The Real Cost of Mormon Temple Work

The Mormon Church believes that we can perform ordinances such as baptisms, marriages (sealings) and Endowments for those people that are dead. These rites are performed in Mormon Temples

There are about 150 temples worldwide. They are beautiful, massive buildings that are constructed with the finest materials and engineering. Their cost has to be enormous. (The church does not release the cost of anything.

Annual estimates to the church in building and maintaining the temples as well as the cost to members ranges from about 1 to 3 $Billion / year.

Even though the LDS Church has at times performed temple ceremonies in rivers, tents and cabins, they insist on building $50 million ornate buildings while knowing of the suffering, hunger and poverty around the world.

It is a common story taught in LDS churches of a poor family from an island in the Pacific or somewhere deep in the Amazon saves money for years to attend the temple at a distant location rather than use the money for education or housing. The story refers to the great sacrifice and faith of those people, essentially promising them eternity in Heaven.

The real cost of all this might be in the shaming and social loss of those who leave the faith or part member families who cannot attend the temples weddings of their loved ones.

US religion is worth $1.2T/year, more than America’s 10 biggest tech companies, combined

The largely tax-free religion industry is one of the biggest in America, worth $1.2 trillion/year, a number that includes religious “healthcare facilities, schools, daycare and charities; media; businesses with faith backgrounds; the kosher and halal food markets; social and philanthropic programmes; and staff and overheads for congregations.”

The figure comes from The Socio-economic Contribution of Religion to American Society: An Empirical Analysis, co-authored by Georgetown’s Brian J Grim and Newseum’s Melissa E Grim, and published in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion. The authors describe the estimate as “conservative” and note that while religion as a whole is declining in the US, spending on religious “social programs” has tripled since 2001, to $9T.

Grim and his co-author Melissa Grim of the Newseum Institute in Washington came up with three estimates of the worth of US religion. The lowest, at $378bn, took into account only the revenues of faith-based organisations. The middle estimate, $1.2tn, included an estimate of the market value of goods and services provided by religious organisations and the contributions of businesses with religious roots.

The top estimate was based on the household incomes of religiously affiliated Americans, and placed the value of faith to US society at $4.8tn annually.

The analysis did not take account of the value of financial or physical assets held by religious groups. Neither did it account for “the negative impacts that occur in some religious communities, including … such things as the abuse of children by some clergy, cases of fraud, and the possibility of being recruitment sites for violent extremism”.

The Socio-economic Contribution of Religion to American Society: An Empirical Analysis [Georgetown’s Brian J Grim and Newseum’s Melissa E Grim/nterdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion]

Saddleback Church -Defines Marriage

The issue is this: Did Obama mean what he said in 08 or was he merely pandering to the general base? My money is on the latter. It flies in the face of everything he purports to be about since his weed smoking days in Hawaii so why should we believe he actually thought that in 2008 marriage was between a man and a woman. Even his gay-proponent sycophants at the time thought he was placating with this position. On this one I have to concede that his lying impulses were front and center, but because they justified the means he’s given yet another pass with his liberal base.

I honestly can’t pinpoint a certain time. I just remember, as someone being from Connecticut, being ashamed that my state was the second to legalize gay marriage.

I think it changed when I realized that I was wrong to look down on someone just because they love someone of the same gender. We’re all people, but some are just odd like that…

He was actually supportive of same-sex marriage in 1996 but had to play the religious angle to avoid people thinking he’s a Muslim radical that wants to burn all the bibles.

In addition, let’s say he was really against it before becoming president, shouldn’t we applaud him for keeping an open-mind and evolving his viewpoint? After Obama came out in favor of it, Romney said that he would never change his mind about being against same-sex marriage. Is that kind of closed-mindedness the wrong way for a politician to think?

Regardless of whether or not most conservatives agree with it, I think it’ll be advantageous for the Republican Party. Now that this is done and out of the way, hopefully the debates will be focused more on real political issues and less on social issues and pandering.

Just like Hillary saying marriage is between a man and a woman which is a “fundmental bedrock going back in to the mists of history” or something along hose lines just a few years ago.

Odor of marijuana smoke wafting from neighbor’s apartment not legally “offensive,” appeals court rules

The Oregon Court of Appeals on Wednesday refused to declare the smell of marijuana smoke wafting into neighbors’ homes “unpleasant.”

The appeals court ruled that although rotten eggs or raw sewage are “physically offensive” odors to all, marijuana smoke isn’t necessarily so.

“We are not prepared to declare that the odor of marijuana smoke is equivalent to the odor of garbage. Indeed, some people undoubtedly find the scent pleasing,” the appeals court wrote in throwing out the second-degree criminal mischief convictions of a Philomath man whose home was searched in 2012 because of the aroma of pot drifting from it.

The ruling is sure to strike a chord with some Oregonians who involuntarily have become familiar with the smell of cannabis originating from neighboring houses or apartments with the legalization of recreational marijuana on July 1. Given the appeals court ruling, recreational users may rest assured that smoking pot at home shouldn’t draw any hassles from police.

The appeals court considered the case of Jared William Lang. He was 34 in November 2012 when a Philomath police officer visited his apartment after neighbors on both sides reported the smell of marijuana coming from his unit. One person told the officer “that the smell was especially difficult for him because he was currently attending rehabilitation for drug abuse and the smell of marijuana was a ‘trigger’ for him,” according to the appeals court summary of the case.

Another neighbor said that he’d lived in his unit for eight years and that “the neighbors in the middle rental (had) gotten worse and worse,” according to the summary. Two more neighbors said they smelled pot coming from Lang’s unit two to three times per a week.

The officer noted that he could smell burnt marijuana upon arrival at Lang’s apartment. The officer asked a Benton County judge for a search warrant of Lang’s unit — on the grounds that Lang might have committed second-degree disorderly conduct by creating a “physically offensive” smell.

The judge granted the warrant and the officer found evidence of a completely unrelated crime — aerosol paint cans and stencils that indicated Lang had been spraying graffiti on street signs, walls, fences and other property in Philomath.

Lang was found guilty of three counts of misdemeanor second-degree criminal mischief after a trial in the vandalism case. He was fined $440 and sentenced to several months in jail.

Lang appealed the convictions, arguing that the grounds police used to search his home were bogus. The appeals court found that it couldn’t declare the odor of marijuana smoke offensive — or not — to the average person. The appeals court ruled that depends on the “intensity, duration, or frequency” of the smoke.

At some point, the smell could be considered offensive to a reasonable neighbor, especially if the neighbor is in the sanctuary of his or her own home, the apeals court found.

But the court ruled that the officer who applied for the search warrant of Lang’s home hadn’t sufficiently described an intense, long or frequent odor of pot emanating from Lang’s home.

“(A)n odor that is very intense and persistent could reasonably be regarded as offensive even if it ordinarily might be considered pleasant — perfume, for example, or pungent spices,” the appeals court wrote.

“Who determines whether a particular odor is offensive?” the appeals court added. “Although some odors are objectively unpleasant — rotten eggs or raw sewage come to mind — others are more subjective in nature.”

Seth MacFarlane brutally rips Phil Robertson and ‘Duck Dynasty’ during acceptance speech

Seth MacFarlane, creator of the Emmy Award winning series “Family Guy,” is a pretty outspoken critic of religious fundamentalism along with being a vocal proponent of LGBT rights. During his acceptance speech at Sunday night’s Critics’ Choice TV Awards, he took an opportunity to rip into the celebrity daddy of hellfire preachers and homophobes, Phil Robertson.

MacFarlane made the comments after he was given the Louis XIII Genius Award at the fifth annual award show, aired on A&E Network, which also airs Robertson’s show “Duck Dynasty.”

“Let’s not forget I’m being declared a genius on a network that airs ‘Duck Dynasty,’ a show whose cast members believe hurricanes are created by gay marriage,” MacFarlane said. “I wish I was joking.”

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Digital gaming sales hit record $61 billion in 2015: Report

Worldwide digital video game sales hit a record last year as the mobile market continued to rocket higher and hardcore gamers gravitated toward console downloads.

The market for digital games grew 8 percent from 2014 to $61 billion, according to a new report from gaming intelligence firm SuperData Research.

Downloads to consoles like Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation saw the biggest jump. Digital console game sales were up 34 percent last year, though the category remained relatively small at $4 billion.

At the same time, software sales at U.S. brick-and-mortar stores continued to fall, slipping 13 percent to $5.3 billion, according to NPD Group.

“Sales figures points toward a shift in the industry as more consumers have adopted digitally distributed games and free-to-play,” said SuperData CEO and founder Joost van Dreunen.

The market for tablet and smartphone titles surged 10 percent to $25.1 billion from the previous year.

The mobile space continues to be dominated by a handful of high earners. The top 10 games in the segment accounted for nearly a quarter of total revenue.

The big moneymaker in absolute dollar terms was PC-based gaming, which includes free-to-play titles, subscription-based games, social games like “Farmville,” and other downloads. Games on the platform pulled in $32 billion in 2015.

There were signs of weakness in the category, though. Social gaming was down marginally, and subscription-based titles slipped 4 percent as free-to-play games — which earn their developers money from premium in-game purchases — continued to dominate PC sales.

Riot Games’ “League of Legends” was the top dog among free-to-play games. The multiplayer online battle arena game earned $1.6 billion in revenues — seven times more than its closest competitor in the genre.

As for publishers, Activision was the top earner, with $2.9 billion across the digital console, mobile and PC platforms. Activision pushed further into the mobile space with its acquisition of King Digital in November.

Supercell, maker of the No. 1 mobile game “Clash of Clans,” came in second with $1.64 billion in sales, followed by Shenzhen, China-based Tencent, which purchased the small portion of Riot Games it did not already own last month and earned $1.62 billion in 2015.

Here are the top-selling digital games of 2015 by platform, as measured by SuperData Research (figures in millions):

Digital console

1. “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare” (Activision, $355)

2. “FIFA 15” (Electronic Arts, $332)

3. “Grand Theft Auto V” (Take-Two Interactive, $322)

4. “Destiny” (Activision, $291)

5. “Call of Duty: Black Ops III” ()

6. “FIFA 16” (Electronic Arts, $212)

7. “Fallout 4” (Bethesda Softworks, $108)

8. “Star Wars Battlefront” (Electronic Arts, $106)

9. “Madden NFL 16” (Electronic Arts, $76)

10. “Madden NFL 15” (Electronic Arts, $73)

Digital PC

1. “League of Legends” (Tencent/Riot Games, $1,628)

2. “Crossfire” (SmileGate, $1,110)

3. “Dungeon Fighter Online” (Neople, $1,052)

4. “World of Warcraft” (Activision, $814)

5. “World of Tanks” (, $446)

6. “Lineage I” (NCSOFT Corporation, $339)

7. “Maplestory” (Nexon, $253)

8. “DOTA 2” (Valve Corporation, $238)

9. “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” (Valve Corporation, $221)

10. “Grand Theft Auto V” (Take-Two Interactive, $205)


1. “Clash of Clans” (Supercell, $1,345)

2. “Game of War: Fire Age” (Machine Zone, $799)

3. “Puzzle & Dragons” (Gungho Online Ent. Inc, $729)

4. “Candy Crush Saga” (King Digital, $682)

5. “MonsterStrike” (Mixi, $674)

6. “Candy Crush Soda Saga” (King Digital, $518)

7. “Fantasy Westward Journey” (NetEase, $451)

8. “Colopl Rune Story” (COLOPL NI Inc, $356)

9. “Disney Tsum Tsum” (LINE Corp, $326)

10. “Boom Beach” (Supercell, $297)

How Blizzard turned a costly failure into the highly anticipated ‘Overwatch’

Blizzard Entertainment spent millions of dollars and more than five years designing a vast, ambitious video game only to realize that it wasn’t fun. The project, code-named Titan, “utterly, completely and miserably” failed, according to the guy who ran it, veteran designer Jeffrey Kaplan.

Higher-placed executives killed Titan in early 2013, long before it was ready for the general public. Kaplan felt crushed.

But Blizzard didn’t fire him. It didn’t demote him. Instead, the Irvine company put him in charge of another huge project.

This one, called “Overwatch,” is due for release this spring. It’s an unusual new shooter game, with bright, natural settings and wide-eyed, emotive characters in a genre known more for militaristic virtual venues. It also veers from the cliched lone gunman to make team-based play integral.

And if it lives up to early reviews, it could serve as a textbook case in how a strong company culture can recover from a failure while using the misfire to its advantage.

Blizzard epitomizes the overused but always important proverb that “failure is learning,” said John Smedley, former chief executive of Sony Corp.’s online gaming unit. “‘Overwatch’ is a truly revolutionary game for the first-person shooter genre, and the foundation of Titan is exactly what led them there.”

Reviewers of an early version of “Overwatch” like it. Wired, Forbes and Kotaku reviewers said they were “impressed,” “enjoying the ride,” and “as excited about a new video game” as ever. Millions of other players also are beta-testing it.

“Overwatch” pits two six-player teams on a futuristic Earth in matches that resemble parts of well-known brands “Call of Duty,” “League of Legends” and “Madden NFL.” It’s about offense and defense, strategy and camaraderie, not a race to kill the most. Mixing the right set of sly assassins, freakish hulks and other characters, given the mission and opponent, is what makes the game special.

It’s too early to deem “Overwatch” a success. And Titan wasn’t nearly 25-year-old Blizzard’s only misstep. Remember “Starcraft: Ghosts”?

But no failure fell with quite the social-media-energized thud of Titan. Blizzard could swallow the cost, a fraction of nearly $600 million in operating income in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. What it feared was the damage to its sterling reputation.

Such a big failure might have led most wary corporate executives to quadruple-guess Kaplan. But Blizzard Chief Executive Mike Morhaime and Chief Development Officer Frank Pearce instead quickly tapped him to lead “Overwatch.” And they offered the perfect confidence booster.

“If you build it, they will come,” Morhaime told Kaplan.

The famous “Field of Dreams” quote, a movie Kaplan, 43, fondly remembers watching with his dad, was “as inspirational as it could get” for the senior vice president and “Overwatch” game director.

To the bosses, releasing a dud of a game would have been true failure and more costly. Having programmed games for much of their careers, Morhaime and Pearce respect the creative process more than “guys in suits” preoccupied by financial projections, Kaplan said. Their sympathy meant no one would be kicked to the curb.

Legacy then became a motivator too. Blizzard, a division of Santa Monica-based Activision Blizzard Inc., has a long record of producing blockbuster games, including “Starcraft II,” “World of Warcraft” and “Hearthstone.”

Proud legacy has its downsides. When the Titan project was launched in 2007, “World of Warcraft” was near peak popularity with more than 10 million paying subscribers, and a cocky Kaplan and his colleagues dismissed the challenges of recreating phenomenal success. Confidence became overconfidence, even arrogance.

But Blizzard raises a new flag outside headquarters for each game launch. Not doing so for Titan gut-checked Kaplan. With “Overwatch,” a humbler approach was called for.

“The goal was to redeem ourselves amongst our studio, among our peers,” Kaplan said.

This time, he kept the team small.

Titan numbered 150 workers. “Overwatch” has 80. Kaplan counts no magical number. Rather, he stayed tightknit enough to minimize bureaucracy and maximize individual creativity.

“You don’t want to create an army,” he said.

Another Titan lesson: Unshackle the team. The Titan crew was suffused with tension because of frustrating constraints, including most vividly a ban on virtual “flying cars.” Kaplan’s cheeky “Overwatch” response is the project’s lone arbitrary rule: Every car must fly.

That’s not to say there’s no regimen. All 80 people meet three times a week. To strengthen their common purpose, everyone plays “Overwatch” twice daily — in the morning and about 6 p.m. before going home. The next day, they regroup in small teams in their areas of expertise. Kaplan said high engagement is necessary to have people spot issues firsthand and inspire quick fixes.

Smedley, the former Sony executive, said any organization could perfect their wares by matching Blizzard’s early-testing discipline.

Blizzard has lots of people “just like me and their other customers seeing this is fun and this isn’t,” Smedley said. “By the time we see it, it’s polished as heck.”

Support even came from way up top.

When Kaplan first pitched “Overwatch” to Activision Blizzard Chief Executive Bobby Kotick, he whizzed through slides depicting characters. He figured that Kotick, who had left game development for the C-suite early in his career, cared more for business-related elements.

But Kotick slowed him down, asking to again see images of Torbjörn, a thick-bearded Swedish engineer who forges hammers.

Kotick was floored: “These are the most compelling characters I’ve ever seen,” Kaplan recalled him saying. Since that day, Kotick has talked up the game and driven to Irvine to play it. To him, the past is the past.

The widespread corporate involvement builds on Blizzard’s long-employed “strike team,” a cross-section of employees who are top-notch players and get to test products. They remain important because they lack an emotional attachment to features.

Outside the game, Blizzard is creating social media posts, graphic novels and short animated videos to develop the “Overwatch” back story. Naturally, the title jumped from game to multimedia franchise. In addition, Kaplan could leverage other departments while keeping his corps small. The video production team, for one, has produced game ideas “just as much as” his team, he said. He lends developers to other projects and other directors return the favor.

Feedback also has come from new sources. “Overwatch” is the first game for which Blizzard created an internal online forum, allowing the entire studio to collaborate.

The collegial spirit has spread. Blizzard’s quality assurance testers focus on certain games but constitute a separate department. Kaplan, though, included the 14 “Overwatch” testers in his team meetings to the point where there was little separation.

So when quality assurance managers gave “Overwatch” testers cash to party, the testers organized an internal tournament for the game for the entire development team, buying pizza and beers for the championship.

The small act had big consequences. The tournament revealed design flaws and proved the game would be great for competitions. And Kaplan came away encouraged that the testers took on the culture of doing more with less.

Chris Metzen, Blizzard’s senior vice president for story and franchise development, said last month that the “Overwatch” approach re-instilled companywide “appreciation” for smaller projects. That’s a good thought to help Blizzard save face after Titan, but the 22-year Blizzard veteran insisted that there’s been remarkable “geeking out.”

“It’s the coolest time to be at this place,” Metzen said.

Free To Play: first impressions of Valve’s Dota 2 documentary

I visited Valve early last month, and while I was there I was treated to a world-first, last-minute screening of the first part of ‘Free To Play’, the Dota 2 documentary that the devs have been working on since prior to the first International tournament.

The version I saw was so raw it was being shown directly from the editing software, and there were a lot of first-pass effects that undoubtedly be finished by the time the film comes out. That said, I’m in a position to provide a sense of where Valve are going with it, as well as a few of my concerns over things it might be missing. I’m going to run through my first impressions below, but bear in mind that I will talk about a few specifics of what the movie covers – if you’d like to go in completely spoiler-free, consider this your warning.

They’re using lots of inventive ways to explain Dota 2, but could take this further

The film opens with a montage of people explaining Dota: its history, its popularity, and what you actually do in the game. It’s compared to basketball and chess, and at one point a speaker describing the game as branching network of decisions is accompanied by a diagram illustrating the kinds of choices players make over time. Interviewees range from pro players, community members like TobiWan, developers, and fans outside the games industry.

To illustrate the game, they’re using a mix of in-game footage, new Source Filmmaker animation work, off-screen footage from the International and other tournaments, and even parts of the Gamescom trailer from 2011. At the time I told Valve that I thought this approach was a little scattershot: if the film was your first introduction to the genre, it might be difficult to tell exactly which footage was from Dota 2 and which wasn’t. That said, it’s exciting and emphasises Dota’s legitimacy as a sport, which is important.

Their access to players and their families is really impressive

The bulk of what I saw was concerned with establishing the stakes leading up to the first International. In part this is handled as you’d expect: the history of competitive DotA is covered in order to set up the reveal of the tournament’s astonishing $1m prize pool, and there’s even a montage of shocked YouTube comments from the day the figure was announced.

The heart of the film, however, are Valve’s interviews with players and the people around them. They didn’t just sit down players in front of a greenscreen and get a few soundbites: they followed players as far apart as North America, the Ukraine and Singapore, seemingly for weeks if not months. To give one example, the film covers not only Dendi’s homelife but his childhood and relationship with his parents and siblings. There’s also close attention paid to the attitude of different players’ families to their chosen sport and what success means to each of them. It’s affecting and, crucially, it’s very human – exactly what e-sport coverage needs to achieve to find a wider audience.

There’s also footage of Dendi dancing around during a school play. So you’ve got that to look forward to. The guy, unsurprisingly, can dance.

They could do more to explain what makes each player talented as an individual

My only reservation about the documentary’s depiction of pro players is that it tells the viewer that they’re very talented without really showing why that’s the case. I understand that not everybody is going to be able to look at a bit of Dota footage and figure out what makes someone skilled, but this is where a slower, more explanatory approach could be useful.

One of the things that makes the Daigo Third Strike comeback so legendary in the Street Fighter community is that even if you know nothing about SF it’s possible to watch that video and get that not only is this guy skilled, but that he’s skilled because he’s calm, accurate, and has masterful timing. Hopefully this is something that Valve will also factor in for Free To Play: don’t just describe Dendi as talented, describe him as creative.

It’s kind of heartbreaking when you know how it ends

There’s something strange about watching a sports movie when the tournament itself happened almost two years ago: particularly when you’re watching players talking about how important winning is to them when you know they’re going to lose. This isn’t a criticism of the documentary, and it won’t be relevant for every viewer, but Dota die-hards should expect a degree of cognitive dissonance.

Valve are taking this seriously

Valve do very little by halves, and their filmmaking crew treat Free To Play as their full-time job. They’ve got a dedicated editing suite set up, and I would be surprised if Valve don’t continue to produce movies after this. It’s definitely in-keeping with Valve’s general shift from developer to wide-ranging media company.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the film treats Dota 2 – and games in general – as if they’re worthy of coverage by default. No “it’s only a game, but…” or “look at this novelty sport.” The only doubt about gaming’s legitimacy on the competitive stage is expressed by parents, and it’s heavily contextualised. This is great for e-sports in general: it doesn’t ignore the fact that they’re still a relatively niche pursuit, but it never questions Dota’s right to be taken seriously or the enthusiasm of its fans. For that reason alone, I’m really excited to see how Valve’s first foray into filmmaking turns out.


Heroes of the Storm’ player threatens Blizzard Entertainment gaming company with AK-47, prosecutors say

Stephen Cebula was wrapped up in the online adventures of “Heroes of the Storm” when he apparently decided to deliver a message to his foes.

And that’s how the 28-year-old Sacramento gamer found himself facing federal charges Thursday of threatening to visit Blizzard Entertainment’s headquarters with an AK-47, according to a 33-page federal indictment.

In one threat, U.S. District Court records show, he wrote: “Careful Blizzard … I live in California and your headquarters is here in California … You keep silencing me in Heroes of the Storm and I may or may not pay you a visit with an AK 47 amongst some other ‘fun’ tools.”

Cebula, who was arrested July 12, told investigators he sent threats to the Irvine-based company and other players through his Facebook account because he wanted “to scare” them, FBI Special Agent Brady Cowan wrote in a federal criminal complaint.

Cebula said he looked up the gaming company’s address online and mentioned it in one of his threats “to give them a sinking feeling that they should be worried,” Cowan said.

Prosecutor say Cebula also wrote: “You keep silencing people in heroes of the storm and someone who may live in California might be inclined to ‘cause a disturbance’ at your headquarters in California with an AK47 and a few other ‘opportunistic tools’ … It would be a shame to [anger] the wrong person. Do you not agree blizzard?”

Cebula told federal investigators the term “opportunistic tools” was designed to “let their minds wander” and the reference to using an AK-47 was “because it seemed like the scariest weapon,” Cowan said.

If convicted, Cebula faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The Surprisingly Unsurprising Reason Why Men Choose Female Avatars in World of Warcraft

When men play female avatars in online games, they change the way they speak to conform to female stereotypes—but the way they move betrays their masquerade.

In a recent study reported in Information, Communication and Society, researchers created a custom-built quest in World of Warcraft—the popular online game where players can work together to slay dragons and discover magical treasures. The researchers recruited 375 World of Warcraft gamers and ran them through the quest in small groups. The quest took an average of 1.5 hours to complete, and every participant’s movement and chat were recorded and meticulously coded.

The researchers found that the men were more than three times as likely as the women to gender-switch (23 percent vs. 7 percent). When selecting female avatars, these men strongly preferred attractive avatars with traditional hairstyles—long, flowing locks as opposed to a pink mohawk. And their chat patterns shifted partway toward how the real women spoke: These men used more emotional phrases and more exclamation points than the men who did not gender-switch. In other words, these men created female avatars that were stereotypically beautiful and emotional.

Although the gender-switching men could partially talk the talk, they completely failed to walk the walk. The researchers found that all the men in their study moved around in a very different way than the women. The men moved backward more often, stayed farther away from groups, and jumped about twice as much as the women did. When it came to moving around, the men behaved similarly whether they gender-switched or not. So if you’re trying to figure out if that female Night Elf is really a man, focus on how they move around. As study author Mia Consalvo, a professor at Concordia University, says, “movement is less conscious than chat, so it can be an easier ‘tell’ for offline gender.”

It gets stranger. The lead author of the paper, Rosa Martey at Colorado State University, told me via email that “it’s not necessarily the case that men are trying to appear female when they use a female avatar. Our interviews did not suggest that those who switched were trying to ‘pretend’ to be women players.”

In fact, it’s all about the butts. Because players see their avatars from a third-person perspective from behind, men are confronted with whether they want to stare at a guy’s butt or a girl’s butt for 20 hours a week. Or as the study authors put it in more academic prose, gender-switching men “prefer the esthetics of watching a female avatar form.” This means that gender-switching men somehow end up adopting a few female speech patterns even though they had no intention of pretending to be a woman.

In my own research in virtual worlds and avatars, my colleagues and I have found that people will conform to the expectations of their avatars without consciously being aware of it. For example, we found that college students given subtly taller avatars will negotiate more aggressively in a bargaining task than students given shorter avatars. Of course, people can only conform to stereotypes that they know. Perhaps this is why we see gender-switching men conforming to stereotypes of how women talk, while not conforming to the more nuanced movement patterns.

The butt theory could also explain another consistently puzzling statistic: Why do men gender-bend so much more often than women? Given that most AAA video games and thus most of these female avatars are designed by men for a primarily male audience, gender-switching based on esthetics makes sense for male gamers. But because male avatars aren’t created by female designers for a female audience, women may not have the same incentive to gender-switch. (And no, the equivalent is not an obscenely muscular male avatar in a tank top holding a machine gun.

Virtual worlds are often thought of as places where we are free to play and reinvent ourselves, but game design and psychology often conspire to encourage us to enact and perpetuate offline stereotypes and the status quo. The most fascinating irony of our contemporary virtual worlds may be how little they actually allow us to play.