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Culture & Religion

In Gaming, Passing As Female Doesn’t Always Work

A new study involving World of Warcraft players using female avatars revealed clear gender distinctions when it came to in-game movement.

What’s the Latest Development?

A team of researchers studied the online behaviors of 375 World of Warcraft players, some of whom chose avatars of the opposite gender to represent themselves. While males with female avatars were more likely to use emoticons and emotional language than other males, the real tell came while observing how avatars moved: Males with female avatars “moved backwards more often…stayed further away from the group [and] jumped an average of 116 more times” than females with female avatars.

What’s the Big Idea?

When it comes to online behavior, anonymity isn’t a given, says researcher Mia Consalvo, who with her colleagues published the results of their study in Information, Communication and Society. “Men may not necessarily try to mask their offline gender when they use a female avatar, but our study shows they do reinforce idealized notions of feminine appearance and communication.” One of several possible explanations given with regards to the excessive jumping was that the males sought extra attention or kinder treatment from other players. Notably, they were also more likely to choose an attractive avatar.

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