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World of Warcraft, Gender, and the Virtual Self

Year: 
2010
Researcher(s): 
Deanna Apicella
Institution: 
Ohio Northern University
Discipline: 
Sociology

World of Warcraft (WoW) is a Massive Multi-Player Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) that has created a virtual reality free of prejudices and stereotypes based on handicap, education levels, socioeconomic levels, religions, age, or sexual orientation.  The game has become the great equalizer that destroys the barriers created by real-life differences and classifications. There are races in game, but not the same races that we know in the real world.  Instead, this world is full of Trolls, Taurens, Dwarves, Undead, and Draenei.  While there are classes, something like occupations within the game, they are nothing like real life occupations.  Even though WoW has shown that, even in a virtual society, people create stereotypes based on defining characteristics, neither race nor class are the same as in the real world, with their own stereotypes and assumptions based solely on play in game and not external factors. The only real world defining characteristic that is in-game is gender.  In a virtual world where real life distinctions are blurred, the only transition to the virtual self is gender, and the only stereotypes that are the same in both worlds, the virtual and the real, is gender. While caricatures are an integral part in understanding Goffman’s theory on the self, even escapism, such as when one plays an online role-playing game, has some basis in the prevalent social structures, especially when related to gender roles in WoW.

Annual meeting of the Anthologists and Sociologists of Kentucky, Columbia, KY