Women who love video games likely won't be surprised: A new study finds men who are less skilled players are more likely to act hostile to their female counterparts during the game.
That's according to a study from researchers Michael Kasumovic and Jeffrey Kuznekoff, published in the scientific journal PLOS One last week and spotted by theWashington Post. They hypothesized that women entering "a male hierarchy" like video games "incites hostile behavior from poor performing males who stand to lose the most status."
Their conclusion: Men who perceive themselves to be low-status, and therefore have the most to lose, feel threatened by female competitors and try to take them down.
To test that theory the authors studied 163 examples of real gameplay of the Xbox Live video game "Halo 3," a first-person shooter game in which players work together to kill members of the other team.
The "Halo" players can also speak to each other from all over the world, so the researchers created a player with pre-recorded female-voiced comments, a male-voiced player and a control player that did not speak. Kasumovic and Kuznekoff played the "Halo" sessions themselves using those three created players and recorded the comments gamers made to each other.
They found "lower-skilled players were more hostile towards a female-voiced teammate, especially when performing poorly." Those same male players who were losing the game "behaved submissively towards a male-voiced player in the identical scenario," the researchers wrote.
The results support "an evolutionary explanation of female-directed aggression," the authors said, with low-status men fighting female competitors for a place in the hierarchy.
But Kasumovic and Kuznekoff said it's also possible that male players were "responding to the novelty" of a female gamer, as none (none who spoke, at least) of the 189 real players they recorded were women. The men could also have felt more aggressive toward a higher-pitched voice -- but that would support the authors' conclusion about low-status men feeling threatened, they said.
While the conclusions say more about the harassers than those they insult, it's the targets who are left to deal with the vitriol. Stay strong out there, ladies.