Outside oneself in "World of Warcraft": Gamers' perception of the racial self-other

  • Thomas D. Rowland Saint Louis University
  • Amanda C. Barton Saint Louis University
Keywords: Avatar, Fantasy, Identity, Massively multiplayer online role-playing game, MMORPG, Race, Survey


The popularity of massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) has created a unique, heavily populated virtual reality wherein player characters are explicitly differentiated by the physical characteristics of their avatars. To investigate the way real-life race perceptions influence these adopted player-character identities, we invited MMO players to participate in an online survey. In this study, we are particularly interested in overlap, or deviation, between real-life racial perceptions and the perception of fictional fantastic races (elves, dwarves). On the basis of the data collected, we found that whether players consciously associate themselves with their avatars or consciously dissociate themselves from their avatars, real-life racial tendencies unconsciously manifest through players' choices of their avatars and in their interactions with other players within the game environment.

Author Biographies

Thomas D. Rowland, Saint Louis University
Department of English, Department of Modern and Classical Languages
Amanda C. Barton, Saint Louis University
Department of English
Special Issue 1