Parasocial and Social Player-Avatar Relationships: Social Others in Thomas Was Alone
The nature of the relationship between the player and a video game avatar has been the cause of much academic discussion and debate. While in the past most studies focused on parasocial relationships, the new Banks-Bowman social categorization system provides a beneficial and enlightening new framework with which to examine how the player relates to the avatar. The interactive mediums through which players relate with playable characters separate such relationships from those created with film or literary protagonists. This interactivity allows for social player-avatar relationships, including the avatar-as-social-other relationship exemplified in the game Thomas Was Alone, and creates new possibilities important for game designers to consider. This article first briefly explores the academic discussions surrounding the player-avatar relationship in light of the new Banks-Bowman categories, then turns attention to the ways in which the avatar-as-social-other relationship and its corresponding emotionally intense gameplay are exemplified in the game Thomas Was Alone.
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