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Can you tell a person's gender by their video game avatar?
Date:5/6/2014

This news release is available in French.

Montreal, May 6, 2014 A sexy wood elf with pointy ears. A hulking ogre with blue skin. An intimidating heroine with a buxom breastplate. When it comes to computer games, players can choose to be anyone or anything. But gamers don't always mask their true identities with online avatars.

According to a new study by researchers at Concordia University, Colorado State University, Syracuse University, Hofstra University and the University of Toronto, a male gamer who chooses to play as a female character will still display signs of his true gender.

In the study, which was recently published in Information, Communication and Society, researchers examined the online behaviour of 375 participants as they played a custom-built quest in World of Warcraft a massive multi-player game set in a fantasy world where players battle warlords, dragons, demons and each other to gain strength and abilities. The investigators' goal? To see if gender differences in online behaviour align with the offline social norms that govern "appropriate" behaviour for men and women.

Twenty-three per cent of the study's male participants chose avatars of the opposite gender, and seven per cent of its female participants did the same. As they played, their online movement, chat and clicks on interactive objects were recorded.

"Avatars can convey a player's sense of humour, displeasure, intrigue and interest through cues like gestures, movement and language, which can reveal real-life identity," says Mia Consalvo, one of the study's authors and a professor in Concordia's Department of Communication Studies.

"We looked at things like language use and online movement to see if, among those who played a character of the op
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Contact: Clea Desjardins
clea.desjardins@concordia.ca
514-848-242-45068
Concordia University
Source:Eurekalert

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