The Price of "Man" and "Woman": A Hedonic Pricing Model of Avatar Attributes in a Synthetic World
This paper explores a unique new source of social valuation: a market for bodies. The internet hosts a number of large synthetic worlds which users can visit by piloting a computer-generated body, known as an avatar. Avatars can have an asset value, in that users can spend time to increase their skills; these asset values can be directly observed in online markets. Auction data for avatars from the synthetic fantasy world of EverQuest are used here to explore a number of questions, especially those involving the relative value of male and female avatars. In EverQuest, about 20 percent of the avatar population is female, and there are no sex-based differences in avatar capabilities. Many avatars (about one-fourth to one-fifth of the population) are cross-gendered, being piloted by a person of the opposite sex. Nonetheless, relations between avatars are gender-based, and include chivalry, dating, and sex. Female avatars tend to be concentrated in highly sexualized Human and Elven races, with very few being present among such aesthetically-challenged races as Ogres and Trolls. Hedonic analysis of the auction price data suggests that gender labels are a less important determinant of avatar values than the ‘level,’ a game-design metric that indicates the overall capabilities of the avatar. Thus, ability seems more important than sex in determining the value of a body. Nonetheless, among comparable avatars, females do sell at a significant price discount. The average avatar price is 333 dollar; the price discount for females is 40 to 55 dollar, depending on methods. The discount may stem from a number of causes, including discrimination in Earth society, the maleness of the EverQuest player base, or differences in well-being related to male and female courtship roles. We do know, however, that these differences cannot be caused by sex-based differences in the abilities of the body, since in the fantasy world of Norrath, there are none.
|Date of creation:||2003|
|Date of revision:|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: Poschingerstrasse 5, 81679 Munich|
Phone: +49 (89) 9224-0
Fax: +49 (89) 985369
Web page: http://www.cesifo-group.de
More information through EDIRC
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Goldin, Claudia, 1992.
"Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women,"
Oxford University Press, number 9780195072709.
- Claudia Goldin, 1990. "Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gold90-1.
- Kelvin J. Lancaster, 1966. "A New Approach to Consumer Theory," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 74, pages 132.
- McCloskey, Deirdre N., 1999. "Crossing," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226556680, December.
- Patrick Bajari & Ali Hortacsu, 2002. "Cyberspace Auctions and Pricing Issues: A Review of Empirical Findings," Working Papers 02005, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
- Rosen, Sherwin, 1974. "Hedonic Prices and Implicit Markets: Product Differentiation in Pure Competition," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(1), pages 34-55, Jan.-Feb..
- Edward Castronova, 2001. "Virtual Worlds: A First-Hand Account of Market and Society on the Cyberian Frontier," CESifo Working Paper Series 618, CESifo Group Munich.
- Bartik, Timothy J, 1987. "The Estimation of Demand Parameters in Hedonic Price Models," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(1), pages 81-88, February.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_957. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Klaus Wohlrabe)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.