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The worse you are at games, the more likely you are to be hostile to women, says one study

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If you’re a man who is crap at games, like me, then you are significantly more likely to be a dick to any women who rock up and start playing games alongside you. That’s according to a study published on PLOS ONE that sought to test the hypothesis that “female-initiated disruption of a male hierarchy incites hostile behaviour from poor performing males who stand to lose the most status.”

By monitoring player behaviour in Halo 3, the study finds that low performing players responded aggressively towards female-voiced teammates, while reacting submissively towards male-voiced teammates in identical scenarios.

The study aims to understand better the sexist behaviour that arises when women enter typically male-dominated arenas, such as most online videogames.

Specifically, it wants a clearer understanding of why only a subset of men respond aggressively towards women in these situations. By tracking positive and negative comments towards teammates, as well as the performance of those who were doing the commenting, the study shows that the worst players were more likely to be the biggest assholes.

Here’s the critical part of their findings.

“We show that lower-skilled players were more hostile towards a female-voiced teammate, especially when performing poorly. In contrast, lower-skilled players behaved submissively towards a male-voiced player in the identical scenario. This difference in gender-directed behaviour became more extreme with poorer focal-player performance. We suggest that low-status males increase female-directed hostility to minimize the loss of status as a consequence of hierarchical reconfiguration resulting from the entrance of a woman into the competitive arena.”

The authors also propose an argument as to why the higher-skilled players are behaving nicely to women. Besides perhaps just being decent, normal people.

“As higher-skilled players have less to fear from hierarchical reorganization, we argue that these males behave more positively in an attempt to support and garner a female player’s attention.”

You can read the full text of the study here.