Concordia University of Montreal researchers found that players who choose to play the opposite gender in a mmorpg may not be able to hide their true nature. Many gamers, both male and female, decide to play the opposite sex. Male players often choose female avatars for aesthetic reasons; female players choose male characters to avoid harassment.
Researchers recruited players for a quest they added into World of Warcraft. The quest required players to solve word puzzles. It also required players to group together to overcome obstacles. The researchers studied the behaviors of the gamers in the quest.
The study found that male characters playing female characters were more likely to jump and issue orders to their fellow players. They were also less likely to use emoticons and emotionally-based language. The study used stereotypical behavior for its metrics. It also assumed jumping was a gender-specific trait. Players often jump because they believe it makes their characters move faster.
The researchers chose to focus on gender traits missed the real story. It is not about gender roles and how well people fit them. It is about how few people are bothered by it. Even in the testosterone-filled environment of the MMORPG, players do not give each other a hard time about gender swapping. There is also surprising little racism. The real world still has much to learn from Norrath, Azeroth, Telara and many other virtual worlds.