A recent study looking at male harassment of females while playing video games has turned up some not-too-surprising results; namely that those abusive dudes are more likely to be pretty bad at the game themselves.
These results (thanks to the Washington Post) come from a recent Plos One study conducted by Michael Kasumovic of the University of New South Wales and Jeffrey Kuznekoff of Miami University Middletown. Titled “Insights into Sexism: Male Status and Performance Moderates Female-Directed Hostile and Amicable Behavior,” the study used popular first-person shooter Halo 3 as a basis to discover if there was a correlation between specifically being a jerk to women in games and being bad at said games.
Anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of verbal harassment in the midst of any type of competition likely already knows where this study ultimately ended. It turns out that people who are actually good at games like Halo 3 are more likely to be encouraging of other players while those who feel threatened by the skill of their teammates and opponents are more likely to engage in some good old-fashioned trash talking. This is even more prevalent when the skilled player is a female, which apparently triggers a need in the unskilled player to overcompensate with the harassment more than regular since, you know, “Dudes are better than chicks” or whatever.
Or, to put it in far more complex study terms…
“In contrast, lower-skilled players behaved submissively towards a male-voiced player in the identical scenario,” reads the report. “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.”
If this is something that interests you (and it probably should if you’re looking to better understand your fellow gamers and the reasons behind their behavior), then you’ll definitely want to check out the full study over on the Plos One website. Kasumovic and Kuznekoff offer loads of background information, as well as a full breakdown of how the study was conducted and their full results. It’s a pretty fascinating read.
As for why they used Halo 3, apparently the online multiplayer mode is a solid environment for conducting such a study. Avatars look nearly identical and, because of the PvP format, the objectives are separate of a narrative or any goal outside of “beat the other team.” There are also plenty of ranks and post-battle accolades to show off dominance within the game.
While the study was conducted 82 times with a female voice and 81 times with a male voice, the results were pretty conclusive.
“We thus argue that our results best support an evolutionary explanation of female-directed aggression,” reads the report. “Low-status males that have the most to lose due to a hierarchical reconfiguration are responding to the threat female competitors pose.”
In other words, stop being a jerk, guys. It may make you feel better for some bizarre reason, but it certainly isn’t making you play any better.