A new study conducted by researchers from Penn State University, Ohio State University, and Virginia Tech has concluded that female gamers are more likely to gain friends in online gaming communities if they appear passive and non-threatening. Meanwhile, men who are more aggressive and assertive will gain more friends than if they displayed the opposite behaviors.

In the course of the experiment, the researchers played Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 on the PlayStation 3. Using various user names, they were able to construct identities that reflected an apparent bias toward either the male or female gender.

In its opening line, the abstract of the study states, "Sex role stereotyping by players in first-person shooter games and other online gaming environments may encourage a social environment that marginalizes and alienates female players." Continuing on, the abstract explains: 

We found support for the hypothesis that, in general, women would gain more compliance with friend requests than men. We also found support for the hypothesis that women making positive utterances would gain more compliance with friend requests than women making negative utterances, whereas men making negative utterances would gain more compliance with friend requests than men making positive utterances. The hypothesis that player skill (i.e., game scores) would predict compliance with friend requests was not supported.

Is it the anonymity of a user name that allows gamers to feel more comfortable with either consciously or subconsciously reinforcing gender norms? Is this a symptom of online communities at large, or is this particular behavior limited to the gaming sphere? These are certainly compelling questions that deserve to be answered as well.

However, given the results that these researchers have assembled, it's impossible to say that the worst fears and assumptions about trollish or discriminatory behavior in the gaming world aren't being confirmed. This study proves that even if a gamer isn't openly expressing their inner-biases, these attitudes are able to manifest themselves in other forms as well.

A woman should be able to trash-talk just as much as any man without feeling ostracized about it. In a cultural environment that still has a considerable variety of gender disparity issues to resolve, this problem needs to be added to the ongoing list of grievances against the gaming community. Otherwise, video gaming will be sadly relegated to the status of yet another boys club. 

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[via Polygon]