Harari, G. M., Graham, L. T., & Gosling, S. D. (2015). Personality Impressions of World of Warcraft Players Based on their Avatars and Usernames: Consensus but No Accuracy. International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations, 7, 58-73.
Every week an estimated 20 million people collectively spend hundreds of millions of hours playing massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs). Here the authors investigate whether avatars in one such game, the World of Warcraft (WoW), convey accurate information about their players’ personalities. They assessed consensus and accuracy of avatar-based impressions for 299 WoW players. The authors examined impressions based on avatars alone, and images of avatars presented along with usernames. The personality impressions yielded moderate consensus (avatar-only mean ICC = .32; avatar plus username mean ICC = .66), but no accuracy (avatar only mean r = .03; avatar plus username mean r = .01). A lens-model analysis suggests that observers made use of avatar features when forming impressions, but the features had little validity. Discussion focuses on what factors might explain the pattern of consensus but no accuracy, and on why the results might differ from those based on other virtual domains and virtual worlds.