Deconstructing the Monolith: The subjective Experience of avatar use in gamers


A group of Researchers from the MMU Department of Psychology are recruiting participants for an interview study looking at the way gamers interact with video game avatars that resemble themselves.

Digital self-representations entered the mainstream with the release of the Wii in 2006. Consumers were able to quickly create quirky avatars that resembled them and then use these as in game characters. The success of this feature prompted many other developers to include digital self-representations in their products.

A number of studies have reported that the virtual self-representations (or doppelgängers), particularly in exercise games, may influence behaviour change (Fox & Bailenson (2009), Benjamin J Li, Lwin, & Jung (2014), Benjamin J. Li & Lwin (2016), Yee (2007)).

However, these studies generally used objective measures and bypassed actually asking gamers about their experiences, and the results informed health interventions that were developed for ‘Gamers’ (with a capital-G)

(Orji, Mandryk, Vassileva, & Gerling, 2013).

One of the objectives of the interviews is to address the tendency of researchers to treat the population of gamers as a ‘monolithic’ and ensure that future attempts at video-game based health interventions are based on theory that accounts for the diversity of gamers.

By interviewing gamers, we hope to approach the actual experience of interacting with an avatar with a shared likeness and determine whether and how this relates to beliefs surrounding body image, exercise, and healthy eating.

The study forms part of a larger project looking at ways to promote healthy practices using current video game technology and 3D body scanning methods.

The study will involve generating a self-similar avatar with an Xbox One Kinect system and using it to play some body-movement controlled games. There will also be some interview questions surrounding video game choices, avatar use, health and body image before and after.

If you think you would like to participate in this study, we would love to hear from you. The researchers are looking for anyone from any background who has experience with video games or avatar customization software. Examples include Second Life, Nintendo Mii characters, and Skyrim or Fallout characters. Please contact Oliver Clark at  for more details.

Oliver Clark



Fox, J., & Bailenson, J. N. (2009). Virtual self-modeling: The effects of vicarious reinforcement and identification on exercise behaviors. Media Psychology, 12(1), 1–25.

Li, B. J., & Lwin, M. O. (2016). Player see, player do testing an exergame motivation model based on the influence of the self avatar. Computers in Human Behavior, 59, 350–357. //

Li, B. J., Lwin, M. O., & Jung, Y. (2014). Wii, myself, and size: The influence of proteus effect and stereotype threat on overweight children’s exercise motivation and behavior in exergames. GAMES FOR HEALTH:

Research, Development, and Clinical Applications, 3(1), 40–48. Orji, R., Mandryk, R. L., Vassileva, J., & Gerling, K. M. (2013). Tailoring persuasive health games to gamer type. In Proceedings of the sigchi conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 2467–2476). ACM.

Yee, N. (2007). The proteus effect: Behavioral modification via transformations of digital self-representation (PhD thesis). Stanford University.