The Reality of MMORPGs

In Expressing My Inner Gnome: Appearance and Behavior in Virtual Worlds, Shyong (Tony) Lam and John Riedl describe the process of massive multiplayer online role-playing games, MMORPGS.  This type of game has taken the video game world by storm with games such as World of Warcraft and Second Life.  Players enjoy the opportunity to create unique avatars that represent themselves in the other worldly environment.  There was an experiment tested to prove whether or not appearances of an avatar had an effect on other players/characters.  This relationship between avatar appearance and virtual behavior is called the “Proteus Effect.”

In the real world, more attractive people tend to dominate social interactions in certain ways: they move closer to the people they are interacting with and are more open about sharing personal information about themselves.

From personal experiences, I can support this statement.  More attractive people already have that confidence built up inside of them which allows them to automatically feel closer to somebody and connect more easily.  When you feel comfortable around somebody or a group of people, the distance between one another decreases, even though some personal space is necessary.  I would believe that the majority of people act almost exactly identical to the way they are in person in a virtual world, even if the looks of their avatar don’t necessarily match their appearance.  The virtual video gaming world gives players the opportunity to become someone else and create another identity.  If in reality, the player is more attractive, they tend to stick with what they possess and are used to.  If the player isn’t as attractive as some, they are more likely to change up their avatar’s appearance to make them more attractive and therefore more dominant, especially in social interactions.  The experiment proved the theory of more attractive people behaving just as intimate in the virtual world as in reality true.

Not only do appearances play a part in dominance and confidence, but so do height.  Another test was initiated to prove that players with taller avatars were more confident than those with shorter.  This test also concluded true, where taller avatars were more confident in a negotiation task.  It’s truly amazing what factors affect the way we approach someone, whether it is in real life or in the virtual world.

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