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Player-Avatar Interaction (PAX) Scale

The Player-Avatar Interaction (PAX) scale was developed to extend existing parasocial/media perspectives on MMO player-avatar relations by addressing factors characterizing non-social, parasocial, and fully social relations. Specifically, the PAX metric integrates two social relationship factors and two interactive media features: a) emotional investment in the avatar (a sense of caring and appreciation), b) anthropomorphic autonomy (the degree to which the avatar is seen as existing independently in a fashion similar to humans), c) suspension of disbelief (engaging the avatar and its world as real), and d) sense of control (feelings of governance over the avatar).

Supplemental Scale Files

The scale validation was published in:

Banks, J., & Bowman, N. D. (2016). Emotion, anthropomorphism, realism, control: Validation of a merged metric for player-avatar interaction (PAX). Computers in Human Behavior, 54, 215-223.

Along with that publication, we have prepared:

  • A supplemental data analysis file, which includes detailed scale validation data to accompany the CHB publication here (.pdf)
  • The scale items here (.pdf)

Player-Avatar Relationship typologies

In addition to the scale above – which measures discrete qualities of the player-avatar relationship – we’ve also found four stable “typologies”:

  • Avatar as Object, in which one tends to see their avatar as a tool or a gamepiece (focused on competition and achievement)
  • Avatar as Me, in which one tends to see their avatar as an extension or representation of myself (focused on social and ritual play)
  • Avatar as Symbiote, in which one tends to see themselves and their avatar as part of each other (focused on identity work and problem-solving)
  • Avatar as Other, in which one tends to see their avatar as a separate social agent (focused on immersive experiences and escapism)

In some of our work, we’ve asked participants to classify their relationship with their avatar into one of these four categories, and asked them to elaborate on this classification via open-ended text. An interesting element of this typology is that as participant move “down” the list (from Object to Other), the player-avatar relationships becomes increasingly social. That is, one can imagine a social continuum from completely asocial and non-human (Avatar as Object) to fully social and human-like (Avatar as Other).

PAX (and related) publications

For more information about the PAX perspective, and for the authors’ work leading up to its development, please refer to the following publications (listed chronologically). For copies of these papers, please e-mail either Dr. Banks (jabanks@mail.wvu.edu) or Dr. Bowman (Nicholas.Bowman@mail.wvu.edu):

Banks, J. (in press). Of beard physics and worldness: The (non-) effect of enhanced anthropomorphism on player-avatar relations. Manuscript forthcoming in Psychology of Popular Media Culture.

Bowman, N. D., Oliver, M. B., Rogers, R., Sherrick, B. I., Woolley, J., & Chung, M-Y. (in press). “In control or in their shoes”: How character attachment differentially influences video game enjoyment and appreciation. Manuscript forthcoming in Journal of Gaming & Virtual Worlds.

Bowman, N. D., Banks, J, & Downs, E. P. (2016). The duo is in the details: Game genre differences in player-avatar relationships. Selected Papers in Internet Research, 6.

Bowman, N.D., Banks, J., & Downs, E. (2016). My pixels or my friends? Game characters as a lens for understanding user avatars in social networks. In Wiederhold, B. K., Riva, G., & Cipresso, P. (Eds.), The handbook of social networking. Versita: Germany.

Banks, J. & Bowman, N.D. (2015). From toy and tool to partner and person: Phenomenal convergence/divergence among game avatar metaphors. Selected Papers in Internet Research, 5.

Banks, J. (2015). Object, Me, Symbiote, Other: A social typology of player-avatar relationships. First Monday, 20(2). doi: 10.5210/fm.v20i2

Banks, J. & Bowman, N.D. (2015). From toy and tool to partner and person: Phenomenal convergence/divergence among game avatar metaphors. Selected Papers in Internet Research, 5.

Banks, J. & Bowman, N.D. (2014). Avatars are (sometimes) people too: Linguistic indicators of parasocial and social ties in player-avatar relationships. New Media & Society (online in advance of print). doi: 0.1177/1461444814554898

Banks, J. (2013). Human-technology relationality and Self-network organization: Players and avatars in World of Warcraft (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO. Available at: https://www.academia.edu/4528351/Human-technology_relationality_and_Self-network_organization_Players_and_avatars_in_World_of_Warcraft

Banks, J. & Bowman, N.D. (2013). Close intimate playthings? Understanding player-avatar relationships as a function of attachment, agency, and intimacy. Selected Papers in Internet Research, 3. Available at: http://spir.aoir.org/index.php/spir/article/view/689/pdf

Bowman, N. D., Schultheiss, D., Schumann, C. (2012).”I’m Attached, And I’m A Good Guy/Gal!”: How Character Attachment Influences Pro- and Anti-Social Motivations To Play MMORPGs. CyberPsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15(3), 169-174.doi: 10.1089/cyber.2011.0311

Lewis, M. L., Weber, R., & Bowman, N. D. (2008). “They May Be Pixels, But They’re MY Pixels:” Developing a metric of character attachment in role-playing video games. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 11(4), 515-518. doi:10.1089/cpb.2007.0137

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