Digital games incorporate systems that allow players to customise and develop their controllable in-game representative (avatar) over the course of a game. Avatar customisation systems represent a point at which the goals and values of players interface with the intentions of the game developer forming a dynamic and complex relationship between system and user. With the proliferation of customisable avatars through digital games and the ongoing monetisation of customisation options through digital content delivery platforms it is important to understand the relationship between player and avatar in order to provide a better user experience and to develop an understanding of the cultural impact of the avatar.
Previous research on avatar customisation has focused on the users of virtual worlds and massively multiplayer games, leaving single-player avatar experiences. These past studies have also typically focused on one particular aspect of avatar customisation and those that have looked at all factors involved in avatar customisation have done so with a very small sample. This research has aimed to address this gap in the literature by focusing primarily on avatar customisation features in single-player games, aiming to investigate the relationship between player and customisation systems from the perspective of the players of digital games.
To fulfill the research aims and objectives, the qualitative approach of interpretative phenomenological analysis was adopted. Thirty participants were recruited using snowball and purposive sampling (the criteria being that participants had played games featuring customisable avatars) and accounts of their experiences were gathered through semi-structured interviews. Through this research, strategies of avatar customisation were explored in order to demonstrate how people use such systems. The shortcomings in game mechanics and user interfaces were highlighted so that future games can improve the avatar customisation experience.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.
Department of Information Science, Loughborough University