🎮Proving your Womanhood in MMORPG
…is akin to proving your masculinity in real life.
GamerGirl’s Butlerian Lens
Individuals are motivated to construct their identity(ies) using the discourses available in their era(s) & society(ies) (Judith Butler, 1997; Foucault, 2008). In the Social Media, Bitmoji, MMORPG, & profile picture landscapes, the mechanisms of identity construction are as myriad as our multitudes of digital mediums.
GamerGirl shows how identity can be constructed via linguistic performance, behavioral performance, punctuation performance, attire performance, visual digital body performance, emoji performance, etc
working in assembly with the technosocial adaptations of various platforms.
Given the stereotype that videogames are male-dominated (something that was truer 20+ years ago than it is today), a female identity has to be ‘proven’ in a way that a male identity doesn’t. A male avatar’s presumed corporeal manhood is safe from being questioned whereas a female avatar’s presumed corporeal womanhood requires greater performativity for validation (Butler, 1999).
Several lines of research have found that avatars can lead to behavioral changes in users such that gender swapping male players tend to behave as more feminine, display more socially amiable behaviors, create a feminine aesthetic, and perform more feminine communication (Huh & Williams, 2010; Lehdonvirta et al., 2012; Lou et al., 2013; Martey et al., 2014; Yee & Bailenson, 2007; Yee et al., 2009). Female avatars (including men playing as women) are more likely to purchase decorative, functionless items for self-presentation (Kim et al., 2012).
When women play as men, however, they “exhibited a rather drastic transformation into a “male-like” aggressive, achievement-oriented character” (Lou et al., 2019; p. 832).
Consistent with this is a finding from machine-learning research in which the Ai made more errors classifying men playing as women as actual women (7.22% error rate) than in erroneously classifying women playing as men as actual men (4.36% error rate) (Kennedy et al., 2014).
There are also several customization choices that are necessary to ensure other gamers don’t discover you’re a male:
- your name
- breast size (smaller = more believable; A or B > D)
- height (shorter = more believable)
- hairstyle (bisexual bob, ponytail)
- punctuation usage (!!!!)
- word usage (omg that npc is so handsome; this dragon is mean please halp)
- toggling your helmet on/off (so males can see your face & makeup)
- toggling your weapon into hidden outside of combat
- clothing style & color (for games that allow dyes), & shoes
- muscle tone & avoiding extreme thinness
There are behavioral indicators of gamer gender as well. For instance:
How frequently you jump → Males playing as female avatars aren’t used to being shorter, so they tend to press the jump button more often to increase what they perceive they can see.
Showing visible deference in dungeons → as in your avatar stopping & even backing up until a male avatar comes and charges forth at the boss/enemies).
Walking slower → women walk slower than men in real life (Polus et al. 1983; Tarawneh, 2001; Finnis & Walton, 2008), so moving more slowly while in dungeon groups increases believability that you’re a woman.
Gardening/ tending to things around the guild house, waving, showing a lot of expressiveness at events like weddings, etc.
§ Employ strategies to construct an online and an offline self in order to form a copresent identity in today’s information age
🎮 Storing This Convo 🎮
Female avatars who play masculine roles (knight/tank) tend to receive more support than male avatars who play feminine roles (healer/ white mage), just as men in female-dominated jobs face more discrimination than women in male-dominated jobs.
Is there a direct comparison between roles? These findings say something but I think the roles themselves are doing a lot of work. Tank/DPS are classes designed to require support while healer is a class designed to support. Would love to see the support male vs female tanks get.
Brilliant point — it would probably be best to compare female avatar tanks w/o voiceover & those with voiceover to determine if being an ‘apparent’ female is enough to create a different and/or if the actual female voice would create its own unique outcome(s)
I would further add to that with data about, for example, how much support male avatar tanks get vs female avatar tanks, then expand outwards (male avatars with female voice vs male voice, female avatars with vs w/o voice, etc). But that would take a whole lab that I dont have :(
For info on Precarious Manhood & Masculinity, please consider Vandello & Bosson, 2013
Vandello, J. A., & Bosson, J. K. (2013). Hard won and easily lost: A review and synthesis of theory and research on precarious manhood. Psychology of men & masculinity, 14(2), 101
A tri-racial model of stratification (Han, 2008; Lin & Lundquist, 2013; Phua & Kaufman, 2003; Qian & Lichter, 2007; Tsunokai, Kposowa, & Adams, 2009; Tsunokai & McGrath, 2011; Yancey, 2009). For example, utilizing a sample of 4,626 online dating profiles, Feliciano, Lee, and Robnett (2011) found that approximately 37% of Hispanic men were willing to date a White person, compared with only 10% of Hispanic men who were willing to date a Black person.”
â€ “Machismo favors the display of dominance and aggression among Hispanic men, often at the cost of marginalizing Hispanic women into socially submissive roles (Arciniega, Anderson, Tovar-Blank, & Tracey, 2008; Comas-Diaz, 1987; Hirsch, Higgins, Bentley, & Nathanson, 2002; Hirsch et al., 2007; Mirande, 1997; Parker, 1996).”