MMOs can be confusing places. They're packed withmore statsthan Stephen Hawking's brain lump, riddled with names containing more 'z's, 'x's and punctuation than an algebraic equation, and often use an interface that would boggle an octopus. Still, at least you can take solace in the basic knowledge of who your companions are in those crazy realms of slice and grind.
Except you can't. While anyone who's used the internet for long enough will be all too aware that people aren't always who they say they are - our painful experience with a cute girl called Geoff was all the lesson we needed - it turns out that nowhere harbours more folk masquerading behind fake genitalia than the MMO.
Nottingham Trent University has conducted a study, being published in US journal CyberPsychology and Behavior, which reveals that a mammoth 70% of female players use male characters, while a surprisingly high 54% of male players have female avatars.
Maybe it shouldn't be so surprising though, given the basic gender politics still at play in gaming. After all, some female players reportedly make the swap to get preferential treatment in a male-dominated game or to avoid sleazy attention (have a look on any forum ever for evidence to back that one up), while male players often digitally drag up in order to seek out exactly that sleazy attention in order to flirt for help and loot (again, any forum ever).
Worrying sign of the state of gaming culture, or another amusing quirk of the internet? Like some MMO players, the news is probably a bit of both. But just remember, while mics and cams help, abstinence is the only real safe-cyber.