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Avatars as transitional objects: The impact of avatars and digital objects on adolescent gamers

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With practically unlimited opportunities for having fun, the Internet and numerous applications rapidly became favourable means of popular media among members of the younger generation, who enthusiastically embraced the contributions of the new Digital Age. The purpose of the current article is to explore the nature of adolescent gamers’ use of avatars as transitional objects, via employing object-relations theory to understand the psychological use of objects within a digital material culture. Incorporating the psychoanalytic research interview method, the current study builds on in-depth interviews with two adolescent males. By equipping their avatars with special skills, attributes and possessions, users were able to establish their virtual presence, and in turn address and compensate for certain difficulties, shortcomings and anxieties deriving from their offline existence and family conflicts. The avatars were viewed as objects of perfection and collectors of meaningful artefacts, and served as a source of status, recognition and accomplishment; frequently reaching beyond offline realities. Throughout the manuscript, we discuss relevant implications for the field of game studies.
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Keywords: MMORPG; digital objects; object-relations; online material culture; transitional objects; transitional space; virtual consumption

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University Institute of Lisbon 2: Arizona State University

Publication date: September 1, 2016

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  • The Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds focuses on theoretical and applied, empirical, critical, rhetorical, creative, economic and professional approaches to the study of electronic games across platforms and genres as well as ludic and serious online environments.
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