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The Transfer of Stereotypes and Prejudice

It is easy to think of the fantasy worlds offered by MMORPGs to be an escape from real world constraints, prejudices and stereotypes.

The things that affect me emotionally are not the small moments, but the epiphanies I occasionally have about how virtual worlds allow for a greater expression of human hope and potential... how people can play, be free to express various aspects of themselves, and form amazing, supportive communities. I get emotional when I think about the people who don't have anyone in RL, are the victims of RL prejudices, members of conformist communities, or in other ways can't find meaning in their real lives. I find that sad, but then am happy that they at least have some place where they feel they can belong, are accepted and needed. [CoH, F, 35]

The problem is that the more we look, the more we find that many of our real world constraints and stereotypes follow us into MMORPGs. For example, female avatars are often harassed by male players.

The funniest experiment about 'not being me' was to play a female character. Strange how players were nice with me. They start conversations without reasons, gave me items, money or time. Some even died to save me. I guess a lot of MMORPG players are single men, that's why. [M, AO, 34]

I never realized how irritating it can be to have to put up with unwanted advances. [EQ, M, 38]

Of course, the exaggerated female anatomy and skimpy clothing merely serve to encourage objectifying female bodies. More intriguing is that even in a world where male and female bodies are functionally equivalent, male avatars are valued higher in external markets such as eBay than female avatars of the same level and with comparable gear.

 
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Posted on January 11, 2005 | Comments (24) | TrackBack (2)


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