Hindsight Bias

“A recent survey of 6,407 players of ‘Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games’ (MMORPGs) such as World of Warcraft and Everquest found that 63% of hours in-game are spent in groups.” Well duh, thank you for discovering that playing online is a social activity. With all the raiding and forced grouping, and standing around waiting for the group to get its act together, it is surprising that the number was that low. Remember, one hour in a group of five means five hours grouped, so you need five solo players to balance that out, and a duo is still a group.

Wait, no, sorry, I wrote that backwards. “A recent survey of 6,407 players of ‘Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games’ (MMORPGs) such as World of Warcraft and Everquest found that 63% of hours in-game are spent alone.” Thank you captain obvious, of course we spend a lot of time soloing. All the new MMOs are more solo friendly, especially at the lower levels, and World of Warcraft is the biggest of them all. Sure, we hardcore people spend a lot of time raiding, but the teeming hordes of casual players will never see level 70 and will not be part of a raiding guild. With all the time we spend traveling, crafting, farming, or standing at the auction house, it is a wonder the number was that low.

Wait, sorry, my bad again, I made the whole thing up. What I read was a study of speed dating results, which was reported as “men like attractive women.” You were probably wondering about those loud cries of “Duh!” last week. A great deal of research is received this way because all possible results, even mutually exclusive ones, are taken as intuitively obvious. “A new study shows that absence makes the heart grow fonder”: duh! “A new study shows that out of sight really is out of mind”: duh!

Wait one last time, one of a set of mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive options must be true. People play more in groups, solo more, or the division is exactly even. Was the answer obvious after reading the first paragraph? The second? Now? If I told you that the 63% number was accurate and came from a working paper that is circulating via e-mail, could you tell me which version is correct?

: Zubon

6 thoughts on “Hindsight Bias”

  1. Well, my own bias would lean more to the majority of time being spent alone.

    Why? For one reason, I strongly suspect that there are just a lot more people soloing than grouping. And even if you’re out to group constantly, there’s still the wait time to get organized into a group and get anywhere to do anything.

    Hence why most MMORPGs these days have busywork tasks and other such ‘solo content’ to keep people entertained while they’re alone.

    Still, I’d question the methodology of such research, even if it agrees with my bias.

    Exactly how did they obtain these results? A survey? Are we talking about just asking people how long they spend in a group or solo? (People grossly misjudge how long an hour is, for one thing.)

    And how representative is this group of six thousand? A random selection across scores of MMO titles, or whole flocks of players who know each other and who may have said, “Hey, this questionnaire at this website is the current cool thing to fill up? :)”

  2. It depends, does this email being circulated tell you to circulate it to 12 of your friends? “Jimmy didn’t send this out, and the next day someone hacked into his account and a week later after he got the company to reset his password so he could log in, all his characters were naked and penniless!”

    If so then I’d say it’s accurate.

    I never trust surveys. I always felt they’re the worst way to gather information, with the best ways people don’t even know they’re being studied. Then you only have the bias of the observers to contend with.

    The error of surveys is far more than people want us to believe. Not just in doing a poor job of picking respondents, but questions can be so leading you don’t even realize it when you write the question, esp you don’t see how it leads to the answer you want. So many studies of polling has shown so many errors. of course, those studies have biases too! oh no! :O

    For instance I was reading about exit polls, and they showed that when young women were used to ask who you voted for, the results were overwhelmingly Democrat. Since everyone wants to impress the young cute girl how caring and good we are :)

  3. A headline in the Chicago Tribune today reads “Census data shows high birth rates fuel Latino growth” Populations grow when people have babies? That’s crazy talk.

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