[MUD-Dev] RE: The Price of Being Male

Ola Fosheim Grøstad <olag@ifi.uio.no> Ola Fosheim Grøstad <olag@ifi.uio.no>
Sun Nov 30 14:54:42 CET 2003

(replying to an old message (again))

"Richard A. Bartle" <richard at mud.co.uk> writes:

> On 02 July 2003, Edward Castronova wrote: So although there is
> some of self-selection here, in that people didn't HAVE to reply,
> it doesn't allow for people with fiery opinions to charge in
> unless they were invited. A 30% (or even a 19.5%) response rate is
> sufficiently large to make a survey be considered general, rather
> than purely self-selected.

That really depends. Surveys and even interviews are generally not
very good sources of data in themselves as you interpret
somebody-elses interpretation of something you handed to them
inducing bias etc... For instance, if the survey is about a
controversial issue such as racism then your 30% might belong to
politically radicals or people with a minority background and it is
impossible to present such a survey without revealing what the
researcher's mind set is. Not a unbiased random sample. (You also
need over 1000 respondents in general I believe.) I still think that
surveys can be useful, but primarily by very roughly differentiating
between correlations within the sample where there are significant
differences. (say "among respondents that answers surveys in forums,
more male than female players prefer power-leveling over

In my opinion surveys have primarily three functions:

  1. to "scan" a domain in order to find areas worth of study

  2. to get an idea of the variety in a domain

  3. to get more perspectives on findings from in-depth qualitative
  studies (triangulation)

>> Go up to a male gamer, identify yourself as a person doing a
>> study on men playing women avatars, ask him a bunch of questions
>> about that. Of course - of course - he is going to say a bunch of
>> bland things. I'm sorry, but in my opinion, much of that kind of
>> research isn't citeable. It doesn't get at the truth of people's
>> motivations any more than my study did.

Actually, I think the only way to get to the motivations would be to
grab hold of people who have bought characters on e-bay and do
in-depth interviews.

I am not personally interested in cross-gender-issues as they have
no or little relevance for design, but it should be noted that
cross-gender play does not only depend on the user, but also on the
world. I do however usually end up with female mains, mostly due to
roleplay challenges. Roleplayers seem to gravitate towards female
characters or ugly male characters. I also tend to stay in roleplay
inclined guilds when doing participant observation, even
female-character only guilds. So I do have some empirical data on
female characters.

Here are a few facts from AO based on more casual observations and
to some extent interviews:

  1. some male players enjoy watching the butts of their female
  characters in 3rd person view (if they didn't they wouldn't be

  2. male roleplayers favour female characters for clothing options
  and role challenges

  3. some female characters are used for sex-play, erotic dancers
  etc (often low level, I have no information on user's gender, but
  I would be surprised if not at least half of them were men)

In other words: the reason for picking a female character is rarely,
if ever, to power-play.

Female players or players picking female characters are probably
less inclined to buy their characters. I seldom see female power
players (characters or real users) that have low levels of
socialization. It also seems less likely that players that find
their avatar important (i.e. people that participate in the more
social community) would pick a random avatar with a random name, or
break with the social mores that "loathes bought characters".

I also believe that male power-players that get their identity from
power-leveling tend to favour male characters and does not
acknowledge roleplay as a valid play style and certainly not
cross-gender roleplay. Exercising power is very much associated with
male identity, it should come as no surprise that people that have a
need to reinforce their male identity would favour powerplay and
male status symbols.

I may be wrong, but I think powerplay is the one reason to drive up
prices on characters. Here are some of the reasons for buying a
character, but I cannot see that those reasons would be enough to go
out-of-your way to buy a character (additions welcome):

  -- Experienced players:

    - Power player with enough investment in the

    - Revenge in PVP games (no examples, probably not relevant)

  -- Newbies:

    - Rich casual newbie that want to have access to high level
    content (male and female might be equally likely, but they don't
    know what they are paying for, thus not likely to go for the
    extreme options)

    - Late comer. Ability to team with your real life friends. (not
    likely to go for the most expensive options just to try out a

If we add to this that it is rather well know that men tend to spend
lots of money on big toys (status symbols) and have a need to make
themselves seen, and also tend to claim that they are a little bit
better than their peers where women tend to go for being equal with
their peers... then the null-hypothesis should be: Male characters
would sell for more than female characters. This does of course not
mean that subconscious sexism or homo-phobic attitudes is not part
of the equation, it could very well be so. Indeed, many men are

Ola - http://folk.uio.no/olag/
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