Researchers at the University of York have found that it's possible to predict not only age but also social attitudes by simply looking at the names chosen for use in multiplayer games.
According to a research paper available online
and published in Volume 55 Part B of the journal Computers in Human Behaviour
, the name chosen by a player in a multiplayer game offers a fascinating insight into how they think. Concentrating on the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) title League of Legends, the team from the University of York discovered they could accurately glean two pieces of information from nothing more than the name each player chose: their age, and the likelihood they'll participate in antisocial behaviour during play.
The first is, perhaps, an obvious finding: the team found that where numbers were present in a player's name, these numbers often - though not always - corresponded to the player's year of birth, as confirmed through access to Riot Games' registration database, which stores the player's claimed date of birth when an account is created. Interestingly, the results also suggested the presence of players as young as 11 despite Riot Games requiring players to be 13 or older when registering - suggesting that the players lied during registration but told the truth when creating their names.
The second major finding from the paper is, perhaps, another no-brainer: players who had abusive, rude, or otherwise antisocial language as part of their username were more likely to be the recipient of complaints regarding antisocial behaviour during gameplay. Interestingly, however, they were also found to be more likely to send
reports of antisocial behaviour regarding other players. Equally, they were less likely than a randomly-selected control group to send or receive Honour, the game's reporting system for rewarding sportsmanship or prosocial behaviour.
'It is possible that players choose user names that reflect a personality that they choose to adopt within the game rather than one that matches their own real-world personality,
' the researchers explain in the paper. 'We find this plausible to some extent (video gamers are, after all, playful) but the extreme nature of some of the obscene usernames makes it unlikely that they are chosen by pro-social individuals even as a form of escapism.
' the team adds, before describing the near-3,000 antisocial nicknames identified in the study as being 'well outside the adult societal norms.
Unsurprisingly, the study also indicated that players became more prosocial as they aged. 'Negative interactions decrease and positive interactions increase,
' in line with player age, the study concludes. 'The effect is small at the individual level but extremely robust and significant at the group level.