I stumbled across this interesting piece about player interaction in MMORPGS from a link sent by Ian - with whom I spend a lot of time in Warcraft.
He'd initially sent it for the breakdown of race / gender / faciton stats - which confirmed my hunch that there really aren't many Lady Taurens in game. Only 19% of players have female horde characters, and only 11 % of Taurens are female in game, and only 18% of warriors are female... so - erm, no, I don't have enough data to work that one out, but I'm a minority in a minority of a minority - and I bet even more so as I'm actually a female player, and there are less of us.
Digressions aside, further down the blog is a discussion of how avatars signal their behaviours and interactions in game. There are obviously /emotes in game, but those are very deliberately signalled by the user. I tend to use a lot of /emotes, but it's something to do with playing with my real-life partner a lot of the time; we make a joke of our real-life status in game, so we'll often /kiss or /hug on meeting. I have a personal preference for /tickling in-game strangers, too - especially whilst on the zeppelin, which is idle time in game terms. I'm like one of those japanese tube perverts.
The fascinating thing is the analysis of the possible behaviours an avatar could display whilst the player was performing in game actions. For instance, if you consult a map, you're not 'seeing' the world; your character could signal this by having their face hidden behind a large unfolded map. Fiddling with objects in bags also takes a player away from concentrating on their avatar - so their avatar could appear distracted by ferreting through bags in game.
The problem of facial expression not being visible at a distance is simple to solve in WoW - you only see it when targetted on someone, and then only in the small character information lozenge that displays...
Simple observation of real life behaviours do map on to game worlds, and help bring a tangibility to the social aspects of the game. It would be interesting to find a game with rich charater interaction modelled into it, and compare the rates of 'anitsocial' play with a less-rich environment. It would be nice to find out if social behavioural cues help foster greater socialisation (sociability, or 'good behaviour') in game.