had chosen a childishly obscene user name back then, and still considered it appropriate to use, that could still provide some insight into your potential behavior today.

    • They only assumed an age when the username contained a number that could be interpreted as a year, i.e. 'goodguy1996', or 'blowme88'. They compared the date to the player's birth year, and it correlated very well. That was their only method, so a username like 'Dunbal' would have been excluded.

    • by guises ( 2423402 )
      Probably not much. If the name that you had picked in 1986 had been xXFuckwitXx you probably would have changed it by now.
    • by T.E.D. ( 34228 )

      So how do I skew the evidence? I chose my nickname in 1986 when I was young, and I still use it today. Since it hasn't changed at all I wonder how they presume to associate any "age" data with that.

      You're right. They'll never be able to guess that the owner of FunkyColdMedina was a teenager back in the '80s, and is thus in roughly his late 40's now.

  • Sounds dodgy to me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by viperidaenz ( 2515578 ) on Thursday November 12, 2015 @10:47PM (#50919199)

    Sounds like someone wanted to use research grant money to play League of Legends.

  • by God of Lemmings ( 455435 ) on Thursday November 12, 2015 @10:54PM (#50919217)
    subjects over the age of 20 were not included in our analysis......The distribution of birth years from all servers between the 1985 and 2002 (inclusive) are shown in Fig. 2a.
    1985 = 30 years of age.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by cfalcon ( 779563 )

      > 1985 = 30 years of age.

      Uh, could you check that math again?

      Please?

      I'm pretty sure you made a mistake. It's an easy mistake to make, apparently, because my calculator is bugged and says the same thing when I subtract 30 from 2015.

  • Back when AOL was still in it's heyday, I was dismayed to discover that not only did one of my real life friends apparently not know how to spell "awesome", but he was somewhere in the mid 600s of people to spell it wrong in the particular manner that he misspelled it.
    • Back when AOL was still in it's heyday, I was dismayed to discover that not only did one of my real life friends apparently not know how to spell "awesome", but he was somewhere in the mid 600s of people to spell it wrong in the particular manner that he misspelled it.

      Fortunately, you're in the even larger group that can't distinguish between "its" and "it's" reliably. HINT: "it's" is a contraction of "it is", "its" is a possessive.

      My I'm in a pissy mood today. I guess that whole post-pancreas thing is

  • I'm sometimes asleep. Does that say anything about me?
  • Pussycat1 is older than Pussycat2736415 !

    Who would have thought.

  • Ah, yes, "toxic". (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LaurenCates ( 3410445 ) on Friday November 13, 2015 @09:02AM (#50920909)

    I presume it is known that younger people exhibit the more obnoxious behaviors online, simply because when you are a gamer, you observe this behavior, and it doesn't take an academic study to figure it out.

    Now, I say "obnoxious" because it puts the behaviors contextually in the realm that they belong.

    When someone says "toxic", they semantically put a greater weight on it. They give it a word that's supposed to be scary and instill paranoia, and the strong feeling that people are "problematic" and need "re-education" (okay, they don't use that last one, but guaranteed, it's coming).

    That's how you know the person(s) who published this study aren't gamers. Because real gamers have been dealing with obnoxious behavior since they picked up their first controller (me: original NES in 1985; we had Atari and Colecovision, but I was way too young to use them back then), and they don't try to create a stigmatizing label over it. They keep playing. They return the smack-talk or they proceed to shut the mouthy bastard up by annihilating him.

    Seems to me the only reason studies like this one exist is so some preening pseduo-intellectual can jerk him/herself off by reinforcing stereotypes about gamers being beneath them. (And yes, I'm aware that the study says that the obnoxious behaviors come from younger people, but since the word "toxic" was invoked, you can be sure that someone, somewhere will use that as evidence that gaming instills "toxic" behavior in gamers.)

    -LaurenC

    • I'm a gamer who's been playing longer than you and I have never felt that trash-talk was appropriate. You should also keep in mind that there have always been plenty of non-competitive games. PVP gamers frequently seem to think they are the only ones that count for some reason. Someone who only plays solo 4X games is just as much a gamer as you are.

"Oh my! An `inflammatory attitude' in alt.flame? Never heard of such a thing..." -- Allen Gwinn, allen@sulaco.Sigma.COM

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