Background: Previous studies on Internet addiction point towards a particular constellation of personality traits and deficits in social competence of players addicted to massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), which are hypothesized to result from impairments in self-concept. The aim of this study was to examine differences in self-concept and degree of avatar identification in World of Warcraft addicted, non-addicted and naive (nonexperienced) participants. Methods: Participants (n = 45) completed interviews and self-report questionnaires on social, emotional and physical aspects of self-concept. Attributes of participants’ ‘actual self’, ‘ideal self’ and their avatar were assessed using the Giessen test. The extent of avatar identification was examined by assessing differences between ‘ideal self’ and avatar evaluations. Results: In contrast to nonaddicted and naive participants, addicted players showed a more negative body appraisal and lower self-esteem as well as lower permeability, social response, general mood and social potency on the Giessen test subscales. They further showed significantly lower discrepancies between ‘ideal self’ and avatar ratings on nearly all Giessen test subscales. Discussion: The results point towards impairments in self-concept and a higher degree in avatar identification in addicted MMORPG players compared to the remaining participants. These results could have important implications for the treatment of addicted MMORPG players.

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