Verbal abuse is a pandemic in the online gaming community.And while it affects all sorts of gamers, there’s a select brand of vitriol reserved for women who venture into voice chat. For an interesting article on this phenomenon, see themarysue.com, excerpted as follows: ” This is an oft-discussed issue, and we still don’t have a good understanding of the root causes, or of what we can do to alleviate it. But some recent academic research provides a interesting (and sobering) look at how persistent the problem is.
“Last week, Gamasutra featured a blog post by graduate student Wai Yen Tang, who discussed a study entitled “Communication in multiplayer gaming: Examining player responses to gender cues.” The study was published online in September of last year by Jeffrey H. Kuznekoff andLindsey M. Rose, two PhDs from Ohio University’s School of Communication Studies. The study addressed two main questions: does player gender affect the types of comments received in-game, and is player skill a factor? 245 multiplayer matches and 1660 individual players later, they had some answers.
“If you have the time and patience for academic writing, I highly recommend giving the full study a read. The findings are interesting enough, but I found their research methods to be quite clever. Halo 3 was used as the staging ground, chosen for its popularity and its random matchmaking system. In order to standardize the experimental conditions, verbal messages were pre-recorded in both a male and female voice. These were made up of unassuming things such as “hi everybody,” “nice job so far,” and “thanks for the game, bye.” The researchers then played public matches, transmitting the messages via voice chat. Matches played without engaging in voice chat were used as a control.
“Before I get into the results, I have to say that the choice to study gamers in their natural environment deserves some kudos. One of my frequent quibbles with formal research of in-game behavior is that it happens within a laboratory environment. You can’t expect someone playing twenty assigned minutes of Call of Duty in a research lab to behave the same way as s/he would after hours of voluntary gameplay at home (presumably including snacks and a comfy couch). By observing gamers in the field, without informing them of the study, Kuznekoff and Rose acquired some rare real-world data. The downside is that said data is pretty depressing.”