Female Halo 3 gamers receive three times as many negative comments online

Halo 4 Master ChiefThe male-dominated online environment in first-person-shooter games is a markedly hostile place for women.

Female gamers playing Halo 3 receive roughly three times as many negative comments compared to a male player, research published in the June issue of New Media & Society found.

“In summary, this study has established that gamers react differently to a female voice than to a male voice or no voice,” Jeffrey H. Kuznekoff and Lindsey M. Rose of Ohio University explained in the study. “Specifically, gamers reacted more negatively to a female voice than a male voice, even when both voices were communicating the same message.”

For their observational study, the researchers played Halo 3 on the Xbox 360 against 1,660 unique gamers and broadcasted pre-recorded audio clips of either a man or a woman speaking. The audio clips said innocuous things like, “Hi everybody,” “I like this map,” “Nice job so far”, and “I think I just saw a couple of them heading this way.”

In 163 multiplayer games in which verbal communication occurred, the female voice received roughly three times as many negative comments as the male voice and no voice. In addition, the female voice received more private messages and friend requests from other players.

Kuznekoff and Rose controlled for skill level and win percentage. This ensured that the players were not simply reacting with negative comments because they were frustrated with losing the game. Overall, there was no link between skill level and negative comments.

“On several occasions the female condition was exposed to derogatory gendered language,” the researchers noted in the study. The presumably female player was called a “whore,” “stupid slut,” “hooker,” and “bitch” for simply for saying “hi” or “good game.”

Gender and video games has become a hot topic. While researchers have examined the stereotypical portrayal and objectification of women in video games, the online gaming environment has received relatively little attention.

“The next logical step is to determine exactly what causes this reaction and why gamers feel inclined to communicate in this way,” Kuznekoff and Rose concluded. “It could be, as others have hypothesized, that characteristics of the communication channel may allow this negative behavior to flourish. It may also be that, within video games, people feel more freedom to express themselves without fearing the consequences of their actions.”

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