The Virtual World: Avatars Are Influenced by Social Norms and Stereotypes

The virtual world is a place for people to escape reality and become whoever they want to be.  It is a place where people can let their inhibitions go and take on the role of a fictional being.  This is all done by the creation of an online gaming avatar.  Created by the user, an avatar becomes its own unique entity.  Race, gender, height, hair color, gear and weapon type, skill set, etc. are just a few of the ways avatars are distinguished from one another.  But how much of the real-world is reflected into the gaming realm? What about social norms and stereotypes? Considering I am a complete novice on the subject of gaming, I decided to get some insider help.

My brother and his friends play a variety of online games, but my main focus was on World of Warcraft, where unique avatars are center stage.  After talking to my brother, I learned that social norms and stereotypes definitely play a role.  Although the avatars may not be human in nature, race, gender, and appearance still matter.  The more powerful avatars, such as blood elves, orcs, and taurens are superior to those with weaker skill sets, such as goblins and trolls.  Males are considered more capable than females.  Not to mention, the armor and gear that an avatar wears determines the rank, skill, and status of that avatar. Looks like our real-world society’s norms and stereotypes are apparent after all.  The most powerful people are considered those with the most power, money, and skill.  Women are still objectified in today’s world.  In addition, appearance, attractiveness, and fashion all determine how someone is viewed.

So the truth is you can’t escape reality.  Even in an online game, our society’s standards are apparent.  It is our human nature to group people together, assign statuses, and abide by those ranks.  It is our way of creating balance and organization within our society.  No matter what world you are living in, the human nature will prevail.

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