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Avatar Idealization in Video Games
Hannah Pruse
Committee: Sarah Douglas (chair), Hank Childs, Sara Hodges, Michal Young
Directed Research Project(Sep 2015)
Keywords: Video games; identity; personality; avatars

Video games give players the freedom to become another character with a different physical appearance and personality when in a virtual world. Do gamers choose a character they find similar to themselves or their ideal selves? Do identity and personality factors like gender and self-esteem affect this choice? We surveyed 570 players of the popular first-person shooter game Team Fortress 2 on demographics and game preferences, and asked them to describe their actual self, their ideal self, and their chosen avatar with a set list of adjectives. We analyzed the responses using the concept of self/other overlap, a methodology that is different and more sophisticated than the Big Five Inventory. We found that players tend to choose idealized characters, and that esteem and gender influence character choice, motivations and preferences in games. Our results on gender agree with similar studies, and we present new findings regarding self-esteem in gamers.