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The Effects of Avatar-Based Customization on Player Identification

Selen Turkay and Charles K. Kinzer
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Selen Turkay: Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
Charles K. Kinzer: Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA

International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations (IJGCMS), 2014, vol. 6, issue 1, 1-25

Abstract: Games allow players to perceive themselves in alternate ways in imagined worlds. Player identification is one of the outcomes of gameplay experiences in these worlds and has been shown to affect enjoyment and reduce self-discrepancy. Avatar-based customization has potential to impact player identification by shaping the relationship between the player and the character. This mixed method study aims to fill the gap in the identification literature by examining the effects of avatar-based customization on players' identification with and empathy towards their characters in a massively multiplayer online game, Lord of the Rings Online (LotRO). Participants (N = 66) played LotRO either in customization or in no-customization groups for about ten hours in four sessions over two weeks in a controlled lab setting. Data were collected through interviews, surveys and observations. Results showed both time and avatar-based customization positively impacted players' identification with their avatars. Self-Determination Theory is used to interpret results.

Date: 2014
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