In 2008, Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace published a study that examined the relationship between players of MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) and their characters in the game. MMORPGs have become an extremely popular genre of games, with games such as World of Warcraft having over ten million subscribers.
The study surveyed 532 players of MMORPGs using an online questionnaire. The questionnaire was designed to assess the relationship between the players and their avatar, such as the emotional relationship to their character, identification of the player with their avatar, and whether the respondent day-dreamed about his or her avatar.
According to Lukas Blinka, the author of this study,
“The data obtained in our survey show that it is younger players who tend to identify with (i.e. not to distinguish from) their avatars, while the younger the respondents were, the stronger the phenomenon.”
He also found that men were more likely than women to create a character of the opposite sex:
“96% women play a character of the female sex, while only 77% men play a character of the male sex. It may thus be said that most feminine avatars in the game are controlled by men (due to a very low women’s participation in the game).”
Blinka, L. (2008). The Relationship of Players to Their Avatars in MMORPGs: Differences between Adolescents, Emerging Adults and Adults. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 2(1), article 5. Full text: http://cyberpsychology.eu/view.php?cisloclanku=2008060901&article=5