据不同研究结果显示，这一举动相当普遍：在119名MMORPG用户有57% (Hussain and Griffiths, 2008)受访者，在50名《EverQuest》玩家中有60%(Griffiths, Davis and Chappell, 2004) 受访者曾经扮演过异性虚拟角色。除此之外，在4512名台湾地区的《Fairyland Online》玩家中，有三分之一至少拥有一个异性角色(Lou, Park, Cha, Lei & Chen, 2013)。
玩家性别似乎会对这一行为产生影响。关于MMORPG玩家的研究显示，68%女性和54%的男性会使用与自己相异的性别角色（但该研究并没有提到相关频率） (Hussain & Griffiths, 2008)。此外，《Fairyland Online》的女性玩家比男性玩家更有扮演异性角色的倾向(Lou, Park, Cha, Lei & Chen, 2013)。虽然这些数据看似表明女性玩家在游戏中切换角色的现象更为普遍，但其他研究却得到了相反的结果：在《魔兽世界》这款游戏中，53.3%的男性和18.5%女性拥有异性角色 (Yee, Ducheneaut, Yao & Nelson, 2011)。这表明，根据每款游戏的特点，男性和女性切换性别的比例也会有有所不同。
在拥有异性角色的玩家中，男性切换其虚拟角色性别的比例似乎更高。男性《EverQuest》玩家拥有更多异性角色（平均1.25个），女性的这一数据相对较低（0.44个）(Yee, 2001)。《魔兽世界》的情况亦是如此，男性（0.33）比女性（0.09）拥有更多异性角色 (Yee, Ducheneaut, Yao & Nelson, 2011)。这也许是因为男性更易于发现切换性别所得到的优势，使用多个异性虚拟角色有助于他们更有效地获益。
虽然MMORPG玩家通常拥有一个以上的角色，他们一般会更偏爱其中一者。这个“主要”角色使用频率就会更高，完成更多任务的机率也更高，并因此收获更多经验，更快升级。但是，异性虚拟角色却并非这个主要角色的最佳人选。例如，拥有异性角色的《Fairyland Online》玩家更可能以相同性别的角色作为主角(Lou, Park, Cha, Lei & Chen, 2013)。除此之外，Yee在2011年的调查结果也显示，仅有13.3%的《EverQuest》玩家拥将异性角色作为主角。在这个群体中，男性玩家以异性角色为主角的比例（15.7%）明显高于女性玩家（2.5%）。在2009年，Huh和Williams针对6122名《EverQuest》玩家执行的一项游戏内部调查及其搜集的数据也得到了相似的结果：15.5%玩家以异性角色作为游戏主角，有此倾向的男性玩家比例（17.4%）高于女性玩家（8.2%）。最后，《魔兽世界》中的男性玩家使用异性主角的比例（29.3%）也同样高于女性（7.5%）。这可能意味着男性玩家已经将异性角色的使用从性别探索扩展到了活动层次。
Avatars of the Opposite Sex. Part 1 of 3: Everybody does it!
By Hugo Aranzaes
One of the most debated topics between MMORPG players is the use of avatars from the opposite sex. The practice has become a frequent occurrence but not everyone is happy about it. Where some see an opportunity for reducing stereotypes between genders others see a tool for deceit and harassment. The player’s worries are understandable: For better or worse virtual gender swapping has the potential to change the way games are played and designed. But how much do we really know about this phenomena? To expand our knowledge we are going to analyze different studies regarding how frequently it happens, why it happens and what effects does it has on the players. We are going to do this in a three-part article and we are going to start with the following question: Who does it and how frequently?
According to different studies, the practice is fairly common: 57% of 119 MMORPGs users (Hussain and Griffiths, 2008), and 60% of 50 EverQuest players (Griffiths, Davis and Chappell, 2004) had used, at some point, a character of the opposite gender. Additionally, one third of 4,512 Taiwanese players of Fairyland Online owned at least one character from the opposite sex (Lou, Park, Cha, Lei & Chen, 2013).
The player’s gender seem to influence this practice. The mentioned study on MMORPG players showed that 68% of women and 54% of men tend to use characters from the opposite gender (although it doesn’t say how frequently) (Hussain & Griffiths, 2008). Also, female players of Fairyland Online were significantly more likely to have a character from the opposite gender than their male counterparts (Lou, Park, Cha, Lei & Chen, 2013). Although the numbers seem to suggest a higher prevalence of gender swapping between female players, on other studies the numbers invert: In the specific case of World of Warcraft, 53.3% of men and 18.5% of women had characters of the opposite sex (Yee, Ducheneaut, Yao & Nelson, 2011). This suggests that, depending on each game characteristics, men and women are more or less likely to swap genders.
Female players seem to feel more comfortable using characters of the opposite sex in Fairyland Online.
Between players that own characters of the opposite sex, men seem to show a higher ratio of gender swapping for their avatars. Male EverQuest players show (in average) significantly more characters from the opposite gender (1.25) than female (0.44) (Yee, 2001). The same happens with World of Warcraft, were men show a higher proportion (0.33) than women (0.09) (Yee, Ducheneaut, Yao & Nelson, 2011). Maybe the advantages that gender swapping has for men are easier to discover and the use of multiple opposite sex avatars allows them to profit from it more efficiently.
Although MMORPG players usually have more than one character, they tend to show preference for one of them. This “main” character is used more frequently and may have a higher probability of finishing more quests, acquire more experience and, therefore, go through a faster leveling up process. However, avatars from the opposite gender aren’t apparently the most popular alternative for main characters. Fairyland Online players who owned characters from the opposite sex, for example, were more likely to have one of the same gender as main avatar (Lou, Park, Cha, Lei & Chen, 2013). Additionally, according to Yee (2001) only 13.3% of EverQuest players had a character of the opposite gender as their main avatar. Also in this group, male players were significantly more likely to have a main character of the opposite gender (15.7%) than female players (2.5%). On 2009, Huh and Williams applied an in-game survey and collected behavioral data from 6,122 EverQuest II players. The results were pretty similar: 15.5% of players used a character of the opposite gender as main avatar, and male players showed a higher tendency for this (17.4%) than female players (8.2%). Finally, for World of Warcraft players, men were also more likely to have main characters of the opposite sex (29.3%) than women (7.5%) (Yee, Ducheneaut, Yao & Nelson, 2011). This could mean that male players have extended the use of their opposite sex avatars to activities beyond gender exploration.
Interestingly enough, homosexual EverQuest II players were more likely to use a main character of the opposite gender (22%) than heterosexual players (16.8%) (Huh & Williams, 2009). This could be a reflection of more flexible attitudes towards gender roles, even in virtual worlds.
Male players apparently use female avatar’s for more than just gender exploration.
Since characters of the opposite gender are used less frequently, their chances for acquiring experience and leveling up are reduced. This tendency is reflected by the reviewed studies: Only 12.6% of EverQuest players had a character of the opposite gender as their highest level avatar (Yee, 2001). The higher tendency of men for having a main character of the opposite sex is reflected in the fact that male players of the same game were significantly more likely to have a character of the opposite gender as their highest level character (14.6%) than female players (3.2%) (Yee, 2001).
Gender swapping has become a common practice in MMORPGs. This means that, for better or worse, players should expect to interact with avatars that doesn’t necessarily represent their user’s gender. The expansion of this practice also suggests that more MMORPG players are finding different motivations for gender swapping. It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman, heterosexual or homosexual, if you play EverQuest or World of Warcraft, gender swapping has, apparently, something to offer.（source：thepunkeffect）