White Man’s Virtual World: A Systematic Content Analysis of Gender and Race in Massively Multiplayer Online Games

T. Franklin Waddell, James D. Ivory, Rommelyn Conde, Courtney Long, Rachel McDonnell


Based on previous research indicating that character portrayals in video games and other media can influence users’ perceptions of social reality, systematic content analyses have examined demographic trends in the way video game characters are portrayed. Although these studies have extensively documented character portrayals in traditional console and computer video games, there is a lack of content analyses examining character portrayals in the very popular massively multiplayer online game (MMO) genre. Such studies are needed because many characters in MMOs are customized avatars created by users, which may lead to different trends in character demographics. This content analysis examined representations of gender and race among 417 unique characters appearing 1,356 times in 20 hours of recorded content from four popular commercial MMOs, which was generated by five recruited users. Characters tended to be disproportionately male and white, with females and racial minorities appearing much less often. Implications for potential effects on users’ perceptions of social reality are discussed.


Video Games; MMOs; Virtual Worlds; Race; Gender; Avatars; Content Analysis

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.4101/jvwr.v7i2.7096

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