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Emotion, anthropomorphism, realism, control: Validation of a merged metric for player-avatar interaction (PAX)


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This paper proposes a validated 15-item scale that merges theoretically divergent perspectives on player-avatar relations in extant literature (parasociality as psychological merging and sociality as psychological divergence) into a single instrument that measures player-avatar interaction (PAX). PAX is defined as the perceived social and functional association between an MMO player and game avatar, inclusive of four factors: emotional investment, anthropomorphic autonomy, suspension of disbelief, and sense of player control. These four factors were stable across two large multi-game (N = 494) and game-specific player samples (N = 458), in both exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses. Construct validity tests show scale dimensions have expected significant relationships with a sense of human-like relatedness and player-avatar relationship features, and predictive validity tests indicate theoretically likely and relevant factor associations with gameplay motivations and MMO genres.

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Emotion, anthropomorphism, realism, control: Validation of a merged metric for player-avatar interaction (PAX)

  1. 1. Jaime Banks ~ @amperjay Nicholas David Bowman ~ @bowmanspartan West Virginia University, USA ~ @wvucommstudies #ixlab Validation of a merged metric for Player-Avatar Interaction (PAX)
  2. 2. (the next chapter)
  3. 3. Avatar = • Graphical user representations • Carriers of meaning/agency • Mediators of phenomenal gameplay
  4. 4.
  5. 5. • Psychological Merging • Dimensions • Identification • Suspension of Disbelief • Sense of Control • Sense of care/responsibility • Associated with play motivations, pro/antisocial tendencies, enjoyment/appreciation Lewis, Weber, & Bowman (2008) Bowman, Schultheiss, & Schumann (2012) Bowman, Rogers, & Sherrick (2013)
  6. 6. Object Me Symbiote Other Banks (2013, 2015)
  7. 7. • Theoretically divergent • Conceptual overlaps: agency, emotion • Predictive/associative value • Narrative involvement • Prosocial/cooperative play • Appreciation
  8. 8. Avatar as Object Avatar as Me Avatar as Symbiote Avatar as Social Other Identification Low High Mid Low Suspension of disbelief Low Mid Mid High Sense of Control High Mid Mid Low Sense of care/ responsibility Low Mid Mid High Banks & Bowman (2013)
  9. 9. Para-social Social Banks & Bowman (2014)
  10. 10. • RQ1: Can exploratory and linguistics-based indicators of player-avatar relationships be translated to a meaningful survey instrument to measure perceived PAR sociality? • RQ2: Are dimensions of PAR sociality and CA empirically distinct? • RQ3: Can PAR sociality and CA dimensions be synthesized into an instrument with (a) predictive and (b) convergent validity? • Online surveys • 95 questions from exploratory/follow-up work + CA Scale + construct validity measures + PAR type • Sociality scale + CA embedded in larger study • Sample • Multi-game, international (N = 494, initial subsample n = 176) • WoW only, international (N = 458) • Recruited via Reddit/Blizzard forums
  11. 11. Character Attachment • Identification (pretending, being, affinity) • Suspension of disbelief (error, plausibility) • Control (‘obedience,’ frustration) • Care/responsibility (wants, needs, interests) PAR Sociality • Anthro. autonomy (thoughts, feelings, life) • Emotional investment (love, appreciation, loss) • Companionship (friends, understanding, reciprocation)
  12. 12. (18-item, penultimate, multi-game sample)
  13. 13. (15-item, final, WoW sample)
  14. 14. NNFI (Tucker-Lewis index) = .978 IFI = .983 CFI = .982 RMSEA = .046 Correlations shown are significant at the p < .001 level or greater.
  15. 15. • Emotional Investment • This avatar is very special to me. • I appreciate this avatar. • I would be heartbroken if I lost this avatar. • I love this avatar. • (R) I don’t really care about this avatar. • (R) I have no emotional connection to this avatar. • Player Control • This avatar does what I want. • I control this avatar. • Avatar Autonomy • When I log out of the game, this avatar has its own life. • This avatar has its own feelings. • This avatar has its own thoughts and ideas. • Suspension of Disbelief • I concentrate on inconsistencies in this avatar's story and the game story. • It is important to check for inconsistencies in this avatar's game. • I pay attention to errors or contradictions in this avatar's world.
  16. 16. • Human-like relatedness
  17. 17. • PAR type
  18. 18. • Motivations for play - social
  19. 19. • Motivations for play - immersion
  20. 20. • MMO genre preference
  21. 21. Object Me Symbiote Other
  22. 22. • I sometimes forget my own feelings and take on those of my character. • I enjoy pretending my character is a real person. • I consider my character a friend of mine. • I enjoy pretending I am my character. • I could see myself being attracted to my character. • I daydream about my character.
  23. 23. • Shifts in anthropomorphism  PAX • “Me versus We” in serious games • Variations in character identification among dimensions • Moral decision-making (self v. other) • Symbiotes … unpack those buggers