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Attachment to Digital Virtual Possessions in Videogames

Research in Consumer Behavior

ISBN: 978-1-78190-022-2, eISBN: 978-1-78190-023-9

Publication date: 22 November 2012


Purpose – To extend our understanding of consumers’ relationships with their growing collections of digital virtual goods by exploring adult videogamers’ attachments to their digital virtual possessions within videogames.

Methodology – Phenomenological interviews with 35 adult videogamers, primarily conducted in participants’ homes and lasting on average two hours.

Findings – Our participants were able to possess and form emotional attachments to ‘irreplaceable’ digital virtual goods within videogames despite the goods’ immaterial nature and their own lack of legal ownership. The processes via which these attachments developed mirror our existing understanding of material possession attachment; however, technical and legal restrictions were found to hinder attachment formation. Our participants also expressed concerns, rooted not in the immateriality of the goods, but in their lack of control over the safety of their digital virtual possessions and societal perceptions surrounding such emotional involvement in ‘childish’ videogame play.

Originality/value – This study illustrates that consumers desire to, and find ways to, form meaningful attachments to possessions, regardless of their materiality, whilst highlighting the tension between the desire to possess and make meaning from digital virtual goods and recognition of their lack of legal ownership and control, and the goods’ status as frivolous.

Research implications – We see potential for future research to look beyond the immaterial nature of digital virtual goods to study the complex networks of forces influencing digital virtual consumption, whilst the ambiguous ownership of in-game possessions presents possibilities for further research into the problematic nature of possessing, but not owning, such goods.



Watkins, R. and Molesworth, M. (2012), "Attachment to Digital Virtual Possessions in Videogames", Belk, R.W., Askegaard, S. and Scott, L. (Ed.) Research in Consumer Behavior (Research in Consumer Behavior, Vol. 14), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 153-170.



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