Avatar creation is an interesting topic for both video game and social network studies. Research has shown that the creation of avatars is influenced by individual, contextual, and cultural features. Avatars are used to represent aspects of users' personality, but multiple avatars are used in different virtual contexts, as self-presentation strategies may vary according to the different "audiences" to be met online (say: friends, or strangers). Moreover, avatar creation is also influenced by cultural variables, such as gender, as avatars embody stereotypical aspects of being a woman or a man. This research tested whether avatars, as digital self-representations, may change depending on the above-mentioned variables. Ninety-four participants created two avatars to be used in different contexts (video game and job-themed social network). Moreover, two groups of participants were told that they would have met friends or total strangers within the two virtual contexts. Results showed that avatars changed from the game to the job context. Changes involved avatars' transient features (Clothes) more than physical (Body) and symbolic (Accessories) ones, and females changed accessories more than males. Moreover, females who expected to meet friends changed their avatars' bodies significantly more than males in both virtual contexts. The findings are discussed based on literature about computer-mediated communication and online self-disclosure. In conclusion, possible implications of the results for avatar-based interventions and the field of video games and social network design are reviewed.
Keywords: avatar; online gaming; self; social networking.