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Jaime Banks
@amperjay
West Virginia University, USA
@wvucommstudies
#ixlab
Of beard physics and worldness:
The (non) effec...
I CAN HAZ
MOAR
POLYGONZ
PLZ?
Player-Avatar Interaction (PAX)
Object Me Symbiote Other
(Banks, 2015; Banks & Bowman, 2013, 2014, 2016)
“ ”
~45-50% ~45-5...
(Relational) anthropomorphism
• Avatar contributions (eval = self-sameness)
• Appearance – ear length, skin color, cartoon...
Research Question:
Does enhanced
avatar anthropomorphism
(of familiar avatars)
influence player-avatar relations?
Study context …
World of Warcraft, October 2014
Shape/texture enhancements
Expression/posture enhancements
Movement enhancements
Method
• Longitudinal field experiment
• Recruitment questionnaire + 3 surveys
• PAX Scale (Banks & Bowman, 2016)
Dimensio...
Participants
• Recruited through online WoW forums, FB groups
• 1 year of WoW game time (~$180) drawing
• Characteristics
...
Results …
NO.
No significant differences by Time,
Condition, or Time*Condition when
controlling for demographics and
play ...
Post-hoc thematic analysis
Thoughts on a “current event” – avatar model changes:
• Explicit anthropomorphism mentioned inf...
Model changes may result in …
• Shifts in perceptual (not social) realism
… Implicit (not explicit) anthropomorphism
… Hum...
Implications
 Academic v. lay notions of human(like)ness
 Short-term/assigned v. long-term/familiar
 Examining games/pl...
@amperjay
jabanks@mail.wvu.edu
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Of beard physics and worldness: The (non) effect of enhanced anthropomorphism on player-avatar relations

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Advances in realistic graphics and artificial intelligence are hallmarks of evolved video games, as environments and characters are made to seem more real. Little is known, however, about whether or not character model changes may impact players’ relationships with familiar avatars, especially since anthropomorphism – the perception of nonhuman objects as being human or human-like – is understood as central to player-avatar interaction (PAX). This study leveraged a naturally occurring change to one MMO’s avatars to conduct a field quasi-experiment to investigate whether enhanced avatar anthropomorphism influences PAX dimensions: emotional investment, anthropomorphic autonomy, suspension of disbelief, and sense of control. Longitudinal analysis showed that enhanced anthropomorphism had no significant impact on any PAX dimension immediately or over time, when controlling for demographic and gameplay variables. Player comments suggest the change was experienced not as a change in humanness, but as a shift in perceptual realism – believability, lifelikeness, depth – that impacted the experience of the avatar-mediated gameworld more broadly.

Presented at the 2015 convention of the National Communication Association
Now in press at Psychology of Popular Media Culture; pre-press version can be accessed here: https://www.academia.edu/15606926/Of_Beard_Physics_and_Worldness_The_non-_Effect_of_Enhanced_Anthropomorphism_on_Player-Avatar_Relations

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Of beard physics and worldness: The (non) effect of enhanced anthropomorphism on player-avatar relations

  1. 1. Jaime Banks @amperjay West Virginia University, USA @wvucommstudies #ixlab Of beard physics and worldness: The (non) effect of enhanced anthropomorphism on player-avatar relations
  2. 2. I CAN HAZ MOAR POLYGONZ PLZ?
  3. 3. Player-Avatar Interaction (PAX) Object Me Symbiote Other (Banks, 2015; Banks & Bowman, 2013, 2014, 2016) “ ” ~45-50% ~45-50% ~5-10% ~5-10%
  4. 4. (Relational) anthropomorphism • Avatar contributions (eval = self-sameness) • Appearance – ear length, skin color, cartoonishness, organic curves • Behaviors – expressions, gaits, gaze, autonomy • Other qualities – genderedness, speech, social norm adherence • Player contributions (eval = phenomenal response) • Process of rationalization by superimposing human frames • Schema activation and inference • Cognitive biases against non-human agencies/subjectivities
  5. 5. Research Question: Does enhanced avatar anthropomorphism (of familiar avatars) influence player-avatar relations?
  6. 6. Study context … World of Warcraft, October 2014
  7. 7. Shape/texture enhancements
  8. 8. Expression/posture enhancements
  9. 9. Movement enhancements
  10. 10. Method • Longitudinal field experiment • Recruitment questionnaire + 3 surveys • PAX Scale (Banks & Bowman, 2016) Dimension M∆ by condition over time • Survey 1 = Past, 2 = Present (model changes), 3 = Future • Identify favorite avatar • Naturally occurring conditions • Old avatars (low anthro, unchanged): Blood Elves (~21%) • Modern avatars (high anthro, unchanged): Pandaren, Worgen Goblins (~12%) • Upgraded avatars (low anthro, changed to high anthro): Draenei, Dwarf, Gnome, Human, Night Elf, Orc, Tauren, Troll, Undead (~67%)
  11. 11. Participants • Recruited through online WoW forums, FB groups • 1 year of WoW game time (~$180) drawing • Characteristics • ~81% male (n = 247) • ~79% Caucasian (n = 240) • WoW tenure ≈ 7 years • Avatar tenure ≈ 4.5 years, M = ~63% of playtime • Attrition • Recruitment Questionnaire, 3-5 weeks prior, N = 857 • Survey #1, 2 weeks prior, N = 491 (43% attrition) • Survey #2, 1 week after, N = 370 (25% attrition) • Survey #3, 3 weeks after, N = 305 (18% attrition)
  12. 12. Results … NO. No significant differences by Time, Condition, or Time*Condition when controlling for demographics and play habits.
  13. 13. Post-hoc thematic analysis Thoughts on a “current event” – avatar model changes: • Explicit anthropomorphism mentioned infrequently • Implicit anthropomorphism  “more believable” • Cleaner, more fluid, lifelike, believable, closer to reality • Depth and energy > Literal animacy • Nostalgic concern for the ‘soul’ of the avatar ………………………. • Tension: Game needs v. Avatar changes • Modernization necessary to survive, but jarring • Linked to changes in gameworld feel ……………………… • (Dis)satisfaction with discrete features • Love: beard physics, hair styles, curves • Hate: feet, perma-grin, run animations, skin tones ……………
  14. 14. Model changes may result in … • Shifts in perceptual (not social) realism … Implicit (not explicit) anthropomorphism … Human-likeness (not humanness) … PAX operationalizes AA as explicit anthro • Shifts in worldness, not relations … Interplays: world aesthetics, combat dynamics, expressive potentials, social interactions … Systemic phenomenological change
  15. 15. Implications  Academic v. lay notions of human(like)ness  Short-term/assigned v. long-term/familiar  Examining games/play/avatars as systems • Discrete effects of perceptual/social realism • Interplays of explicit/implicit anthropomorphism • Themes: souls, benefit tensions, av parts/whole • Phenomenology of (relational) anthropomorphism Future Research
  16. 16. @amperjay jabanks@mail.wvu.edu

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