“I am the character, the character is me”: a thematic analysis of the user-avatar relationship in videogames

Szolin, K. ORCID: 0000-0003-2494-3719, Kuss, D.J. ORCID: 0000-0001-8917-782X, Nuyens, F.M. ORCID: 0000-0002-8125-5229 and Griffiths, M.D. ORCID: 0000-0001-8880-6524, 2023. “I am the character, the character is me”: a thematic analysis of the user-avatar relationship in videogames. Computers in Human Behavior, 143: 107694. ISSN 0747-5632

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Far from merely being a tool to navigate a virtual world, individuals can often develop strong and complex relationships with their videogame characters. The present study examined the bond that can develop between a user and their avatar, as well as factors that can influence this relationship dynamic through the use of thematic analysis. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 12 videogame players from the UK and US aged between 18 and 27 years. The results identified five major themes, comprising: (i) 'heterogeneity of game worlds'; (ii) 'avatar attachment'; (iii) 'game experiences affecting physical world behaviour and attitudes'; (iv) 'types of self in a virtual world' (with the sub-themes of 'actual self', 'idealised self', and 'utopian self'); and (v) 'game difficulty affecting user-avatar relationship'. The results showed gamers use their avatars as a means to insert a virtual version of themselves into the videogame or to attain a desired version of the self, sometimes including elements of fantasy. In addition, participants indicated that games with an advanced difficulty and avatar customisation appeared to facilitate stronger bonds to a character. Finally, several avenues of future research are discussed, in particular pertaining to the advancement of research relating to the Proteus effect.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Computers in Human Behavior
Creators: Szolin, K., Kuss, D.J., Nuyens, F.M. and Griffiths, M.D.
Publisher: Elsevier BV
Date: June 2023
Volume: 143
ISSN: 0747-5632
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Laura Ward
Date Added: 16 Feb 2023 11:50
Last Modified: 02 Feb 2024 03:04
URI: https://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/48316

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