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Gender and Online Games - Elizabeth Unexplained
Lots of data but no answers
Gender and Online Games
The short version: Playing an opposite gender character in an online game is a good way to see all the idiocy that still goes on in the difference between the way men and women are treated

Warren plays female characters online a lot. This is not so odd, a lot of my male friends do this. I usually also play females, but occasionally play males.

We've been playing far too much Warcraft lately. We play female twins. Two months ago we moved to one of the new PVPRP servers, and we've been doing a lot of battlegrounds play their. There's one battleground called Arathi Basin that's a fairly interesting place where strategy and communication can make a big difference. This makes the game pretty fun if you like strategy. It can also make if frustrating if the rest of your group is clueless. People being the lemmings that they are, Warren has taken to starting up a raid group when we enter and inviting people, with the expectation that we'll lead the raid. Sometimes this works well. Sometimes it doesn't. One of the particularly annoying failure points is when a male character starts assuming that he is in charge (even though its our raid group) and starts giving bad order. What makes it particularly annoying is that the other people in the raid will preferentially follow a male character giving orders regardless of the gender of their own character, even if there is a female character giving better orders and information.

After the most glaring example of this that we had recently, I asked Warren how it felt to have people not listen to you just because you're female. He said he was used to it. The first MMORPG we played he also had a female character as his main character. He said it took him a while to realize what was going on, but he noticed that people didn't seem to take him seriously because he was 'female'. I noticed similar things there because I was playing both males and females. Its just way more noticable in Warcraft when you're doing something like battlegrounds that is very combat oriented. I doubt people are thinking about it. They just assume that the female avatars are female and the male avatars are male and their subconcious reacts appropriately.

Of course people don't always assume that you're female if you play a female character. On the forums for the game I routinely see people refer to certain female avatars as 'he'. These are often avatars with non-girly sounding names. Since some people use various voice servers, it could be that these are know to be played by males because their voice gives them away, or it could be that they are competant players, and therefore assumed to be male. I've certainly had people call me 'dude' in game and I wonder if they think I'm a guy. Its almost a running joke that no women play Warcraft. I'm wondering if this is another angle on same general attitude. Women can't do combat type games well, so any competant player must be male. Never mind that I'm often the top scorer for the Alliance in my bracket in a battlegrounds, and last I checked I was a girl.

I thought this whole girl/boy thing would be straightened out by now. I mean its obviously pretty silly. I'm getting tired of it, but I don't know how to fix it other than to just be me. Of course I don't have it so bad. I expect that this who girl/boy thing is also why homophobia is still a problem -- if your not straight you violating people's idea of which box to put you in. Somedays I wish I could just give 90% of the population a good shake and tell them to grow up already, but I doubt it would work. Maybe everyone should be required to play an opposite gender character in an online game for a while until they aquire a clue.

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dcltdw From: dcltdw Date: November 14th, 2005 02:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
They just assume that the female avatars are female and the male avatars are male and their subconcious reacts appropriately.

I was with you up until that point.

I generally assume female avatars are played by men. I wonder why. :) (The not-so-inside joke here is that my main character is a female character.)

That said, I -have- noticed that I tend to give more credibility to male avatars than female ones. This tends to occur in a vacuum, and I believe (I may be totally wrong about what is actually going on in my head) that what happens is, given a lack of *any* data, I'll assume that a male knows better than a female about a combat situation. 100%, 110% stereotype, no question.

That said, after the battle, I'll know a lot more. Heck, after 5 minutes into a battle, I'll know a lot more. "You... are spewing lots of orders, and you don't seem to realize that the enemy's gate is down. Ohhh-kay, right, let's just ignore you. And you, you're standing calmly here, waiting for this neutral flag to turn into our color. Why don't I hang out with you instead?" I totally don't care if that silent guard character is male or female; I think a lot of that is because I assume that I will die before s/he does. (I play a very-easy-to-kill mage, so this is a good tactical assumption on my part.)

I don't know if I tend to follow male or female avatars more once I've gotten to know them. I'm not angling for a cop-out here; I just don't do that much PvP. I suspect a much better question is: regardless of the avatar's gender, do I assume that a competent PvPer is male? Huh. That's harder to answer (see opening assumption).
arcanology From: arcanology Date: November 14th, 2005 02:40 pm (UTC) (Link)

Maybe the Warcraft player base is just undereducated. ;)

Seriously though, I haven't noted this problem in CoH, although I do know that whenever a group is sabotaged by a player who Just Won't Listen it's a guy. How do I know? Well, I don't, but it's always a male avatar.

Maybe I'll watch to see if that guy shows up in groups with a female lead. Last time I met him though it was in a group with a male lead.

I think the average age in CoH is probably older, and the average relationship status is probably more so (I've met a lot of married couples playing the game) both of which undoubtedly help.
arcanology From: arcanology Date: November 14th, 2005 02:43 pm (UTC) (Link)

Also, I've noted that PvP in general brings out bad things in many people. It's like a big bundle of bad habits waiting to be unwrapped - this may be just one of them.
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: November 15th, 2005 06:51 am (UTC) (Link)
Not always. I've been finding that I really enjoy PvP, and thanks to the forums we actually have some good comeraderie going with some of the opposing faction members. In fact yesterday members of the horde whom we regularly kill started a thread called "Mad <3 for Sulime/Silme". It was sweet.
arcanology From: arcanology Date: November 15th, 2005 07:48 am (UTC) (Link)

Well, people who are the right sort of people don't get corrupted by the competition, but there are a lot of borderline cases that get turned into total raving loons as soon as things get competitive.

I don't think it has anything to do with your general problem though.
mjperson From: mjperson Date: November 14th, 2005 05:41 pm (UTC) (Link)

Female Characters

Actually, one of the reasons I always play the same female character in MMORPGs, (though there are several), is that I found back in Everquest that female characters are in general treated better than male characters.

People were much more polite, and far more willing to just wander up and give me free stuff, than they were with my male character. It was that experience that solidified my character into Janeha rather than the male one I was playing that first time. This trend has seemed to continue all the way from Everquest, through Ascheron's Call, Dark Age of Camelot, and now World of Warcraft.

Personally, I attribute it to most of the player base being teenage boys ruled by their hormones, but really, having to deal without all the cursing and getting free stuff are powerful incentives for me.
arcanology From: arcanology Date: November 14th, 2005 07:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Female Characters

I've certainly heard that... I think it was easier to get groups with my one CoH character with an obviously female name (Infernal Girl) since the names show up in the team seek window, but I'm not sure how much of that is true and how much is when I was playing her vs. other characters.
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: November 15th, 2005 06:47 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Female Characters

This is certainly true too. Its one of the reasons why I still do play female avatars. Also the male avatars in Warcraft all look like steroid abusers. Of course, its less true depending on what character class you play. I've noticed that my holy-specced prriestess gets treated much better than my hunter, so it may be more than hormones. Or maybe not. Both characters are night elves, but the priestess wears a dress.
arcanology From: arcanology Date: November 15th, 2005 07:50 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Female Characters

About all the cursing... CoH has a profanity filter, so I get (bleep!) or (&#@$*!) instead. It's very comic-booky.
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