Sore Losers: Study Finds ‘Poor-Performing’ Male Gamers Turn Sexist, Abusive To Better Female Gamers Online

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Call of Duty
Gamers play "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2," at a pre-release event held in New York November 9, 2009. Activision Blizzard Inc's hugely anticipated "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" video game went on sale early Tuesday morning, welcomed by eager fans who lined up hours in advance of the release. Reuters

Men who constantly lose on video games are more aggressive and sexist against women, according to a recent study posted in the journal Plos One. The study, conducted in an attempt by researchers to understand the intentions of men on sexist acts online, found males who lose on video games react negatively and harass other players, particulary female gamers.

The researchers found that "low-status and low-performing" males were the most likely to make frequent sexist and abusive comments towards female players. They added sexism and submissive acts were results of male players  impulsive reaction to lose their dominance.

The presence of a woman with good performance threatens men on losing their predominance in the hierarchy within the game sessions even if they are in the "non-dominant" status due to their poor performance, researchers said. The feeling of being disregarded by their fellow male competitors prompted the upset male gamers to hurl sexual insults to women to inflict their dominance and be accepted by their peers, they added. But other male gamers, noted by the researchers, also experienced bullying from fellow males as well as women from the upset gamers.

"Women receive up to 10 times more negative comments than men in online chatrooms and three times the negativity when playing online games," the authors wrote in a blog post.

The authors of the study, Michael Kasumovic, an evolutionary biologist at the University of New South Wales in Australia, and Jeff Kuznekoff, an assistant professor of communication at Miami University, discovered the factors driving men to be aggressive online by observing and monitoring how people act during 163 sessions of playing Halo 3, a first-person shooter played on Xbox 360.

The video game, Halo 3, is a shooter game developed for Xbox 360 and played in a first-person perspective. The game can be played alone or with a maximum of 16 players in multiple matches through Xbox Live or a local area network.

Males with lower status and poor performance "have the most to lose as a consequence of the hierarchical reconfiguration due to the entry of a competitive woman," the authors stated. Lower-status males, to maintain their dominant social status, used aggression towards a woman to disregard her performance and suppress her disturbance on the hierarchy to retain their social rank.

The performance of each player affected their behaviour, researchers said. Gamers were more positive toward female-voiced players when led by a high-performance. However, males on the losing side demonstrated submissive behaviour against female competitors.

The idea of video games may be highlighting gender segregation as a norm being adapted by teenagers, which significant proportion are gamers, researchers concluded. Such ideas have the potential to spill over in real-life interactions and promote socially unacceptable behaviours such as sexism."

The authors, Kasumovic and Kuznekoff, then suggested that female-directed hostility primarily originates from low-status, poorer-performing males. They then stated teaching young males that "losing to the opposite sex is not socially debilitating" may help prevent sexism and aggression.

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