Female EverQuest avatars for sale at ebay are significantly cheaper than male equivalents. Edward Castranova, who wrote a fascinating paper about the economy of EverQuest last year, has just published a paper about this too: The Price of ‘Man’ and ‘Woman’: A Hedonic Pricing Model of Avatar Attributes in a Synthethic World. The avatar’s level is more important than its gender, but if you compare male and female avatars at about the same level, the females are about 10-15% cheaper. Castronova also notes (in the final paragraph of the full pdf) that the Earth value (i.e. what you get for them in RL dollars at ebay) of EverQuest assets is decining with the increased number of attractive synthetic worlds other than EverQuest.

This makes perfect economic sense, and, in this study, appeared in the form of price discounts for EverQuest avatars as their owners emigrated from EverQuest to other synthetic worlds. A broader implication appears when one thinks of Earth as just another alternative reality world in this market. If humans spend more of their time in synthetic worlds in the computer, they will have less interest in whatever assets they have on Earth. The data here suggest that the value of Earth assets is likely to fall substantially as human consciousness melds gradually into the machine.

The seriousness of the economics (at least it appears so to a non-economist like me) combined with the outrageousness of the claims made on the basis of apparently calm study is amazingy seductive, don’t you find? (via Many-to-many)

7 thoughts on “females are cheaper

  1. Liz

    I saw Clay’s post on M2M, but hadn’t followed the link yet to the full story. Fascinating. Thanks for pointing out the dissonance between the rational economic analysis and the speculative futuring. 🙂

  2. Jill

    Well, you never know, he MIGHT be right! I don’t understand the economics well enough to know, really, it just feels like the rush of the Matrix (the first one..) to me, seeing the enormity of his ideas 🙂

  3. Anne

    I heard him mention this in his presentation at the Digital Genres conference, where he asked the audience which we thought would sell for more – male or female avatars. Most, including myself, raised hands in favour of females and I’m still surprised that male avatars go for more! (But then again, I believe that male prostitutes sell for more as well, but I always assumed that was the result of supply exceeding demand … )

    But he also discussed why he doesn’t like playing females – and it’s because of the way they are treated by (apparently) male players!! And I believe it was his wife who commented that more men should experience that feeling! I laughed 😉

  4. Jill

    Oh, and yet Justin Hall always plays a female because he reckons that female avatars are treated better – or wait, that might be only in one particular game. (Scroll down to the bit titled “Drag in Dark Age of Camelot: Gender in Interaction” to see the bit about Justin in drag, though the whole article’s interesting)

  5. Anne

    Interesting! I’ll have to ask other guys about this – even though I always play a girl if I have the choice, all the way back to Ms. Pac-Man 😉 Were you surprised that female avatars for Everquest sell for less? Maybe it has somethign to do with being “sold”?

    BTW, that would be demand exceeding supply in my earlier comment 😉

  6. Jill

    I just immediately connected it to prostitution (being “sold”, as you say, Anne) and wasn’t surprised at all. Now that you’ve raised the question I’m more curious. And no, I’ve not actually read Castronova’s whole paper, only the abstract and the conclusion (ha) so it’s possible that he discusses this in the middle somewhere. Anyone read it properly?

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