As a follow up to the story of the Chinese MMO requiring webcam verification of gender when playing a female character, Terra Nova (an academic research blog) has posted an article on this, complete with a comments section that is quickly growing:
This debate appears to be splitting down cultural lines. I’ve been playing MMO’s for almost 10 years now, and the phenomenon of players playing cross gender avatars is not new. In the US, the percentage of players doing this decreases significantly in virtual worlds vs. the mainstream MMO’s and other online games.
In the Terra Nova comments, several Asian MMO’s are mentioned as having similar rules, but enforcing them in much more subtle ways. As the concept of a global Metaverse draws closer, this issue will be debated more often as the boundaries and barriers between different countries and cultures fall in virtual worlds.
This debate is as old as the genre of online games. Take a hop over to the link above and read some of the comments for a better idea on where people fall on this issue.