The brain of a gamer makes virtually no difference between an avatar and a best friend. This is shown by research at the Radboud University neuroscientist Shanti Ganesh. She appeared in the promotion as an avatar in World of Warcraft (WoW).
People who play a lot (about twenty hours a week) for a long time – will identify with their avatar. The avatar becomes a friend. Ganesh did research among 22 Dutch gamers which were healthy men and women, who averaged 23 years with an average of more than 2.5 years, 18 hours a week playing World of Warcraft.
Previous research on the identification of gamers with their avatar is based on observation and questionnaires; Ganesh did the first brain, where they looked at how players physically identify with their avatar. This is often far: the player really feels in the body of the avatar sitting.
Identification with the avatar
Ganesh also examined how gamers identify with their avatar. Through their emotions and memory she showed how the subjects performed tasks with different associations: themselves, their avatar, their best friend and Queen Beatrix. In these four “people” you expect a different level of commitment. Indeed, the emotion-related brain areas that were studied responded most strongly to questions related to the subject itself and less strongly to Beatrix. The reactions to the avatar and the best friend were approximately equal.