The role of the avatar in gaming for trans and gender diverse young people

Helen Morgan, Amanda O’donovan, Renita Almeida, Ashleigh Lin, Yael Perry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Web of Science)

Abstract

A significant proportion of trans and gender diverse (TGD) young people report membership of the gaming community and resultant benefits to wellbeing. To date their experiences and needs regarding a key feature of games, the avatar, are largely unexplored, despite increasing interest in the therapeutic role of avatars in the general population. The aim of this study was to better understand the role of the avatar in gaming, its impact on TGD young people’s mental health, and their unique needs regarding avatar design. N = 17 TGD young people aged 11–22 years (M = 16.3 years) participated in four focus groups. A general inductive approach was used to thematically analyze the transcribed data. TGD young people report considerable therapeutic benefits of using avatars with positive mental health implications. Importantly, TGD young people use avatars to explore, develop and rehearse their experienced gender identities, often as a precursor to coming out in the offline world. They also report negative experiences of feeling excluded due to the constraints of conventional notions of gender that are widely reflected in game design. Participants described simple design features to better reflect gender diversity, such as increased customization. Such changes would facilitate the positive gains reported by participants and better reflect the diversity of young people who use games. The findings have important implications for both recreational and serious or therapeutic game design.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8617
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume17
Issue number22
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2020

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