As immersive digital environments increasingly facilitate social, professional, and playful human interactions, avatars are central to facilitating communication among players; concurrently, evidence points to avatars' distinct agencies. Synthesizing these perspectives, this article proposes and tests a relational matrix model of interactions in massively multiplayer online games (MMOs), characterizing interactions traditionally considered dyadic (between two players) instead as tetradic (among two players and their respective avatars). The results from a survey of gamers (N = 220) support the proposed model, demonstrating perceptions of social agency (via explicit and implicit anthropomorphism and electronic propinquity) that are significantly different among the four agents in the matrix. Findings are discussed with respect to further development and implementation of the model and the nature of human-avatar interactions.
- Social agent
- Social presence