The Female Video Game Player-character Persona and Emotional Attachment

  • Jacqueline Burgess University of Sunshine Coast, Australia
  • Christian Jones University of Sunshine Coast, Australia
Keywords: video games, player-characters, gender, emotional attachment

Abstract

This research, using online qualitative survey questions, explored how players of the PlayStation 4 console game, Horizon Zero Dawn, formed emotional attachments to characters while playing as, and assuming the persona of the female player-character, Aloy. It was found that the respondents (approximately 71% male) formed emotional attachments to the female player-character (PC) and non-player characters. Players found the characters to be realistic and well developed and they also found engaging with the storyworld via the female PC a profound experience. This research advances knowledge about video games in general and video game character attachment specifically, as well as the emerging but under-researched areas of Persona Studies and Game Studies.

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Jacqueline Burgess, University of Sunshine Coast, Australia

Dr Jacqueline Burgess is an Associate Lecturer in Marketing at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia. Her research investigates narrative brands with a focus on how consumers and audiences become emotionally connected to the stories these brands tell and the resulting marketing implications. She has published her work in multiple peer-reviewed journals and conferences.

Christian Jones, University of Sunshine Coast, Australia

Dr Christian Jones is Professor of Interactive Media and the leader of the Engage Research Lab. His research focuses on human–computer interaction, interactive media, and affective computing. He leads multiple large-scale, collaborative projects and his research has been published in over 100 international, peer-reviewed conference and journal articles. His work has also been covered by various journalists in news outlets.

References

Åkerlind, GS 2012, ‘Variation and commonality in phenomenographic research methods’, Higher Education Research & Development, vol. 31, no. 1, pp. 115-127, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2011.642845

Alexander, J 2018, ‘The npc meme went viral when the media gave it oxygen but the paradox of covering the internet today is that sometimes you have to’, The Verge, retrieved 28 October 2020, ˂https://www.theverge.com/2018/10/23/17991274/npc-meme-4chan-press-coverage-viral˃

Alpert, F 2007, ‘Entertainment software: suddenly huge, little understood’, Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 87-100, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/13555850710720920

Apperley, TH & Clemens, J 2017, ‘Flipping out: avatars and identity’, in J Gackenbach & J Bown (eds), Boundaries of self and identity online: implications of digitally constructed realities, Academic Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, pp. 41-56.

Aarseth, E 2006, ‘Genre trouble: narrativism and the art of simulation’, in N Wardrip-Fruin & P Harrigan (ed.), First person: new media as story, performance, and game, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, pp. 45-55.

Banks, J & Bowman, ND 2016, ‘Avatars are (sometimes) people too: linguistic indicators of parasocial and social ties in player–avatar relationships’, New Media & Society, vol. 18, no. 7, pp. 1257-1276, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444814554898

Bessière, K, Seay, AF, & Kiesler, S 2007, ‘The ideal elf: exploration in World of Warcraft’, CyberPsychology & Behavior, vol. 10, no. 4, pp. 530-535, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1089/cpb.2007.9994

Bopp, JA, Müller, LJ, Aeshbach, LF, Opwis, K & Mekler, ED 2019, ‘October, Exploring emotional attachment to game characters’, CHI PLAY '19: Proceedings of the Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play, pp. 313-324, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3311350.3347169

Bowman, N, 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 massively multiplayer online role-playing games’, Cyberpsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, vol. 15, no. 3, pp. 169-174, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2011.0311

Braun, V & Clarke, V 2006, ‘Using thematic analysis in psychology,’ Qualitative Research in Psychology, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 77-101, DOI: 10.1191/1478088706qp063oa

Brand, JE, Jervis, J, Huggins, PM & Wilson, TW 2019, ‘The power of games: digital Australia 2020’, Interactive Games & Entertainment Association, retrieved 28 October 2020, ˂https://igea.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/DA20-Report-FINAL-Aug19.pdf˃

Burgess, J & Jones, C 2020, ‘“I harbour strong feelings for Tali despite her being a fictional character”: investigating videogame players’ emotional attachments to non-player characters’, Game Studies, vol. 20, no. 1, retrieved 10 March 2020, http://gamestudies.org/2001/articles/burgessjones

Cohen, J 2001, ‘Defining identification: a theoretical look at the identification of audiences with media characters’, Mass Communication and Society, vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 245-264, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327825MCS0403_01

Condis, M 2015, ‘No homosexuals in Star Wars? BioWare, ‘gamer’ identity, and the politics of privilege in a convergence culture’, Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 198–212, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1354856514527205

Coulson, M, Barnett, J & Ferguson, C 2012, ‘Real feelings for virtual people: emotional attachments and interpersonal attraction in video games’, Psychology of Popular Media Culture, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 176-184, DOI: http://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/a0028192

Creswell, JW & Miller, EL 2000, ‘Determining validity in qualitative inquiry’, Theory Into Practice, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 124-130, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1207/s15430421tip3903_2

Daviault, C 2012, ‘Does game playing experience have an impact on the player–PNPC relationship?’, Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, vol. 32, no. 6, pp. 441-446, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0270467612469075

Egenfeldt-Nielsen, S, Smith, JH & Tosca, SP 2008, Understanding video games: the essential introduction, Routledge, New York, NY.

Farokhmanesh, M 2015, ‘Horizon Zero Dawn aims to fill the open-world gap between GTA and Skyrim,’ Polygon, 24 June 2015, retrieved 7 March 2020, https://www.polygon.com/2015/6/24/8834897/horizon-zero-dawn-e3-2015-preview-gta-skyrim

Haggis, M 2016, ‘Creator’s discussion of the growing focus on, and potential of, storytelling in video game design, Persona Studies, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 20-26, retrieved 4 May 2020, https://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=968161944145873;res=IELHSS

Hanus, MD, & Dickinson, TM 2018, ‘The (faulty) assumption that male players prefer male characters: how character desirability and likability influence video game purchase intentions and enjoyment’, Psychology of Popular Media Culture, vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 395-401, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ppm0000191

Hood, V 2019, ‘Horizon Zero Dawn 2: everything we know about the rumored Horizon sequel’, TechRadar, 9 July 2019, retrieved 7 March 2020, https://www.techradar.com/au/news/horizon-zero-dawn-2-everything-we-know-about-the-rumored-horizon-sequel

Huang, L-Y & Yeh, Y 2016, ‘Mediated enactive experience versus perceived mastery experience: an enhancing mechanism versus a mediator of character attachment and internal political efficacy in serious games’, Computers in Human Behaviour, vol. 55, no. Part B, pp. 1085-1096, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2015.10.029

Jean, M 2019, ‘The complexities of being a female gamer’, Medium, 5 June 2019, retrieved 7 March 2020, https://medium.com/swlh/the-complexities-of-being-a-female-gamer-3bc8a1d762f4

Jenkins, H 2012, Textual poachers: television fans and participatory culture, Updated Twentieth Anniversary Edition, Routledge, New York, NY.

Jørgensen, K 2010, ‘Game characters as narrative devices. A comparative analysis of Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect 2’, Eludamos: Journal for Computer Game Culture, vol. 4, no.2, pp. 315-331, DOI: http://www.eludamos.org/eludamos/index.php/eludamos/article/view/vol4no2-13/192

Juul, J 2013, The art of failure: an essay on the pain of playing video games, The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.

Klimmt, C, Hefner, D & Vorderer, P 2009, ‘The video game experience as “true” identification: a theory of enjoyable alterations of players' self-perception’, Communication Theory, vol. 19, no. 4, pp. 351-373, DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2885.2009.01347.x

Lankoski, P 2012, ‘Computer games and emotion’, in J Sageng, H Fossheim & T Mandt Larsen (eds), The philosophy of computer games, Philosophy of Engineering and Technology, vol 7, pp. 39-55, Springer, Dordrecht, Netherlands.

Lewis, ML, Weber, R & Bowman, ND 2008, ‘They may be pixels, but they’re MY Pixels: developing a metric of character attachment in role-playing video games’, CyberPsychology and Behavior, vol. 11, no. 4, pp. 515-518, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1089/cpb.2007.0137

Lynch, T, Tompkins, JE, van Driel, II & Fritz, N 2016, ‘Sexy, strong, and secondary: a content analysis of female characters in video games across 31 years’, Journal of Communication, vol. 66, no.4, pp. 564-584, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/jcom.12237

MacCallum-Stewart, E & Trammell, A 2018, ‘Role-playing games as subculture and fandom’, in J Zagal & S Deterding (eds), Role-Playing Game Studies: A Transmedia Approach, ch 21, Routledge, New York, NY.

Makuch, E 2013, ‘Mass Effect 3 players prefer male Shepard’, Gamespot, 23 March 2013, retrieved 7 December 2019, https://www.gamespot.com/articles/mass-effect-3-players-prefer-male-shepard/1100-6405842/

Mallon, B & Lynch, R 2014, ‘Stimulating psychological attachments in narrative games: engaging players with game characters’, Simulation & Gaming, vol. 45, no. 4-5, pp. 508-52, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1046878114553572

Marshall, PD & Barbour, K 2015, ‘Making intellectual room for Persona Studies: a new consciousness and a shifted perspective’, Persona Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, 1-12, retrieved 4 May 2020, https://ojs.deakin.edu.au/index.php/ps/article/view/464

Marshall, PD, Moore, C & Barbour, K 2020, Persona Studies: An Introduction. New York: Wiley.

McCosker, H, Barnard, A & Gerber, R 2004, ‘Phenomenographic Study of Women's Experiences of Domestic Violence During the Childbearing Years’, Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 1-16, retrieved 4 May 2020, https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Phenomenographic-study-of-women's-experiences-of-McCosker-Barnard/59c4ef3794f1639b7dfed889dddd8c9659ce87d4

McCullough, KM, Wong, YJ & Stevenson, NJ 2020, ‘Female video game players and the protective effect of feminist identity against internalized misogyny’, Sex Roles, vol. 82, pp. 266-276, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-019-01055-7

Milik, O 2017, Persona in MMO games: constructing an identity through complex player/character relationships’, Persona Studies, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 66-79, DOI: https://doi.org/10.21153/ps2017vol3no2art672

Mittell, J 2015, Complex tv: the poetics of contemporary television storytelling, New York University Press, New York, NY.

Moore, C 2011, ‘Hats of affect: a study of affect, achievements and hats in Team Fortress 2’, Game Studies, vol. 11, no. 1, retrieved 7 May 2020, http://gamestudies.org/1101/articles/moore

Moore, C, Barbour, K & Lee, K 2017, ‘Five Dimensions of Online Persona’, Persona Studies, vol. 3, no. 1, retrieved 4 February 2021 https://ojs.deakin.edu.au/index.php/ps/article/view/658/616

Near, CE 2013, ‘Selling gender: associations of box art representation of female characters with sales for teen- and mature-rated video games. Sex Roles, vol. 68, pp. 252-269, DOI: 10.1007/s11199-012-0231-6

Newman, J 2013, Videogames, 2nd edition, Routledge, Abingdon, UK.

Newzoo, 2019, ‘Newzoo global games market report 2019: light version,’ Newzoo, retrieved 28 January 2020, https://newzoo.com/insights/trend-reports/newzoo-global-games-market-report-2019-light-version/

Nichols, R 2014, The Video Game Business, Palgrave MacMillan, Basingstoke, UK.

Peterson, A 2015, ‘Sony worried it was ‘risky’ to put a female hero at the heart of a big new game’, The Washington Post, 20 June 2015, retrieved 30 October 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2015/06/19/sony-worried-it-was-risky-to-put-a-female-hero-at-the-heart-of-a-big-new-game/

Petit, C 2016, ‘Gender breakdown of games showcased at E3 2016’, Feminist Frequency, 17 June 2016, retrieved 4 May 2020, https://feministfrequency.com/2016/06/17/gender-breakdown-of-games-showcased-at-e3-2016/

Proctor, W 2013, '"Holy crap! More Star Wars? More Star Wars? What if they're crap?" Disney, Lucasfilm and online Star Wars fandom in the 21st Century', Participations: Journal of Audience and Reception Studies, vol. 10 no. 1, pp. 198-224, retrieved 28 October 2020, https://www.participations.org/Volume%2010/Issue%201/12%20Proctor%2010.1.pdf

Reid, E & Duffy, K 2018, ‘A netnographic sensibility: developing the netnographic/social listening boundaries’, Journal of Marketing Management, vol. 34, no. 3-4, pp. 263-286, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/0267257X.2018.1450282

Schwabach, A 2011, Fan fiction and copyright: outsider works and intellectual property protection, Ashgate Publishing, Farnham, UK.

Teng, C-I 2017, ‘Impact of avatar identification on online gamer loyalty: perspectives of social identity and social capital theories’, International Journal of Information Management, vol. 37, no .6, pp. 601-610, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2017.06.006

Totilo, S 2019, ‘Assassin's Creed Odyssey developers say breaking series traditions made for a better game’, Kotaku, 21 June 2019, retrieved 7 May 2020, https://www.kotaku.com.au/2019/06/assassins-creed-odyssey-developers-say-breaking-series-traditions-made-for-a-better-game/

Ubaldi, S 2017, ‘The future (of gaming) is female: a look at the rise and power of female characters’, Junkee, 14 March 2017, 7 May 2020 retrieved, https://junkee.com/future-gaming-female-look-rise-power-female-characters/98258

Van Looey, J, Courtois, C, De Vocht, M & De Marez, L 2012, ‘Player identification in online games: validation of a scale for measuring identification in MMOGs’, Media Psychology, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 197-221, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/15213269.2012.674917

Vermeulen, L, Castellar, EN, Janssen, D, Calvi, L & Van Looy, J 2016, ‘Playing under threat: examining stereotype threat in female game players’, Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 57, April, pp. 377-387, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2015.12.042

Waern, A 2015, ‘I’m in love with someone that doesn’t exist!’ Bleed in the context of a computer game’, in J Enevold & E MacCallum-Stewart (eds), Game love, (pp. 25-45), McFarland, Jefferson, NC.

Williams, D, Martins, N, Consalvo, M & Ivory, JD 2009, ‘The virtual census: representations of gender, race and age in video games’, New Media & Society, vol. 11, no. 5, pp. 815-834, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444809105354

Williams, R 2015, Post-object fandom television, identity and self-narrative, Bloomsbury Academic, New York, NY.

Williams, H 2019, ‘How Horizon Zero Dawn moves beyond the strong female character,” Kotaku, 8 March 2019, retrieved 6 December 2019, https://www.kotaku.com.au/2017/03/how-horizon-zero-dawn-moves-beyond-the-strong-female-character/

Wu, S-U & Hsu, C-P 2018, ‘Role of authenticity in massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs): determinants of virtual item purchase intention’, Journal of Business Research, vol. 92, pp. 242-249, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2018.07.035

Published
2021-03-16
How to Cite
Burgess, J., & Jones, C. (2021). The Female Video Game Player-character Persona and Emotional Attachment. Persona Studies, 6(2), 7-21. https://doi.org/10.21153/psj2020vol6no2art963
Section
Themed Articles