As principal links between players and many gameworlds, avatars are of central importance in understanding human behavior and communication in play. In particular, the connection between player and avatar is understood as influencing a range of cognitive, affective, and behavioral play phenomena. Divergent approaches examine this connection from both parasocial (one-way, non-dialectical) and social (two-way, dialectical) perspectives. This study examined how player–avatar connections may be better understood by integrating an existing parasocial approach (character attachment [CA]) with a social approach (player–avatar relationships [PARs]). A quantitative linguistic analysis of massively multiplayer online game (MMO) player interviews revealed statistically robust associations among language patterns, dimensions of CA, and PAR types. Validating and extending prior research, findings highlight the importance of self-differentiation and anthropomorphization in suspending disbelief so that the avatar may be taken as a fully social agent.
- character attachment
- massively multiplayer online game
- suspension of disbelief
- video game