Mechanisms of identification and social differentiation in player-avatar relations

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The connection between player and avatar is central to digital gaming, with identification assumed to be core to this connection. Often, scholarship engages single dimensions of identification, yet emerging perspectives reveal that identification is polythetic (PID) ‐ comprising at least six sufficient (but not necessary) mechanisms. The current study investigates the intersections of polythetic identification mechanisms and two different approaches to player‐avatar sociality (as a marker of differentiation): general types of player‐avatar relationships (PARs) and discrete dimensions of player‐avatar interaction (PAX). Secondary analysis of an existing dataset of gamers revealed two main findings: (1) players reported overall diminished identification when they engaged in non-social relations with their avatar, and (2) increased liking and perspective-taking were most likely with human-like social relations, which require differentiation from rather than identification as the avatar.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-73
JournalJournal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds
StatePublished - Mar 2021


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