i3 Scholars: Amy Castillo, Sabrina Chu, Zuaira Khan, Adanna Nedd, Alia Reza

Research Advisor: Dan Gardner, PhD Student, University of California, Irvine


Peer-Reviewed Publications

“I like the way the skin looks”: Player perspectives on aesthetic appeal and self-representation with video game” Skins

Reza, A., Nedd, A., Chu, S., Castillo, A., Khan, Z., & Gardner, D. L. (2020). “I like the way the skin looks”: Player perspectives on aesthetic appeal and self-representation with video game Skins. iConference 2020 Proceedings.

Abstract: Microtransactions are the purchasing of in-game items in video games, often using real money. Through microtransactions, game players can obtain a type of cosmetic called “skins” that change the physical appearance of playable characters. Considering the default “skin” in many games is that of a white male, there are various psychosocial and economic costs that may be extended to players of color when attempting to select skins for their avatars. To examine how players of different racial and ethnic backgrounds interact with “skins,” and the additional costs associated with them, we conducted a survey asking participants about their spending patterns with “skins” and reasons for choosing certain “skins” over others. The most common response from participants when asked why they select their skins was “because I like the way the skin looks.” As this statement is broad, we delve into other results from our survey and previous studies by other scholars to analyze what this re

Skins for Sale: Linking Player Identity, Representation, and Purchasing Practices

Reza, A., Chu, S., Khan, Z., Nedd, A., Castillo, A., & Gardner, D. (2019). Skins for sale: Linking player identity, representation, and purchasing practices. In International Conference on Information (pp. 124-131). Springer, Cham.

Abstract: Although understudied, microtransactions are becoming widespread in games, especially for the purchase of aesthetic variation in-game. In this paper, we review literature around representation in games and purchasing practices tied to player racial identity to provide insight on how in-game racial representational options and microtransactions may impact purchasing practices of players of diverse racial backgrounds. We selected articles which articulate racial identity, representation in games, and purchasing practices in ways that could be applied to the in-game purchases of non-white character representation in the form of “skins.” The diversity of both players and game characters is steadily increasing in the US. Several of the sources we review here examine this theme and how it is felt by players of color. In this review we thread together research that has focused on the state and effect of representation in games, with research considering the role of racial identity in consumer practice to better examine how players of color feel about purchasing self-representation in games.