A new study which attempted to explain the sexist reactions of men when traditionally male environments (read: online multiplayer video games) are invaded by women has discovered that “lower-skilled” male players were more hostile to female teammates. Or, as PCGamesN put it, “the worst players were more likely to be the biggest assholes.”
Participants in the study played Halo 3, a popular online deathmatch game that was partially chosen because every avatar looks the same.
[In Halo 3] players are covered head-to-toe with armor and identified by armor color, rather than facial features or body type. Additionally, player controlled avatars are not the hypersexualized males normally seen in many other video games, hopefully decreasing the overt sexism seen in most online competitive games and minimizing the effect of the game environment.
But despite the sexless armor, male players were often able to guess a player’s gender identity by the sound of their voice. And if they came across someone they presumed to be a woman who had the nerve to challenge them, watch out.
...lower-skilled players were more hostile towards a female-voiced teammate. In contrast, lower-skilled players behaved submissively towards a male-voiced player in the identical scenario. This difference in gender-directed behaviour became more extreme with poorer focal-player performance. We suggest that low-status males increase female-directed hostility to minimize the loss of status as a consequence of hierarchical reconfiguration resulting from the entrance of a woman into the competitive arena.
Basically, men are constantly afraid of losing to a women in general—whether in life, Halo 3, or Mario Kart—so the players doing the most losing are the ones who act out. Makes sense! But what are we supposed to do about it?
By demonstrating that female-directed hostility primarily originates from low-status, poorer-performing males, our results suggest that a way to counter it may be through teaching young males that losing to the opposite sex is not socially debilitating.
Kids, I believe the lesson we’ve all learned today is: never lose.
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Image via Bungie Games