在2001年，Nicholas Yee针对成百上千名《EverQuest》玩家展开了多项选择和自由回复的调查，发现27.4%受访者出于角色扮演的原因而使用异性角色。有些玩家称角色扮演的关键在于扮演一个与自己截然不同的人物，切换性别只是其中一种方式而已。还有些玩家表示自己选择异性角色 是因为感觉“符合”自己所创建的角色。
使用异性角色也会因游戏情况而对玩家表现产生不同影响。在《EverQuest II》的女性玩家中，这种影响是消极的：女性玩家使用同性主角所完成的任务，明显比那些采用男性主角的女性玩家更多。这未必就意味着女性玩家在使用女性角色时更喜欢或更擅长这些活动。另一个解释或许就是使用异性主角的玩家较不关注传统MMORPG目标，这种效应在女性之间更为强烈。但在一款不同的游戏中，其结果却可能截然不同。在《Fairyland Online》中，比起使用异性角色的女性玩家，采用同性角色的女性玩家升到50级的时间更久。这表明并不仅表明使用男性角色会令女性玩家发挥不同表现，而且这种行为还会让她们在升级中获得极大优势。另一方面，这可能也只是意味着更有经验的玩家更可能使用异性角色（这可能是因为他们更有冒险精神）。
虚拟角色性别对表现的影响似乎与玩家对任务的看法有关（例如任务是更适用于男性还是女性）。在2011年的一项试验时，142名德国大学生接受了电子游戏描述，并创造了自己想使用的一个虚拟角色。之后他们要选择自己虚拟角色的性别，然后接受两个游戏场景描述，并开发出另外两个虚拟角色。最初，受试者更倾向于选择自己本身的真实性别，但遇到特定游戏或场景时，情况就会发生变化。无论他们本身的生物性别或性别角色倾向（更为女性化还是男性化），他们都会为更为男性化的游戏（例如《侠盗猎车手：圣安地列斯》、《孤岛危机》、《Urban Chaos》）创造男性角色，并针对更为女性化的游戏（例如《模拟人生》、《My Animal Hospital》）创造女性角色。除此之外，受试者还会为追击场景创造带有男性特征的角色，为目击采访场景创造女性特征的角色。显然，玩家认为更为男性或女性的角色更适合某些特定的挑战。如果不能获得任何好处，玩家就更偏爱那些代表自己生物性别的角色。
Avatars of the Opposite Sex. Part 2 of 3: Better, Stronger, Faster.
Online RPGs tend to give their players a lot of freedom. They can choose to fight monsters or explore dungeons, meet new people or strengthen their team, use same or opposite sex avatars. Although this last practice seems to be a normal occurrence these days, many MMORPG players are having trouble finding an explanation for it. The prevalent question among the online forums on the subject is: Why? Why would a player choose an avatar of the opposite sex? What do they see on the character of the other gender? What does it has to offer? It’s not hard to imagine a reason though. Maybe the exaggerated muscles of male characters are making men uncomfortably aware of their body image. Maybe women are just trying to avoid sexual harassment from other players. The difficult part is trying to scientifically prove what causes gender swapping. In recent years though, many scientists have started to study the subject. These are some of their most interesting findings:
On 2001 Nicholas Yee applied several multiple choice and free response surveys to thousands of EverQuest players. He found out that 27.4% of them used a character of the opposite sex for role playing reasons. Some players talked about how the point of role playing was to create a character completely different from yourself, and that gender swapping was just one way to achieve this. Others said they chose the opposite gender because it “felt right” for the character they were creating (Yee, 2001).
The same study showed that 25.6% of players picked characters of the opposite sex because of their appearance. Some just liked how the model looked, while others found it difficult to identify with the avatar of the same gender. Finally, a couple of male players manifested a particular appeal for attractive and aggressive female characters (a.k.a. the “Tomb Raider Effect”) (Yee, 2001).
Lara Croft’s attractive & aggressive style has influence female character development for many years.
Apparently, only 7.1% of EverQuest players used characters of the opposite sex for gender exploration. While unpopular, this practice allowed some of the players to discover how differently male and female avatars tend to behave. For example: Participants reported that female avatars showed closer relationships, while women noted a more direct interaction between male characters (Yee, 2001).
Female EverQuest players were significantly more likely to use characters of the opposite sex for gender exploration (21.1%) than men (6.2%) (Yee, 2001). For female MMORPG users, this sometimes meant finding out how differently they would be treated if they used male avatars, while at the same time avoiding unwanted sexual advances from other players (Hussain & Griffiths, 2008).
Occasionally, gender swapping helped players gain a more realistic perspective towards the opposite sex. Many men playing as female avatars experienced sexual harassment from male characters. Afterwards, some of them showed a better understanding of what female players go through in this type of situations (Yee, 2001). On the other side, female players indicated that using male avatars allowed them to recognize the difficulties men have to deal with, like not being allowed to ask for help or facing less friendly attitudes (Yee, 2001).
According to Yee’s study, 11.8% of EverQuest players choose to swap genders to obtain some kind of advantage. There are several conditions in which players can benefit from their avatar’s gender. Both men and women, for example, reported that male avatars seemed to be treated more seriously (Yee, 2001). This could greatly affect player’s performance since MMORPGs tend to involve several teamwork activities, like distributing tasks and discussing group strategies. On the other hand, according to some players, using a female character allowed them to receive a better treatment and even free items from other players (Yee, 2001). These gifts were (in some cases) then passed to their main avatars (Hussain & Griffiths, 2008). This type of deceiving practice could be promoting a negative attitude towards gender swapping between “tricked” players
The preferential treatment sometimes received by female avatars could provide some sort of advantage in the field of trading. Players could find their customers accepting higher prices or just sell the items they obtained for free. This could explain why, in Fairyland Online, female characters were more likely to obtain profits from trade (Lou, Park, Cha, Lei & Chen, 2013) and why women sold healing potions at higher prices when they were using female avatars (Lou, Park, Cha, Lei & Chen, 2013). Lou and his colleagues, however, think this could have something to do with how female players focus more on the social aspect of games. This would make healing potions less valuable for them, while remaining important to the more achievement oriented male players.
Female avatars tend to be better traders in Fairyland Online.
The use of avatars of the opposite sex tend to influence performance differently depending on the game. Between women who play EverQuest II, the effect was somehow negative: Female players using main characters of the same gender showed significantly more fights with monsters and completed quests than female players who opted for male avatars as main characters (Huh & Williams, 2009). This doesn’t necessarily mean that women prefer or are better at these activities when using female avatars. Another explanation could be that players with main characters of the opposite sex have a tendency to focus less on traditional MMORPG objectives, and that this effect is stronger between women. In a different game, however, the results were quite different. On Fairyland Online, female players using characters of the same gender required significantly more time (an additional 19.24 hours) to reach the level 50 than female players using characters from the opposite gender (Lou, Park, Cha, Lei & Chen, 2013). This suggests not only that women using male avatars behaved differently, but that this gave them a considerable advantage in the leveling up process. On the other hand, it could just mean that more experienced (and therefore, better) players were more likely to use characters of the opposite sex (maybe because they were also more adventurous).
Avatar’s gender and the placebo effect:
Putting other factors aside, the avatar’s sex alone seem to be able to influence the player’s performance. In a recent experiment, 120 university students from the United States were asked to choose an avatar through an aleatory system that was actually programmed to equally distribute avatar’s genders between the subjects. After receiving their characters, participants had to solve mathematical problems in the presence of two avatars from the opposite gender. Regardless of the participant’s biological sex, male characters performed significantly better than female characters (Lee, Nass, & Bailenson, in press). This suggests that participant’s expectations towards their own behavior are at least partially based on their avatar’s gender, and that this can influence their performance.
The avatar’s gender effect on performance seems to be associated with how players see tasks as either more male or female friendly. In a 2011 experiment, 142 German university students received video game descriptions and then were asked to create an avatar they would like to use on them. Afterwards they were requested to choose their avatar’s biological sex. Then they received two game scenarios descriptions and were asked to develop another two avatars. Initially, participants were more likely to give the avatars their real gender, but this changed when they had to face a specific game or scenario. Regardless of their biological sex or gender role tendencies (more feminine or masculine), participants created male avatars for the games previously rated as masculine (GTA: San Andreas, Crysis, Urban Chaos) and female avatars for those identified as feminine (The Sims, My Animal Hospital) (Trepte, Reinecke & Behr, 2011). Additionally, participants created avatars with masculine attributes for a pursuit scenario and chose feminine characteristics for a witness interview situation (Trepte, Reinecke & Behr, 2011). Apparently, players believe that more masculine or feminine characters tend to be better prepared for specific types of challenges. When no advantage is gained, players seem to prefer that avatars represent their biological sex (Trepte, Reinecke & Behr, 2011).
“My Animal Hospital” was identified as a feminine game, while “Crysis” was perceived as more masculine.
Different researches were able to find a relationship between specific personality types and the tendency to use avatars of the opposite sex. EverQuest players who owned characters from the opposite gender, for example, scored higher on Openness (Yee, 2001); a trait that describes imaginative and intellectually curious individuals with an appeal towards beauty and new experiences. For this type of players, appearance might have an important role during the avatar customization process. Having characters of the opposite gender in EverQuest was also associated with low levels of Conscientiousness (Yee, 2001); a trait characterized by a reduced importance given to methodical work and achievements. Players on this category might have preferred exploring the different options character customization had to offer instead on carefully analyzing how to build a more competitive avatar. A behavior that could have increased their chances of creating and using characters of the opposite sex. A study executed ten years later on 1,040 World of Warcraft players showed, however, different results. Ownership of characters from the opposite gender was associated with low Extraversion (Yee, Ducheneaut, Nelson & Likarish, 2011); a personality type that involves more reserved and shy individuals. Players with this trait may have been more interested in customizing their characters to satisfy their personal preferences (like choosing a class or gender that made the avatar look better) instead of adapting them to the game demands. Having opposite sex avatars was also associated with high Emotional Stability (Yee, Ducheneaut, Nelson & Likarish, 2011); a trait that includes more calm, secure and confident individuals. This type of players probably felt less uncomfortable with the idea of walking through Azeroth with an avatar of the other opposite gender.
Discovering why players use an avatar of the opposite sex is a complex problem. Reasons to do it vary depending on the person, game or scenario at hand. The most popular usages, however, seem to be directed towards positive objectives; like improving the playing experience or reducing stereotypes. This might be the key for the general acceptance of the practice between players. Sadly, negative usage is also part of the phenomena. Hiding our real gender to trick or harass other players could have an important impact over the future of MMORPGs. Developers could end up removing some features related to avatar customization or forcing the players to show some proof of their sexual identity (as weird as that might sound). For better or worse, gender swapping is becoming a common practice, and both players and developers should try to figure out what implications this has for the future of gaming.
Visit us next week for the final part of our series, when we try to find out what effects could gender swapping have on the players.（source：thepunkeffect）