Gender swapping and user behaviors in online social games

Published in In the 22nd international conference on World Wide Web (WWW), 2013

Modern Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) provide lifelike virtual environments in which players can conduct a variety of activities including combat, trade, and chat with other players. While the game world and the available actions therein are inspired by their offline counterparts, the games’ popularity and dedicated fan base are testaments to the allure of novel social interactions granted to people by allowing them an alternative life as a new character and persona. In this paper we investigate the phenomenon of “gender swapping,” which refers to players choosing avatars of genders opposite to their natural ones. We report the behavioral patterns observed in players of Fairyland Online, a globally serviced MMORPG, during social interactions when playing as in-game avatars of their own real gender or genderswapped. We also discuss the effect of gender role and self-image in virtual social situations and the potential of our study for improving MMORPG quality and detecting online identity frauds.