Gender Pay Gap

Male-stereotyped quests tend to provide more magic potions, loot, etc than female-stereotyped quests = wealth inequality

In Distant Worlds, gamers engage in trades with one another via the in-game market, which operate organically like real-world market economies (Lehdonvirta & Castronova 2014). In some instances, the demand for a rare, hard to acquire, & prohibitively expensive at the market for all but the most hardcore players may lead some individuals to spend real life money for in-game material boosts (and now they can defeat that boss who has a 20% chance of dropping that rare item the gamer so desperately desired).

Direct trades also take place in some instances where players will negotiate exchanges 1-on-1; bypassing posting any items on the market boards. It’s in these instances where performativity is particularly useful. The utilitarian benefits of performing gender, sexuality, race, religion, etc are virtually tangible when it comes to exchanges. That includes the strategically masking aspects of one’s corporeal self that may lead to a suboptimal outcome (Hartmann et al., 2010).*

Indeed, Lehdonvirta et al. (2014) found that the gender wealth gap in MMORPG videogame “virtual economies is orders of magnitude greater than in any [real life] national economy” (p. 251).

One of the reasons for this (as the authors alluded to) is that comparing the wealth of a level 2 avatar & a level 52 avatar is like comparing the wealth of a 2 year old to a 52 year old. The last time economists compared the wealth attainment of toddlers to adults was in never.

Another consideration is that the fetch quests, dailies, side-tasks that female avatars enjoy doing tend to reward the avatar/gamer with less in-game money & less valuable loot/items/potions than the activities that male avatars enjoy doing. As a woman avatar myself I admit I’ve noticed this trend in my own selection of sidequests & things I’ve done with my guild girlfriends. In contrast, 90%+ of the activities I engage in with the males in the guild have been combat related (i.e., daily assistance with a dungeon, several dungeons, and/or boss fights).

For some incomprehensible reason, the sidequests & daily jobs that we enjoy doing as women avatars (e.g., reuniting separated npcs, hide and seek with kiddos, removing a curse that’s ruining someone’s flowers, etc) pay us less money than the sidequests/jobs that men avatars enjoy doing (mostly just the same old combat stuff).

And why are female avatars the ones mostly doing the gardening & life skilling at the guildhouse? It’d be nice if games on Playstation 5 were coded to give us some financial reward for that currently uncompensated labor.

Pink Plastic is More Expensive Than Blue

HumanGirl: In real life → “Many toys, clothing, hygiene items, & other consumer products for women humans are more expensive than versions of the same products for men humans.”

GamerGirl: In virtual MMORPG life → Many loot, armor, & cosmetic items for unique avatar customization for women avatars are more expensive than versions of the same products for men avatars.

(1/1/2021 Update)

Audit Study — Real Life #PinkTax

“DCA analyzed seven types of clothing: dress pants, dress shirts, sweaters, jeans, shirts, socks, and underwear. In total, 292 individual articles of clothing were included in the analysis, with at least 40 items for each type of clothing.

The Agency’s examination of the high and low price ranges showed a trend of high-end clothing costing women an average of 13% more than men, & low price clothing costing men an average of 3% more than women’s.”

Audit Study — #MMORPG Life Pink Tax

- Clothing for female avatars costs us an average of 10–400% more than the equivalent item for those male avatars.

- Importantly, the price difference in the virtual audit is based on the in-game market in which gamers themselves are setting the prices — not the game developers.

- Thus, as noted in a previous #GamerGirl piece, the #MMORPG virtual world is made up of players who are products of the hegemonic patriarchal sexism & cis-temic heteronormative gender norms of the corporeal world. As such, logic dictates that those norms would permeate the virtual world. The gamer does not suddenly enter a state of sociocultural fugue upon logging in.

- #Gamers are *practicing* the reinforcement of corporeal gender discrimination in the virtual world. The immersion & *mechanical embodiment* that gaming provides — the sole artistic medium in which a supermajority of its to-be-experienced-content requires consumer interactivity — makes it perhaps the most potent (yet largely scholastically unacknowledged) norm reinforcing vehicle of any extant genre.

Press R2 for dopamine & worldview reinforcement

And which generations report that their social identities are associated with the artistic medium of gaming?

→ iGen, followed by Millennials (Whistle Study, 2019 — see below).

As effective as Miss Representation & Lean In may be in reaching Gen-X & elder Millennials, via social media, woke commercials/ads/ branding, progressive shows & movies… the Dove Real Beauty campaign of 2021 may need to start considering the relevance of how intersectional identities are depicted within the medium that the emerging generation embraces more than all past generations.

*denotes = By “strategically masking aspects of one’s corporeal self that may lead to a suboptimal outcome” I mean not performing actions that serve as technologically mediated cues of one’s corporeal race. Unless, of course, it would be deemed advantageous for other gamers to know your real world race. For many monoracial Black & Hispanic gamers, this would predominantly be the case when playing MMO games like NBA2K, Fifa World Cup (Soccer thing/product), Madden NFL, Grand Theft Auto Online, & Call of Duty. East Asian gamers may be the only non-White monoracial group for whom revealing one’s identity in a fantasy/adventure MMORPG would be advantageous; however, those same gamers may not benefit as much as Black & Hispanic gamers if their racial identity is disclosed/revealed in sports & shooter MMO games.

Epilogue (draft)

If passive cinema (Netflix, tv, movies) can be enjoyed, then so can interactive cinema (Xbox). While they both share a visual language, the moral & self investment of direct interactivity is one of the unique potentials of games as an artistic medium.

The result is a latent ethnographic investigation, contrasting the essentialism of Simone De Beauvoir & her bae Sartre with the deontological philosophy of Judith Butler’s discourse on sex/gender.

In my performativity as a female avatar, I’ve operated from the gaze of Mike Foucault’s panopticon in the virtual world (as everyone can do now with social media), & have assessed the degree to which the Aux-Modern tenets of NeoLiberalism facilitate using other gamers as vehicles to augment my utilitarian interests in the videogame world.

Moreover, each avatar I’ve played as has been human in form (never an ogre or sorceress or anything like Snooki), and each race/skin tone I’ve played as has been atop the racial hierarchy of mate preferences that spans countries. A West Asian/Persian woman is the darkest character I’ve played as. There’s no need to play as someone Filipino or African or other ethnic groups with an ‘on average’ darker skin tone given that I’m already well versed in how that would work out. In addition, I’ve never used voicechat to avoid the obvious confound of ‘giving myself away’ as a male. It’d be the equivalent of breaking the 4th wall; however, unlike Deadpoll where such behavior is intentional, it would be a complete faux pas in this investigation. (Lest one thinks Asch should have run in the room shouting that he was measuring conformity and that the other participants were fake.)

Lastly, I’ve described myself in textchats with my guilds as being bisexual, as this is the optimal sexual orientation in the MMORPG world. Being bisexual ensures I’m able to maximize benefits from both male and female gamers.

Skirts Are Among the Most Powerful Items in MMORPG

It’s hard to say who is best at pick-up lines between (in no particular order) bisexual women, straight men, lesbians, gay men, & bisexual men, but straight women were voted the worst by far. Will need to do a follow-up with a larger sample.

Cross-Reality Event: The Sudden Disappearance of Male Avatars During Superbowl 2020

Here’s an example of a cross-reality event: As men in corporeal reality huddled with their bruhs in their mancaves to watch Kansas City’s championship, men avatars in virtual reality logged out to go watch the game.

Given that I’m performing gender as a woman in the virtual sphere of reality, I felt a need to remain logged in & chat with my guild girlfriends.

Utilitarian Insight: many women love watching football & especially the Superbowl. Many men do as well. Thus, it shouldn’t be inferred that women inherently dislike Football & thus remained logged in. Some of the men avatars in the guild that logged off are played by women, and some of the women avatars that remained are played by men (like me).

The utilitarian gain I sought by remaining logged in was greater acceptance of me as a woman avatar → something I’m mindful of & vigilant in performing due to the fact that I don’t use my voice in discord/ guild Twitch content as my voice would lead to an abrupt end of my acceptance as a woman & my ability to collect more ethnographic data (at least within my guild & others for whom the research deception would have been shattered). For gamers outside of my guild it may not matter unless such info was widely shared via the /Yell emote commands (Yell broadcasts a typed message to an entire server area, as opposed to only people within your guild).

Digital socioemotional support was needed more in 2020 than perhaps any previous year of humanity, given that digital was all we had outside of live-in family members & roommates. As such, my guild became a relevant additional support network for me. As mentioned in a previous piece, more people played online games this year than single player games, as online games (whether MMORPG [Elder Scrolls Online] or MMO [Overwatch]) fulfill our need for belongingness in a way that single player games (by definition) can’t.

So, for anyone wondering why I’ve never revealed GamerGirl’s name → it’s because if I was outed it would negatively impact both my gig-research & threaten my inclusion within a rewarding social support network.

Reality sidenote → I’ve found gender neutral clothing to be far more artistic than clothing in the generic/default men’s section. Most of the art on men’s clothes tends to have a skull, motorcycle, eagle, crossbones, or something else stitched in the threads of hypermasculinity.

Eggonomic Cost: Pregnancy & memory (Marrs et al., 2013)

80% of new moms report having memory problems (primarily in the area of verbal recall).

Memory declines as pregnancy progresses starting around week 14 (early second trimester), effects on memory were still evident 3 months after giving birth, and the effects on multiparous women (has had several kids) were worse than the effects on primiparous women (first child) (Laura Glynn, 2012).

GamerGuy: videogames are for guys; women are messing it up

GamerGirl: actually we outnumber you males 371,078 to 237,785 among active players

Menstruating women with the highest fertility have a 29.5 day cycle on average.

Lactational Amenorrhea Method

Prolactin suppresses estrogen and other hormones that contributes to fertility. The more a mother breastfeeds the higher levels of prolactin.

Thus breastfeeding is a form of birth control because it temporarily stops ovulation.

As soon as prolactin levels dip estrogen Revs up again in an effort to return the body to a natural obligatory cycle.

How Many Women Experience Depression?

Depression is a common and serious illness. A CDC studyexternal icon shows that about one 1 out of 10 women in the United States reported symptoms that suggest they experienced an episode of major depression in the last year. Using the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS), CDC research shows that nationally, about 1 in 8 women experience symptoms of postpartum depression. Estimates of the number of women affected by postpartum depression differ by age and race/ethnicity. Additionally, postpartum depression estimates vary by state, and can be as high as 1 in 5 women. View your state’s prevalence of postpartum depressive symptoms using PRAMS.

How Depression Affects Fathers

According to a 2010 study using data from 1993 to 2007, approximately 4% of fathers experience depression in the first year after their child’s birth. By a child’s 12th birthday, about 1 out of 5 fathers will have experienced one or more episodes of depression. Younger fathers, those with a history of depression, and those experiencing difficulties affording items such as a home or car were most likely to experience depression.

Nesting Behavior

In one study [by Anderson & Rutherford, 2013] on the “nesting psychology” of women in all three trimesters of pregnancy (as well as nonpregnant women), those in the third trimester were more likely to report nesting behaviors than other women — specifically organizing, throwing things out, and creating new spaces.

Haselton, Martie. Hormonal (pp. 183–184). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.

Social justice, then, requires taking into account not only the harms that occur in the context of addressing COVID-19 but also the risks to which people are subjected in the course of addressing the pandemic. Social justice requires not only the fair distribution of benefits and burdens but also the fair distribution of the risks of burdens (Wolff and De-Shalit, 2007). Public health, it has been said, holds social justice as its “core value” (Gostin and Powers 2006). It follows that public health ought to care about social justice as it relates to COVID-19. Therein lies the rub: if questions about the just distribution of benefits and burden matters to public health and global health, then we should also care about the just distribution of the risks associated with COVID-19 in relation to the measures implemented to arrest its spread. What we do not want to do is exacerbate inequalities, especially in those instances where there is no plausible justification to do so.”

For instance, “the potential deterioration of migrant workers’ mental health, e.g., greater rates of depression during extensive periods of isolation, since mental illnesses exist at higher rates within these populations than in the general population (Liem et al. 2020). Migrant workers may be asked to leave their dwellings or might lose their employment due to the current economic downturn, and thus become homeless, then becoming subject to the risks associated with homelessness. Thus, there exists an extensive list of challenges that arise due to social distancing that disproportionately risks the well-being of marginalized persons, e.g., increased drug use, increased rates of mental illnesses, increased rates of domestic violence (Usher et al. 2020).

…there is a tendency during emergencies, like pandemics, to resort to overly simplistic utility calculations in public health (e.g., maximizing best outcomes with little regard for their distribution between population groups) (Veatch 2005; Kirkwood 2017; Smith et al. 2019). In these contexts, saving the most lives possible seems to trump other ethics considerations like social justice concerns for the most disadvantaged.

Thus, “many marginalized persons are subject to three forms of risk that compound during pandemics: the medical risks associated with COVID-19, the risks associated with social distancing, and the risks associated with an overreliance on the principle of utility during pandemics. Only the first of those three risks are shared by all members of a society, while the third risk may endanger other potentially vulnerable persons. This requires special consideration for disadvantaged populations in the use of social distancing measures.

…Although it might seem extreme, it may be necessary to commandeer hotels and motels for the purposes of slowing down the spread of COVID-19. (As the saying goes, desperate times call for desperate measures.) Toronto, Canada, has already begun to go down this path by housing homeless persons in hotels that are not presently being used (Canadian Press 2020). Finally, persons must be provided with the means of maintaining social distancing in a safe and sound manner.
— (Silva & Smith, 2020)
Silva, D. S., & Smith, M. J. (2020). Social distancing, social justice, and risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 111(4), 459–461.



Dr. Jarryd Willis PhD

I'm passionate about making a tangible difference in the lives of others, & that's something I have the opportunity to do a professor & researcher.