A Northwestern University study indicates that MMO players are subject to the same racial biases seen in the real world.
According to iTnews, researchers used the virtual world of There.com as the setting for social interaction experiments in which light and dark-skinned avatars approached random players and asked for a favor. From the report:
White avatars in the DITF experiment received about a 20 percent increase in compliance with the moderate request; however, the increase for the dark-toned avatars was 8 percent… The finding is consistent with previous DITF studies — in real and virtual worlds — that demonstrate that physical characteristics, such as race, gender and physical attractiveness, affect judgment of others.
Researcher Paul Eastwick commented:
This study suggests that interactions among strangers within the virtual world are very similar to interactions between strangers in the real world. You would think when you’re wandering around this fantasyland … that you might behave differently. But people exhibited the same type of behaviour — and the same type of racial bias — that they show in the real world all the time.