Friday, 27 August 2010

The coolest classes in WOW has an interesting discussion topic this morning, entitled: "Does gender influence class choice?", written by a guest writer, Henry Phillips. Phillips has carried out a survey of the preferred class choice of players and matched them up with gender, to see if there are any difference.

Unfortunately, such self-selecting opinion polls are notoriously unreliable, suffering from a number of biases based on who is sampled, the way questions are worded and the tendency of people to say what they think would be appropriate, rather than what they truly believe. These make Phillips's conclusions questionable (and that's before you get to the speculation that he builds on those numbers).

So, is everything he's done worthless? No; in fact it gives us some very useful information, although it's not the information he intended to gather. Phillips has kindly linked to a web page containing the actual responses and the statistics he gathered from them. We can compare those numbers with the figures from Warcraft Realms (WR) about what classes people actually play (as opposed to the ones they say they play). The differences between the two tell us a lot about the way different classes are perceived by the player base (or at least the players sampled by Phillips). A class that shows up as popular in his statistics, but not in the actual played class statistics could be considered "cool"; it's over-reported in his data set either because people are proud of playing it or because they believe that's the right answer to give. Conversely, a class that is more popular in the WR data than in Phillips's survey might be considered "uncool" - people who play that are less likely to admit it.

Sadly, the WR data don't seem to include DK class numbers, but it's possible to compare the other classes. By taking the ratio between the percentage of people who reported playing a class to Phillips to the percentage of people who actually do according to WR, it's possible to identify which classes are considered coolest by WOW players.

As you'll see from the chart at the top of this post, there are two stand-out cases: the shaman and hunter. Far more people actually play hunters than admit to it, whereas far more people claim to play a shaman than actually do. In fact, by this measure, a shaman is over twice as cool as a hunter.

Perhaps it's the association with Mr Perfect Old Lardarse Thrall that makes a shaman seem cool and the old "huntard" tag that makes people reluctant to admit to playing them.


My main is SAN is a shaman. In case you haven't guessed!


  1. This is an interesting up-take of the matter. I have read the article on this morning and felt indeed, that it was somewhat blurry. I for one thing didn't actually think the male and female choices were so far apart: if you look closely, you can see that both genders have somewhat the same classes at the tops and bottom. there's only really 2-3 classes where it differs much in standing, one of them being priest. and I personally believe this has a lot to do with the 'image' that still goes with the class because of how it's been presented in other games in the past.

  2. I'd agree with you Syl - I'm not sure that there's much evidence of a big gender difference there, let alone enough to justify the conclusion that men and women chose classes in different ways.

    I can't help thinking this was more a case of "can you make all this boring survey information a bit more page-hit friendly?" than anything else. The underlying data are useful, though.

  3. The only reason people don't admit to playing a Mage is so they can avoid handing out free food/water & ports

  4. Wow, and to think I was a Shaman for over 4 years. I'm so COOL!

  5. Hm, I don't know. It's a fun subject to think about of course, but basing a graph like that on the very assumption that people are lying or misrepresenting themselves seems stange to me. I'd find it more likely that a survey advertised on simply attracts a very specific portion of the overall player base... which just happens to include more shamans and fewer hunters than the average.

  6. No! I'm thinking of switching to a Hunter in Cataclysm.. I'm going to be so uncool! Not cool!

    In seriousness though it seems odd. Hunters are pretty popular, there's definitely quite a few of them out there.. More than Shamans I'd say (at least judging from how difficult it can be to find a Shaman for your PUG sometimes!). But mayb there is something to the "huntard". A lot of people like to say that it takes no skill to play a hunter, so maybe people feel "bad" for playing one. Who knows :)

  7. @Saga: Warlocks and Hunters always bored me, they were TOO easy to play leveling up (I'm not saying they were easy to play at high level), so I always got too bored to level them all the way.

  8. As someone with a shaman main and a druid main alt, I guess I am way cooler then I would have ever guessed!

    Interestingly though, it is the multiple role classes that take up the top spots and the bottom four are dps only classes. Maybe it is actualy versatility that is cool?

  9. @Shintar

    I wouldn't necessarily describe what's going on as deliberate deception. It could just as easily be an effect of the self-selecting nature of the survey. Perhaps shaman players are simply prouder of their class than hunters, so are more willing to talk about their class choice. Alternatively, many players have more than one fully T9-geared character, so they pick the one they identify with the most.

    In either case, though, there is an implied value judgement: what is it that makes hunters reluctant to talk about their chosen class or people choose shaman preferentially out of a group of alts?

    Incidentally, you could also turn the results around. Maybe shaman could be seen as the class for showing off and hunter is the choice for actually getting the job done.