WVU researchers post survey seeking input on video game character avatars

    
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I suspect that most MMO players, especially the sort who hang out on forums and blogs and care deeply about the games they play, consider their characters and in-game representations to be pretty important. I bet most of us are guilty of dumping plenty of time and money on cosmetics too.

So maybe this study will be of interest to you: Researchers at West Virginia University are conducting a study on “how videogame players think and feel about videogame avatars” with the aim of creating “an exhibit to highlight patterns in these experiences.” And yes, they’re hunting for survey participants to fill out a form about their characters.

Aside from the knowledge that you’re contributing to Legit Science™ on video games, there may be something in it for you: All participants are entered in a $100 Amazon card drawing. Make your survey answers really good and you may be picked for a longer second survey and a $10 card. Yes, you can use a pseudonym for the study.

All for talking about your video game toons. Not too shabby.

Source: WVU via @JamieMadigan
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bowmanspartan

Sorry to join in so late! I was one of the researchers for this project, and I’m happy to answer questions (I’ll respond to a few, below).

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Hikari Kenzaki

So, I was selected for one of a 100 for this. Was anyone else?

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bowmanspartan

We hope so! We sent out quite a few follow-up email replies, but we’re still waiting on quite a few folks to get back to us. =)

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Hikari Kenzaki

Thank you for following up here. Hopefully you’ll hear back from everyone you need to. I had fun sharing my (admittedly long) story.

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anarres

You’re not pseudonymous if you give your Amazon info.

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bowmanspartan

No Amazon.com info is needed to issue a gift card. We only submit the gift card to whichever email address that a person gives us. In that sense, we only need a valid email address. Understand that we have to engage in a number of privacy protections per our own internal review board … as well as our own ethics. =)

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socontrariwise

That was fairly interesting. Never thought about how much I feel I am my avatar or make my avatar an independent person. Oddly enough I realized that I switch between “I” perspective when describing the avatar and “external person description” perspective. I was not aware of that, it feels mostly like a symbiosis between two entities that merge and separate constantly.

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bowmanspartan

Glad to hear you dug it! The study is still ongoing, but it’s based on years of our own research into player-avatar relationships. A small sampling of that work:https://communicationstudies.wvu.edu/students/interaction-lab/player-avatar-interaction-scale

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Utakata

Wait…you know these pigtails are real, right? It’s Science™! o.O

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bowmanspartan

=)

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Sally Bowls

Before we yet again attack those gamers, logic is not universal amongst non-gamers.

I remember some of the research around Microsoft Bob was that people tend to rate software higher when the software is asking about its performance than if a third party asks about it.

Amongst the latest is
https://www.theverge.com/2018/8/2/17642868/robots-turn-off-beg-not-to-empathy-media-equation

In roughly half of experiments, the robot protested, telling participants it was afraid of the dark and even begging: “No! Please do not switch me off!” When this happened, the human volunteers were likely to refuse to turn the bot off. … But the most common response was simply that the robot said it didn’t want to be switched off, so who were they to disagree?

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Ian Wells

Are we sure that isn’t a line from a Douglas Adams novel?

Serrenity
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Serrenity

Hrm, this makes me think of my Masters thesis, but I wrote from a psycho-analytical perspective and the definition/understanding of self as you log in / out of characters. With a dash of Foucault, Burke, and a few others :-)

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bowmanspartan

Love to read more of it, if you’d like to share? Some of what you’re talking about really does work its way into our work. Some more details: https://communicationstudies.wvu.edu/students/interaction-lab/player-avatar-interaction-scale

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

Makes me interested to know what they are REALLY studying.

Doesn’t have to be malicious just they may be looking at something they don’t tell you about as it would skew results.

Darn researchers are sneaky sometimes.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

I guess it could be about cross-gender playing without really saying so. Though it could be straight up what it claims as well :D Especially if it’s partially for a Public Exhibit.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

That was my thought as well. The understanding that one gender might lend itself to describing characters memories in a certain way or another gender.

Would be interesting to see what they are gunning for.

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bowmanspartan

To be sure, we’re not “gunning” for anything on this one — rather, it’s a descriptive and largely exploratory study designed to chart the waters of the many different ways in which folks engage avatars. I would go so far as to say that any researcher who goes into a study with the results already in their mind is doing it wrong. =(

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bowmanspartan

For this study, there isn’t any hidden agenda or manipulation — but I know what you’re talking about: when we do lab experiments, we often “hide” the main manipulation because we don’t want to skew results. But for most surveys like this one, the research is purely descriptive. Happy to answer more, if you’d like!