Sexists are worse at video games, study suggests

Halo 5343 IndustriesThe forthcoming Halo 5: Guardians for the Xbox One.

The more a man sucks at video games, the more likely he’ll be mean to his female fellow players, suggests a new study.

That study, performed by Kasumovic Lab, was intended to scientifically test whether “female-initiated disruption of a male hierarchy incites hostile behaviour from poor performing males who stand to lose the most status.”

In plain English: If a man is really bad at something, from work to playing games online, are they more likely to be threatened by women doing the same thing, and act out accordingly?

To test this theory, they studied the players of Halo 3, an online competitive first-person shooter released for the Xbox 360 in 2007. Video games like Halo 3 rely on skill and reaction time instead of strength, meaning that men and women are on equal ground — but that it’s often considered a “boy’s game” because of the subject matter.

The result:

“We show that lower-skilled players were more hostile towards a female-voiced teammate, especially when performing poorly,” writes the study’s authors. “In contrast, lower-skilled players behaved submissively towards a male-voiced player in the identical scenario.”

The hypothesis suggested from the research is that a lower-skilled player tries to cover up their lack of skill by being a lot more macho, saving them from a perceived loss of face.

Conversely, players who were better at the game were nicer to their female teammates, because they had less to fear — and, the study’s authors suggest, because they want to get the women’s attention.

As the study notes, the subjects here didn’t know they were being studied; the Xbox Live terms of service for online gaming allow for the recording of conversations, so everybody was basically opted in by default.

And because they didn’t know they were being studied, they acted completely normally. In fact, since they were using online pseudonyms, the researchers never learned their real names.

Because of this, it’s an interesting look into the kinds of power dynamics that drive the world, and lead to things like online harassment and workplace discrimination.

Plus, it explains why so many women are loathe to play games online.

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