Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Do You Cross the Aisle?

Given my experiences in MMOs playing both genders, I found this article on Geekosystem about men who play female avatars very interesting.

I know that when I play female avatars, I pretty much play me, just with a different set of electronic bits. However, I'm apparently in the minority, as there seem to be an abundance of flirty behavior when men cross genders and play as women.

From my perspective, it's hard to say who is who on some games such as WoW, because when you're standing around waiting for the gates for AV to open you can tend to get bored and jump around.* But given the large increase in the likelihood of certain behavior, I do have to wonder whether it is done consciously or not. I'm skeptical about trying to hold male players' attention, particularly given how skimpily some female toons are dressed**, but if it is a glorified "look at me" just for the hell of it, then I consider that a bit more likely.

And considering how much "attention" my male Blood Elf bank toon got on his run from Sunstrider Isle to Silvermoon, I think it does work both ways.

*Or you could be merely wired from a few Monsters or Red Bulls.

**If you want examples of this in SWTOR, go visit Njessi's excellent blog Hawtpants of the Old Republic for her Fashion Hall of Shame, a collection of really really bad fashion choices.


  1. I have encountered many "girls who could not possibly be female." Profuse, unwarranted flattery is also a sign, lol.

    I have never been taken for female which is fine, although most my characters are female the general population assumes I'm a guy. Come to think of it I've never been flirty in real life either.

    1. Except for the occasional come on by some random male toon, the only time people think a woman is behind my female toons are when I mention things that are apparently "female triggers": kids, housework, spouse at work.

      And that last one kills me, because most 2 adult households have both adults work.

  2. I saw this linked on a friend's facebook page, and I'll say here what said there: I found the article and the study to be pretty bad. They basically found that men play differently from women, and it's obvious the researchers are not veteran MMO players else they'd know that behaviours such as jumping around and excessive use of smileys is pretty ubiquitous nowadays and not by any means a way to judge the gender of a player, no matter what the gender of the toon is. The researchers also speculate that a reason men play female toons is to get special treatment from other men, which afaik stopped being a thing in WotLK. They are way out of touch with their subject matter - they could have gotten better speculation from interviewing a selection of bloggers.

    Basically the only finding I found relevant and accurate is that men playing female toons do tend to hold highly idealised notions of feminine appearance (they try to dress their toons up as prettily/sexily as possible).

    1. I suspect that boredom is the big driver of certain behavior in MMOs, and the more bored you are, the greater the tendency to jump around and wink, etc.

      What I'd have liked to see would be an in depth study of people who do ERP in MMOs, which would be far more telling than just a "here's what people are doing in-game so it must be because of wanting favorable treatment".

      As for the idealized versions of feminine appearance, I completely concur with that. After all, the female Dwarf is at the bottom of the pile in terms of toon popularity, and that toon is arguably the least idealized of the bunch. And I'm pretty confident in saying that the average player who has a naked female toon in Age of Conan is likely a (teenage) male.

  3. Now slate has something on this. Gaming has gone mainstream!

    Of course, they act like they're the first to ever notice the "boys like looking at girl butts" phenomenon.

    1. That was an interesting read.

      At least they mentioned the obvious point, that MMOs are typically designed by men for men, so the fact that they create graphics that men like to look at isn't exactly a surprise.