Over the last decade, Role Playing Games and Mobile Online Battle Arenas have been a dominating force in the video gaming industry, millions of people playing sometimes every day and often being quite passionate about their favorite game.

The thing that strikes me when looking at the most successful of those games (not sure I'm allowed to say any names) is the recurring presence of "class systems", ways to label characters and players with a specific set of abilities and roles.

Examples of this are the classic "warrior, mage, hunter, assassin..." classes attributed to RPG characters or the the "tank, support, damage dealer..." roles that players in MOBAS take on in a team.

What I find interesting is that players seem to like having a more or less defined role, class or play style in these systems. One such example of this phenomena is the use of the pronoun "a" to refer to someone or oneself:

      "I am a mage player"
      "He is a [insert MOBA character name] main" (main here means most played character)
      "Where the heck is our support?" (referring to the player playing in the support role)
      "She is the best [insert MOBA character name] on the     EU server"

Is there a psychological explanation to why people seem particularly attracted to these systems that "label them" in a way?

My hypotheses:

  - The discomfort of not fully knowing one's personnality and capabilities drive people to "symplify their personnalities" by endorsing specific roles in these games.

  -  Players "specialize " themselves as a way to get singled out and feel special.

Please tell me if there is something I can do to make the question better, this is my first time asking on this site.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure the effect is as direct as you think. I don't play games much nowadays, but even in RTS-style games where no such roles are assigned by the game, people seem to prefer the kinds of team engagements that are conductive to roles ("econ player", frontline/attack player, "suicide spot" [that's a somewhat daft name for having to fight an ultimately hopeless delaying/defense action] etc.). And that's probably for the same reason soccer is popular... uniformity in a team is boring. $\endgroup$ Dec 27, 2017 at 15:32
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    $\begingroup$ The "All about that Base" paper might have some answers you seek. After skimming it I think your assumptions are somewhat wrong, since MMORPGs but not MOBAs seem to be played mostly for immersion. So while they may both have classes, they serve different role for player experience, it seems. $\endgroup$ Dec 27, 2017 at 16:37
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    $\begingroup$ "The Proficiency-Congruency Dilemma" paper analyzes MOBAs from a the classic team sports perspective. They find that "Novice players maximize proficiency more than elite players." So, I as suspected, playing a particular role in MOBAs is less important for the highly competitive players. $\endgroup$ Dec 27, 2017 at 16:55

1 Answer 1


There are many explanations and counter examples for this phenomenon. Perhaps I can provide my two cents.

According to Kendrick et al pyramid, an updated pyramid of need, Status/Esteem seems to be reasonably applied to the class systems. Such systems allow the players to practice mastery, in other words, the need to feel competence. This is similar to your understanding of "specialize themselves to feel special".

For example, two players of healer/damage class may compare HPS/DPS (Healing per second / Damage per second ) to see who is more competent. Tanks see who understand the mechanics of the fight more thoroughly. At this point, the goal shifts from defeating the boss to climbing the highest in the HPS/DPS meter. (this is similar to many sports, where players play for the stats). This example applies to "World of Warcraft", one of the earliest MMORPG that introduces the triangle system (tank, healer, damage). The class system provides a measure within the group.

Another example would be "Guild Wars 2", a game that has no class system. Players heal, attack, and tank on their own even in a group setting. The game is a relatively much relaxing game in comparison with World of Warcraft, which has many hard core gamers.

There are way many other possible explanations on this aspect, but it might be hard to examine specific reasons because there is too much variation in the individuals.


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