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Why raiders and multiboxers are overestimated

Recently, Blizzard Lead Systems Designer Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street tweeted the following:
This was something of a surprising tweet. Now, of course, there are several subjective notions in there, but it merits some discussion nonetheless. Firstly, what is considered the forum posting or tweeting community? It seems that this would simply be those who regularly contribute to either of those venues, putting it simply, and indeed those with whom he is in regular contact. Do you consider yourself part of either community? And why does that community overestimate the number of people raiding or multiboxing, if they do at all?

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is a cognitive science term, that describes a human tendency to search for, remember or interpret information in such a way that it confirms one's own preconceptions. A fine example of this is the "everybody thinks X" idea, which crops up a lot. If you believe that, for example, frost mages don't have enough burst, you might seek out other opinions that support your own, and partly ignore the clamoring crowd who assert that frost mage burst is out of control. Confirmation bias is particularly prevalent on the internet, where it's almost always possible to find another opinion that supports your own.

Why have I told you about this? Well, it's a big part of what Ghostcrawler's experiencing on a daily basis on twitter. Not just in what he sees regarding classes and the like, but in what he'll hear from players in response to recent tweets such as those on lockouts and dailies. Human beings, even those who don't play WoW, have a tendency to assume that others see the world from the same perspective as they do, and therefore assume, thanks to confirmation bias, that "everyone" raids.

What's more, there's a strong possibility that a far higher percentage of tweeters and forum users do raid. If you're into a game to the extent that you actually read forums, visit fansites and even have a twitter account that you use to talk to developers, chances are you're among a group that takes WoW pretty seriously. And, therefore, it makes sense that you're more likely to either raid, or PvP, or collect things, or pet battle, and take a substantial interest in what you do in-game. Of those activities, raiding is probably the most prevalent, so couple that with our inherent confirmation bias, and it becomes pretty clear why tweeters and forumites think everyone raids. And, in all fairness, of those communities, a good proportion probably does.

Massively Multiboxer

But multiboxing isn't really explained by these ideas. Why do people overestimate the number of multiboxers? There are elements of the same, of course, multiboxers are likely to be players that take WoW seriously, are likely to spend time on forums and the like, but in this case I think it has more to do with the nature of multiboxing as an in-game activity.

Why raiders and multiboxers are overestimatedI still remember the very first time I saw a multiboxer, controlling five elemental shaman, moving through a battleground like a freight train through a poppy-field. I was partly impressed, partly annoyed. The shamans seemed like an unstoppable force, and it seemed unfair. PvP is a highly personal, highly subjective situation, and players remember the apparently negative things they see far more than the positives. You don't remember the 10,000 perfect drivers you passed on your way home, but you do recall the one guy who cut you up at an intersection.

What's more, multiboxing is, to the average non-multiboxer at least, something of a mystery. The machinations with which multiboxers control their minions are not widely known, so coming across one is a memorable experience. And yes, they do have five accounts apiece, often more, so they are paying quite some money for a single player, but it seems reasonable to state that they don't make up a huge proportion of the WoW population.

What about you?

Do you raid? Do you multibox? Do you think you're in the majority? Are you in the majority of your friends? Your guild? And why do you think that Blizzard are saying that the numbers of people who do those things are overstated? They know, by the way, they almost certainly have pretty accurate numbers on these things, so let's not assume they're lying. But why is it the case that players overestimate?

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