As those of you who have been waiting patiently for the results of my research, well, you shall finally be rewarded!

As I will be submitting this to a journal in the hopes of being published, I cannot post up my entire document, however, I will summarise very briefly a few points here:

Title: Gender-bending in virtual worlds: Investigating need for achievement between goal-orientated and non goal-orientated environments.

Abstract

The aim of this study was to examine a potential relationship between gender-bending online and Need for Achievement (nAch in goal-orientated (World of Warcraft) and none goal-orientated environments (Second Life). Gender-bending has existed online since the creation of MUDs (Multi-user Dungeons) and chat-rooms (Donath, 1998).

There were two stages to this study. Firstly, participants took part in informal interviews (n=6) to accumulate rich data involving their motivations behind gender-bending. Secondly, participants (n=253) responded to an online questionnaire to find out their motivations behind why they gender-bend, and to find out their level of Need for Achievement.

Findings show women in a goal-orientated virtual environment with high nAch are more likely to gender-bend then women with lower nAch. Findings also showed that that men who gender-bend have lower nAch than men who do not gender-bend in a goal orientated environment. There was no difference in nAch scores between individuals who do and who do not gender-bend in a non-goal orientated environment. Findings implicate that reasons for gender-bending differ between environments types, additional research is warranted into investigating and discovering further motivators for this behaviour.

What does this all mean?

Well, from my one-on-one interviews I found that:

World of Warcraft

  • These users gender-bend primarily for game achievement reasons
  • Secondarily they gender-bend because the character looks visually more appealing
  • Thirdly because the character looks stronger and then leaves the user feeling more powerful

Second Life

  • Second Life residents had more complex reasons for gender-bending
  • Exploratory reasons – some interviewees were transvestites, transgenders and whose sexual orientation was bi-sexual and these factors had strong defining reasons as to why they gender-bend online
  • Deceptive reasons – some interviewees wanted to protect their real-life identity by being something totally other online

The above results were very interesting but required far more research to fully understand the reasons for gender-bending online.

From my survey:

Need for Achievement (nAch) refers to an individual’s desire for accomplishment, mastering of skills, control, or high standards (McClelland, 1965).

Women who gender-bend in World of Warcraft had a higher need for achievement score then women who did not gender-bend in World of Warcraft.

  • The conclusions we can draw from this include that as playing as a male character is recognised as being more difficult then playing as a female character (Suler, 2004), women who play as male avatars have a higher need for achievement. The game is more challenging and they enjoy it more once they have successfully completed tasks as a male avatar.

Men who gender-bend in World of Warcraft have a lower need for achievement score then men who do gender-bend.

  • The conclusions we can draw from this are that as playing as a female avatar is recognised as being easier then playing as a male avatar (Suler, 2004), males who play as females have a less-challenging game. As individuals who score highly in need for achievement require a level of difficulty that they must master, means that playing as a female avatar for this purpose means that individuals will have a low need for achievement score.

There is no difference between need for achievement scores between individuals in Second Life

  • There is no goal to achieve in Second Life, therefore there is no beneficial reason to playing as a male or female avatar.

Phew, so there you have it, summarised version of my research! Long over-due. Results in June… wish me luck!

References:

McClelland, D.C. (1965) Toward a theory of motive acquisition. The American Psychologist, 20, 321-333.

Suler, J.R. (2004). Do boys (and girls) just wanna have fun? In A. Kunkel (Ed.), Gender communication (pp. 149-153). Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt Publishing.