Real-World Stereotypes Manifest Themselves in Online Gaming Communities

Research by scholars at Pennsylvania State University and Virginia Tech found that gender stereotypes from the real world manifest themselves in the online gaming community. The researchers used six avatars in the online gaming community for World of Warcraft. There were three different avatars for men and women. For each gender, the avatars ranged from highly attractive to unattractive.

 Image: © World of Warcraft/Blizzard Entertainment

Image: © World of Warcraft/Blizzard Entertainment

The researchers used their different avatars to approach other players’ avatars in the online community and ask them for directions in how best to play the game. The researchers found that their male avatars received, on average, the same level of help and cooperation from operators of other male avatars regardless of the level of attractiveness. But for researchers’ avatars that were women, those of the attractive variety were far more likely to receive help from the operators of male avatars.

The study found that when women players used male avatars, but identified themselves by saying to other online players, “Can you help a girl out?” they were less likely to receive assistance than male players who used female avatars but identified themselves as male by saying “Can you help a guy out?”

The authors of the study suggest that businesses that used avatars to interact with fellow workers or customers, “may want to use gender neutral avatars or risk bringing all those stereotypes from the real world into their online business environments.”

The article, “It’s Not Easy Trying to be One of the Guys: The Effect of Avatar Attractiveness, Avatar Sex, and User Sex on the Success of Help-Seeking Requests in an Online Game,” was published in the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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