Avatars Appearance Affects Player’s Perception and Behavior
Most video games these days allow players to have some customization of appearance of their character or avatar. Depending on the game, there can be a great many options to make avatars into a completely customizable versions of oneself. Different games allow a variety of personas and looks that players can take on. Studies show that the creation of the appearance of one’s avatar is linked to one’s perception of oneself as well as the perception of that avatar’s self. It also is linked to what behavioral traits one will personify through that avatar.
Players tend to create idealized versions of themselves through their avatars. When players feel they have created that idealized version of themselves, they will become more connected with the character and more immersed in the game. This connection with one’s avatar can also lead to opportunities for game-makers and marketers to influence players subconsciously to like certain products or brands by having their avatar appear with these items.
The idea of taking on the behavioral traits one perceives to match a physical appearance goes back to theory of self-perception, which basically states that our attitudes and moods are dictated by how we observe our own behavior, rather than our behavior being dictated by our attitudes and moods. Put simply, this means that if you smile, your brain perceives you as being happy, and you will find things around you more enjoyable. Contrarily, if you scowl or frown, your brain thinks you are in a foul mood, and your attitude towards the things around you will become more negative. These attitudes and moods are also effected by one’s perception of their own physical beauty.
Research has found that these tendencies of self-perception transfer over into the virtual reality of gaming through player’s avatars.
Research scientist Nick Lee has spent years studying the effects of avatar traits on their human users. In one study, Lee immersed his participants in a virtual world through a virtual reality helmet. In this world participants were given different avatars with a range of physical characteristics. While in the world, participants were asked to view themselves in a virtual mirror and afterwards converse with another avatar being controlled by the research team. What the study found was that participants would act different according to what their avatar looked like. Those with more attractive avatars would demonstrate more confident and assertive behavior in their engagement with the other avatar.