Players and Avatars: The Connections between Player Personality, Avatar Personality, and Behavior in Video Games
The increasing variety and complexity of video games allows players to choose how to behave and represent themselves within these virtual environments. The focus of this dissertation was to examine the connections between the personality traits (specifically, HEXACO traits and psychopathic traits) of video game players and player-created and controlled game-characters (i.e., avatars), and the link between traits and behavior in video games. In Study 1 (n = 198), the connections between player personality traits and behavior in a Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (World of Warcraft) were examined. Six behavior components were found (i.e., Player-versus-Player, Social Player-versus-Environment, Working, Helping, Immersion, and Core Content), and each was related to relevant personality traits. For example, Player-versus-Player behaviors were negatively related to Honesty-Humility and positively related to psychopathic traits, and Immersion behaviors (i.e., exploring, role-playing) were positively related to Openness to Experience. In Study 2 (n = 219), the connections between player personality traits and in-game behavior in video games were examined in university students. Four behavior components were found (i.e., Aggressing, Winning, Creating, and Helping), and each was related to at least one personality trait. For example, Aggressing was negatively related to Honesty-Humility and positively related to psychopathic traits. In Study 3 (n = 90), the connections between player personality traits and avatar personality traits were examined in World of Warcraft. Positive player-avatar correlations were observed for all personality traits except Extraversion. Significant mean differences between players and avatars were observed for all traits except Conscientiousness; avatars had higher mean scores on Extraversion and psychopathic traits, but lower mean scores on the remaining traits. In Study 4, the connections between player personality traits, avatar traits, and observed behaviors in a life-simulation video game (The Sims 3) were examined in university students (n = 93). Participants created two avatars and used these avatars to play The Sims 3. Results showed that the selection of certain avatar traits was related to relevant player personality traits (e.g., participants who chose the Friendly avatar trait were higher in Honesty-Humility, Emotionality, and Agreeableness, and lower in psychopathic traits). Selection of certain character-interaction behaviors was related to relevant player personality traits (e.g., participants with higher levels of psychopathic traits used more Mean and fewer Friendly interactions). Together, the results of the four studies suggest that individuals generally behave and represent themselves in video games in ways that are consistent with their real-world tendencies.