Avatars are (sometimes) people too: Linguistic indicators of parasocial and social ties in player–avatar relationships

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


As principal links between players and many gameworlds, avatars are of central importance in understanding human behavior and communication in play. In particular, the connection between player and avatar is understood as influencing a range of cognitive, affective, and behavioral play phenomena. Divergent approaches examine this connection from both parasocial (one-way, non-dialectical) and social (two-way, dialectical) perspectives. This study examined how player–avatar connections may be better understood by integrating an existing parasocial approach (character attachment [CA]) with a social approach (player–avatar relationships [PARs]). A quantitative linguistic analysis of massively multiplayer online game (MMO) player interviews revealed statistically robust associations among language patterns, dimensions of CA, and PAR types. Validating and extending prior research, findings highlight the importance of self-differentiation and anthropomorphization in suspending disbelief so that the avatar may be taken as a fully social agent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1257-1276
Number of pages20
JournalNew Media and Society
Issue number7
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Anthropomorphism
  • avatar
  • character attachment
  • massively multiplayer online game
  • parasocial
  • relationship
  • social
  • suspension of disbelief
  • video game

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science


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