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.


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!


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.

Oh My God!

Oh My God!

Well, I have to say a massive thank you to all of you who have taken part in my survey!!

I have had a huge amount of responses, it has been incredible! I posted the survey on Sunday evening, and by yesterday I had nearly received all my required responses! I’m glad I decided to leave in some comment boxes, I have received numerous very interesting responses, people do have very interesting reasons, and very interesting thoughts about my survey.

I am still looking for participants, particularly those who do NOT gender-bend in either Second Life or World of Warcraft! If you fall into this, please fill out survey, or pass it on, I’ll still be keeping it open for a while yet!

I have been relentlessly abused in certain forums, but I have learnt lessons, and I have added changes to my survey upon suggestions, I’m not too proud to admit that things could be improved! I really enjoy doing research, I enjoy this line of education, I’ll be a student forever.

Keep reading, I’ll post updates as they come!

Now I need to starting analysing results… this is the difficult part!

Do you play World of Warcraft or Second Life?

If you do, I would love it if you could take part in my survey!

World of Warcraft currently has 11.5 million monthly subscribers, there are 15 million registered-accounts on Second Life, and 82,000 active members in-world at any one time. These numbers show that millions of people are interacting, collaborating, forming strong relationships online every day, with fascinating outcomes.

My research is specifically investigating gender-bending online. This is when an individual chooses to play an avatar who has a different gender online then they have in Real Life. It’s a common occurrence in online gaming, and a simple Google search brings back hundreds of thousands of results about it.

I’m trying to find out the reasons that inspire people to gender-bend, so in order to do this, I have created a survey which I need people who gender-bend in these games AND people who don’t gender-bend to respond!

You also have the chance to win a €50 Amazon voucher at the end of the survey!

I appreciate anyone who responds, I am extremely grateful! If you don’t happen to play either of these games, pass it on anyway, you may know someone who does! It’s quite quick, only takes 10 minutes to complete!

Online Gaming Survey!

gender second life

gender second life

My Thesis Idea….

December 15, 2008

So after lots of deliberation and consideration, I was originally going to investigate sexual orientation, gender-bending and online gaming. It would have been too hard to find all my participants who I needed, so I opted to go for something more achievable.

The ability to choose a gender online has interested me immensely, and I have often wondered motivations behind the choice, aside from ‘just because I can’. So after researching, speaking to a few different avatars in Second Life and characters in World of Warcraft, I wondered did it have a connection with ‘Achievement Motivation/Need for Achievement’.

People with a high need for achievement (nAch) seek to excel and thus tend to avoid both low-risk and high-risk situations. Achievers avoid low-risk situations because the easily attained success is not a genuine achievement. In high-risk projects, achievers see the outcome as one of chance rather than one’s own effort. So I wondered is Gender-bending seen as something with makes completing a task in a game achievable, but not too easy, and not too difficult! Really, I want to see how it relates to Gender-bending, if it relates to gender-bending, and what the results will show at the end of it.

I hope to get some rich data by having informal interviews with between 5-8 people, and then gather some quantitative data by putting together a questionnaire.

So lets see how it goes, I know it’s a fairly touchy subject for some people, who, I have seen act rather offensively when previous blogs have mentioned it.

* Dives off into the abyss… *