Don’t think and drive

Virtual women worth 10 per cent less

You know how people play online games like Everquest or Ultima, build up characters with high levels of experience — and then sell them for real cash on Ebay?

Well, the cyber-economist Edward Castronova (an incredibly smart guy who I interviewed last spring) did a study of online-character sales, and found that female avatars sell for 10 per cent less, on average, than male ones. Nathan posted about it on his blog Ramblings, and quoted the study thusly:

“(R)elations between avatars are gender-based, and include chivalry, dating, and sex,” Castronova notes in the 45-page report, The Price of Man and Woman: A Hedonic Pricing Model of Avatar Attributes in a Synthetic World. “(A)bility seems more important than sex in determining the value of a body. Nonetheless, among comparable avatars, females do sell at a significant price discount.

“The discount may stem from a number of causes, including discrimination in Earth society, the maleness of the EverQuest player base, or differences in well-being related to male and female courtship roles. We do know, however, that these differences cannot be caused by sex-based differences in the abilities of the body, since in the fantasy world of Norrath, there are none.”

blog comments powered by Disqus

Search This Site


I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

More of Me


Recent Comments

Collision Detection: A Blog by Clive Thompson