Interactive Media Identification Theory

Version:1 / 1    Updated Date:12/10/2015    Original Contributor:metoneusc    Latest Contributor:metoneusc
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Key Words
interactive, interactivity, media identification, attribute, character, game

Background / Metatheory:

In recent years interactive media, such as tabletop role-playing games, create-your-own adventure books, and most notably, video games have grown in popularity across the world. Most households in the US have at least one device that is capable of playing video games, whether it’s a PC, gaming console or smart phone. And many young adults are familiar with games such as Dungeons and Dragons, even if they don’t necessarily play themselves. With this growing access to interactive forms of media it is important to understand why this form of media appeals to so many. Many speculate that this may be due to the claim of many players that they feel like they can identify with the character they control. If this is the case, it is important to examine the connection between interactivity and identification and why these interactive forms of media may lead to higher levels of identification than other non-interactive forms of media.

Terms & Definitions:
  • fixed_attributes - characteristics of the target character and his circumstances that cannot be controlled by the subject
  • flexible_attributes - characteristics of the target character and his circumstances that can be controlled by the subject
  • interactivity - The ability of a subject to either directly control a character or take on a role represented in the game world
  • self-concept - the characteristics that a subject associates with his/herself
  • identification - a merger of subjects' self-concept with perceived characteristics of the target character

Scope Conditions:
  1. The theory applies in situations where the subject has some control over the actions of a character.
  1. The lower the number of fixed_attributes, the greater the interactivity.
  2. The greater the number of flexible_attributes, the greater the interactivity.
  3. The greater the interactivity, the greater the identification.
  1. The greater the number of fixed_attributes, the greater the identification.
  2. The greater the number of flexible_attributes, the greater the identification.
This analysis is based on a previous study by Klimmy, Hefner and Vorderer (2009) who examined the topic of identification in media with relation to narrative-driven video games. Their analysis was based on previous studies by researchers such as Cohen (2006) , among others, regarding identification in any form of media. Klimmy, Hefner and Vorderer argued that video games, being interactive, led to a subject identifying more with a character than they would in a non-interactive media formats, due to the subject being able to interact with the character and environment, responding to visual cues on behalf of a character and altering the character’s actions according to the rules of the game. Other researchers, such as Trepte and Reinecke (2010) , also supported the idea that flexible character attributes, especially during avatar creation, is closely associated with a subject’s identification with a character. My analysis simplifies some of the assumptions from the Klimmy, Hefner and Vorderer study and can be applied to any form of interactive media. I propose that as the level of interactivity increases so does the subject’s identification with the character and that the levels of interactivity are based on both fixed and flexible attributes that vary with the media source. Klimmt, C., Hefner, D., & Vorderer, P. (2009). The Video Game Experience As “True” Identification: A Theory Of Enjoyable Alterations Of Players' Self-Perception. Communication Theory, 351-373. Retrieved October 25, 2014. Cohen, J. (2006). Audience identification with media characters. In J. Bryant & P. Vorderer (Eds.), Psychology of entertainment (pp. 183–198). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Trepte, S. , Reinecke, L. and Behr, K. , 2010-06-21 "Avatar Creation and Video Game Enjoyment: Effects of Life-Satisfaction, Game Competitiveness, and Identification With the Avatar" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre, Suntec City, SingaporeOnline.