Avatar Selection in the Metaverse : How users choose their digital persona in VRChat
Abstract: 1 Abstract Current endeavors in the tech-industry to create the first true metaverse, alongside other things, sparked the emergence of interest around virtual avatars, namely in the NFT community. Given the complexity of design-challenges associated with creating an immersive metaverse, its avatars and the systems they evolve around, this paper aims to understand user desires and motivational patterns for avatar selection in VRChat, a game that resembles much of what a future metaverse could look like. Therefore, nine qualitative interviews with a random sample of VRChat users were conducted. The number of participants was limited due to time constraints, and the results hence might be skewed towards a certain perspective; also, with the risk of users not answering truthfully, et cetera. In a broad sense, the key results validated Lin & Wang’s (2014) four motivational patterns of avatar creation (Virtual Exploration, Social Navigation, Identity Representation and Contextual Adaptation), however with significant differences and nuances within those, indicating important subtypes for each category. Preceding research however did not take into account the effects that apply to users employing advanced VR equipment. Statements from such participants in fact suggest the existence of a fifth dimension (Physical Sensation - the “feeling” of an avatar), possibly caused by a heightened sense of presence (due to using said equipment). On this note, the widespread implementation of mirrors in VRChat worlds, along with the discovery of what players described as “mirror-dwelling”, might also have a serious impact on this phenomenon. Furthermore, the results matched concepts such as the Proteus Effect and Deindividuation theory.
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