Our Virtual Bodies, Ourselves?
Let’s turn to body types now. I tried to come up with the typical body archetypes used in fantasy MMOs that appear in most of the games out there right now. The following were the broad body types I asked respondents about:
1) Short, aged characters (e.g., Gnomes, Dwarves)
I asked respondents to rate the appeal of each body type as well as pick the type that most appeals to them. The graph below shows the overall breakdown of preferred body type split by gender. When forced to make a choice, female players were about twice as likely as male players to pick graceful and cute characters (such as Elves), while male players were about twice as likely as female players to pick large, aged, and normal human characters.
Part of what we’re seeing seems to be a mirroring effect. Players seem to prefer avatars that reflect their own stereotypical gender traits. Female players prefer avatars that display feminine traits (e.g., grace) while male players prefer avatars that display masculine traits (e.g., strength and size). This doesn’t quite explain the differences in the Aged, Dark, and Human types, but we’ll continue look at other factors below.
If we look at the individual ratings with age, we find that age is most related to the Dark and Aged types. Dark, menacing characters were more likely to be picked by younger players (r = -.15) and this is consistent with earlier data we’ve seen showing that younger players prefer the “evil” side when there is a good/evil split. On the other hand, short, aged characters were more likely to be preferred by older players (r = .13). Like the finding with height and gender, it’s interesting here that there is a mirroring effect as well; older players prefer older avatars.
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