Start Page     
Lexicon / Basics     
Personality Scales     

RL Demographics     
Game Demographics     
In-Game Dynamics     
Romantic Partner     
Parent / Child     
Men and Women      
Growth and Change     
What About ... ?     
Virtual Skinner Box     

      Download PDF     
Related Studies     
Recent Findings     
About Me     

More recent findings     
can be found at     
the Daedalus Project     

Quick Links:

Frequency and Time Investment
Main Character and Highest Level Character

Reasons For Gender-Bending
Reactions to Gender-Bending
So How Many Female Characters Are Played By Men?
In Their Own Words

Frequency and Time Investment

On average, EQ players have 4.96 (N=1236) characters on their account which are above level 5. There is no significant gender difference. Male players, however, have on average 1.24 (N=918) female characters above level 5, while female players have on average 0.39 (N=157) male characters above level 5. This is significant at the p=.03 level. Male players also have significantly more characters of the opposite gender than female players even when all their characters are counted, regardless of level (T[1196]=4.88, Mmale(1010)=1.25, Mfemale(188)=0.44, p<.001).

Male EQ players who do have female characters report using them on average about 35.3% (N=275) of the time, while female players who do have male characters report using them on average about 14.2% of the time (N=51). This is significant at the p=.003 level.


Players in the top quartile of Openness are significantly more likely to have characters of the opposite gender when compared with those players in the bottom quartile (T[582]=-2.27, Mbottom(260)=0.81, Mtop(324)=1.20, p=.02). Players in the bottom quartile of Conscientiousness are significantly more likely to have characters of the opposite gender when compared with those players in the top quartile (T[528]=3.93, Mbottom(251)=1.39, Mtop(279)=0.70, p<.001).

Main Character and Highest Level Character

Only a minority (13.3%, N=898) of EQ players have a character of the opposite gender as their main character (character currently used the most). Male players, however, are significantly more likely than female players to have a main character of the opposite gender (%male(731)=15.7, %female(158)=2.5, p<.001).


Players who have a character of the opposite gender as their current main character, when compared with those players who have a character of the same gender as their current main character, score significantly higher on Openness (T[700]=2.38, Myes(99)=14.3, Mno(603)=15.1, p=.01) and significantly lower on Conscientiousness (T[700]=-2.02, Myes(99)=20.5, Mno(603)=19.8, p=.04).

With regards to highest level character, again only a minority (12.6%, N=888) of EQ players have a character of the opposite gender as their highest level character. Male players, however, are significantly more likely than female players to have a character of the opposite gender as their highest level character (%male(731)=14.6, %female(157)=3.2, p<.001).

Reasons for Gender-Bending

Players who have characters of the opposite gender were asked to indicate their main reason for doing so from a list of reasons given. About a quarter of players who did gender-bend (27.4%, N=333) did so for role-play reasons, while another quarter (25.6%) did so because of the visual appearance of the opposite gender.

1) For role-play purposes: 27.4%
2) Visual appearance: 25.6%
3) Other: 16.8%
4) To gain advantage in game: 11.8%
5) Gender exploration: 7.1%

Female players who did gender-bend were significantly more likely to do so for gender exploration (%male=6.2, %female=21.1, p<.001). Male players who did gender-bend were slightly more likely to do so because of in-game advantages (%male=14.6, %female=5.3, p=.07).

Reactions to Gender-Bending

In a Flash-implemented experimental design that manipulated the direction of gender-bending (male-to-female/female-to-male), EQ players were randomly assigned into 2 conditions:

1) "You've adventured and become quite friendly with a male character. One day, the character tells you that she is female in real life. How much does this bother you?"
2) "You've adventured and become quite friendly with a female character. One day, the character tells you that he is male in real life. How much does this bother you?"

Participants were asked to rate on a 5 point scale how much this bothered them, ranging from "Not At All" (1) to "A Lot" (5). There was a significant effect between the genders of the participants (F[1,666]=5.83, p=.01), and it was found that female EQ players were significantly more bothered by gender-bending than male EQ players were (Tukey HSD, Mmale(584)=1.64, Mfemale(86)=1.89, p=.01). The direction of the gender-bending also produced a significant effect (F[1,666]=5.38, p=.02), and it was found that male-to-female gender-bending was significantly more troubling than female-to-male gender-bending (Tukey HSD, Mm-to-f(317)=1.89, Mf-to-m(353)=1.64, p<.001). There was also an interaction effect between gender of participant and direction of gender-bending (F[1,666]=15.29, p<.001). In particular, it was found that male players found female-to-male gender-bending significantly less troubling than the other 3 combinations.

Aside: So How Many Female Characters Are Played By Men?

We know that about 16% of EQ players are female and 84% are male (N=1240). Given a hypothetical pool of 1000 EQ players, 160 are female and 840 are male.

About 47.9% of male players have a character of the opposite gender (N=1025), and about 23.3% of female players have a character of the opposite gender (N=189). Thus, in our hypothetical population:

Of 840 male players, 402 have female characters, 438 do not.
Of 160 female players, 37 have male characters, 123 do not.

Of players who have characters of the opposite gender, male players use a female character about 35.3% of the time (N=275), and female players use a male character about 14.2% of the time (N=51). So, at any given time in our hypothetical pool:

Of 840 male players:

402 have female characters, of which 142 are using a female character, while 260 are using a male character.
438 do not have female characters, and thus 438 are using male characters.

Of 160 female players:

37 have male characters, of which 5 are using a male character, while 32 are using a female character.
123 do not have male characters, and thus 123 are using female characters.

So in this hypothetical population, we have:

260+438+5=703 male characters, of which 5 (1%) are played by female players.
142+32+123=297 female characters, of which 142 (48%) are played by male players.

Thus, about 48% of the female characters you meet in the game are actually played by male players.

In Their Own Words

Many gamers cited visual appearance as a main reason for gender-bending:

Personally, for some of the races, the female graphic just "looks better" than the male graphic, and that is why I chose the female gender. The male graphics for some races just looks generic, and bland. [m, 22]

I really did not like the way female characters were drawn. They make me somewhat uncomfortable and could not imagine myself as that character. [f, ?]

mainly just because I like the appearance of the character [f, 22]

Several male respondents talked about the Tomb-Raider effect - the appeal of an aggressive yet attractive female:

Tomb Raider effect - I don't pine to be treated better or different by other players, I just like to see a woman kick some butt [m, 25]

She was my second character. I created a female because the thought of a ass kicking female sounded fun. I played her until 27 and lost interest in the class. She was a wood-elf ranger. [m, 35]

Um probably had something to do with lara croft i figured i would rater watch a pretty girl run around on the screen than a sweaty guy. [m, 22]

Other male respondents said that they wanted to gain more in-game advantages:

People in EQ are nicer to a cute Dark Elf girl. (Advantage, advantage) [m, 24]

Personally, you recieve a LOT more stuff when you start out as a female. Take my Barb Shammy for example. I was simply medding on the ramp in EverFrost, when a guy comes up to me and says " Hmmm Looks like you are looking for some new stuff " So he takes me into Halas and buys all Large Leather or better, and all my spells for lvls 1 and 4. Theres no contest that female characters get a lot more help. I help them too, though not as much because it is somtimes obvious that they are guys =/ [m, 14]

Some gamers used a character of the opposite gender for role-playing:

Roleplaying, mostly. I wanted to try something different. So when the iksar race came out, I didn't like how the females looked, and decided to finally try making a male character, to try roleplaying a male and to see how I was treated as well. After making my first male character, the two characters I have made since him have also been male. [f, 22]

I find a roleplaying experience (which is what EQ is to me) to be much more enjoyable when you are roleplaying someone that isn't very much like yourself--having a character of the opposite just happens to be one of many ways to create a character that is vastly different than yourself. [m, 14]

My other character is an enchantress, rather than an enchanter, for 3 reasons: 1) I see an enchanter/enchantress as more of a feminine character, from other gaming such as AD&D and Magic: the Gathering, and my own personal ideas. 2) Female characters can get better prices when selling, since my enchantress is also a jewelcrafter...:) 3) Since the character is on a 2nd account, i enjoy the roleplaying i can produce from both characters. [m, 20]

There were some responses that didn't fit neatly into any of the categories mentioned already:

I thought the blond barbarian quite the hunk. And since it was obvious that none of my girls would get hooked up with one, I decided to play him myself. [f, 39]

I created a male character strictly for the purpose of getting completely away from everything. It is the last place anyone would think to look for me. There are also times when I just don't feel like putting up with some dork who's found out that I'm female in real life following me around hitting on me. [f, 33]

When asked whether they found their characters of the opposite gender were being treated differently, both male and female players talked about the in-game advantages that came with being a female character:

Yes! I'm a level 12 High Elf, and I have a staff of the observers, and an FBR... neither of which I bought! Guys gave them to me. [m, 16]

Yes. Female characters are given more unsolicited help at low levels. [m, 24]

Yup. The stereotypes apply. Boy characters didn't stop to help me the way they stop to help my female characters, and they didn't just walk up and start a conversation. [f, 37]

Female players who have tried playing male characters commented that male characters were treated more seriously, and given more respect:

Yes. I felt that I was taken a little more seriously. When I play my male characters, other male members of the party will listen to me better, take me more seriously. In my male form I could give orders and have them listened to, where as a female, my characters aren't always taken quite as seriously. Also, where my female characters were gifted many things when they were young and naked by random players, I didn't see it happening with my males, which I didn't mind at all. I've enjoyed the higher level of "respect" for my abilities that seems to come with playing in a male body. [f, 22]

I was in a group I had worked with for a while. I was playing my male paladin and trying to be the group tank. I was pulling the mobs too ( in a rather dangerous zone). After a while, a conversation about our home lives started and I made a comment about my husband. Immediately the guys in the group asked me if I was really female in RL. When I confirmed it they started sending out another male character to pull the mobs. I found the whole group suddenly expecting me to do less melee. I'm not sure if they became protective of me or if they just assumed that a female would be less capable in the role of a tank. [f, 29]

When I'm playing a male character, I get a lot of "bro's" and more of a sense of cameraderie from the other male players, but that's about it. [f, 30]

When asked whether they had learned anything about the opposite gender, many male players talked about what they learned from being constantly harassed by male characters:

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

I'm amazed how throughtless some people can be, how amazingly inept men are at flirting and starting a conversation with a female, and how it really does take more effort to be taken seriousely as a female versus a male. [m, 24]

No, I know most males think with their gonads, and act accordingly. They live up to my low expectations. [m, 25]

Several male players talked about the difference between female/female bonds versus male/male bonds:

yes....closer bonds to other female characters than any male/male character bonds. Also some male characters roleplay the "helping the lady" bit. I think I realized that women are much closer to each other than man are. [m, 35]

I have experienced jealousy at another female for looking prettier than me or getting more group praise than me. I have experienced very close bonds with other female characters (my "sisters") in the all-female guild I have joined. I have experienced men treating me as an unequal because I am female. [m, 30]

Whereas male players sometimes found the female character's world more accepting of emotions, female players found the male character's world more straight-forward and direct:

People were more passionate about things..If someone died and I began to crie, all those around me began to comfort me. That would never happen if I was a male [m, 22]

I enjoy seeing how long they assume I'm male in RL and I find that conversation is more direct and honest in a male group. [f, 29]

Yes, the fact that other male characters would listen to me better and have a greater amount of respect for my abilities. [f, 22]

Some female players commented that being male wasn't as easy as they thought it would be:

I used to think men had it easy! Now I know they have issues too; they are socialized to be more independent and not ask for help. That has to be tough. [f, 37]

I learned that I use too many hehe's and :)'s to play a guy, that people are far less helpful and friendly, if they responded at all. I had never tried playing a character of another gender before. [f, 23]

When asked whether they thought they had learned anything about themselves from their virtual gender-bending experiences, several respondents talked about an increased awareness of their own masculinity or femininity, or how it let them see society differently:

I have learned how to flirt, how to be sexual with peole in RL, and most importantly, I now value being a woman, for the first time in my life. Always before I have focused on the lack of respect, the expectation of lower quality work from women, and felt that being a woman i was automatically disrespected. In eq, i can plainly see that i am respected just for being a woman, and can now see how in rl, that happens too. That both viewpoints occur. Somehow, I am able to look at this mess of contradictions and value myself more. That I am a lot more sexual than I have thought of myself in the last few years. That being a woman can be a lot of fun. [f, 40]

As I got to see how the rest of Norrath treats males and females, I came to realize that, try as I might, I don't treat men and women equally in RL myself. [m, 25]