Investigating Trait Attribution through Gendered Avatar Play: An Analysis of The Sims 3

Erika M. Behrmann


This study investigates whether the life-simulation videogame, The Sims 3, enables the deconstruction of the gender binary. The Sims 3 permits its players the capability to attribute similar traits to male or female avatars. In doing so, players can experiment with taboo trait attributions and potentially defy a male-female binary. A group of 82 The Sims 3 players was surveyed to determine their overall male and female Sims trait selections during gameplay. Participants were questioned on how their trait selection related to their personal identities. Results indicated that players tend to select traits that maintain a gender binary. This thesis discusses the implications as to why players continue to follow social norms even in technological environments conducive to deconstructing the gender binary.