Conference Paper: Razing the Virtual Glass Ceiling: Gendered Economic Disparity in Two Massive Online Games
Rabindra A. Ratan (1), Vili Lehdonvirta (2), Tracy L. M. Kennedy (3) & Dmitri Williams (4)
1. Michigan State University, r...@msu.edu
2. Helsinki Institute for Information Technology, vili...@hiit.fi
3. Brock U, netw...@gmail.com
4. U of Southern California, dmit...@usc.edu
Research has consistently shown a gap between male and female income earners. Explanations have been found in social expectations and mechanisms relating to gender roles. In this paper, we investigate what happens to gendered economic disparity when those mechanisms are removed. We examine wealth creation within the virtual economies of two massively-multiplayer online games (MMOs)— environments where gender cues are malleable and meritocracy trumps identity—in the first study on economic disparity within multiple MMOs. Observed measures of player behavior indicate that player sex and character gender have a statistically significant relationship with virtual wealth, but in practice the effect is very small. While further research is needed on observed gender differences in play styles and motivations in virtual environments, the present results support an optimistic argument: as workplaces turn increasingly virtual, obfuscating physical gender cues and traditional allocation mechanisms, gendered economic disparity in society is likely reduced.