Online games are popular electronic commerce platforms in which gamers use avatars to interact with others. Avatar identification (the extent to which gamers regard avatars as an extension of themselves) is known to be related to online gamer loyalty. However, few studies have examined how avatars could be designed to enhance avatar identification and online gamer loyalty, indicating a gap. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to contextualize self-affirmation theory into online gaming contexts, identified key theoretical elements and examined how they are related to avatar identification and online gamer loyalty.
This study surveyed 1,348 massively multi-player online role-playing game players, and their responses were analyzed using structural equation modeling.
The analytical results indicate that irreplaceability within a team and avatar customization are positively related to unique avatar image, while avatar customization is positively related to positive avatar image. Moreover, avatar physical attractiveness and avatar ability to achieve are positively related to positive avatar image. Both unique and positive images of an avatar (as perceived by the user) are positively related to avatar identification, and further to online gamer loyalty.
This study proposes new constructs: irreplaceability within a team, avatar ability to achieve, unique avatar image and positive avatar image. Such new constructs provide insights to aid electronic commerce managers in avatar design, thus instilling gamer identification with avatars, and thus loyalty.
The author thanks Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan (MOST 106-2410-H-182-005-MY3) and Chang Gung Memorial Hospital (BMRP644) for financial support for this study.
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