Matthew Ponsford, Psy.D., is a 2016 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, Seattle.

Dissertation Committee:

  • Jude Bergkamp, Psy.D., Committee Chair
  • William Heusler, Psy.D., Committee Member
  • Mia Consalvo, Ph.D., Committee Member


phenomenology, hermeneutic phenomenology, video games, online games, EVE, EVE Online, MMO, MMORPG, identity, identity development, gamers, online community, virtual worlds

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This phenomenological study was conducted to examine the ways that individuals experience massively multiplayer online games, and the interaction between online and offline identities. Ten members of the EVE Online community were interviewed about their experiences of the boundaries and crossovers between offline self and online character. Interviews were transcribed, coded, and analyzed for consistent themes. Themes drawn from the data fell into three over- arching categories: the Appeal of EVE, or the player motivations and qualities of the game environment that influence player investment; Self/Character Interaction, describing the ways in which online and offline identities interact; and Moral Dilemmas, in which players describe their thoughts and reactions to the moral ambiguity of EVE Online. Appeal of EVE contained the themes of Importance of Social Interaction, My Choices Matter, Algerism, and EVE Relationships are Meaningful. Self/Character Interaction contained the themes of My Character and I Are the Same, My Character and I Are Different, Parallels, Friction Between Selves, One Identity Learning From the Other, and Intersections. Moral Dilemmas contained the themes of My Prosocial Choices, Someone Else’s Antisocial Choices, and Morality is Ambiguous. A final theme, not associated with any of the three categories, but present throughout all of them, was Emotional Content. These results were compared and contrasted with existing literature, and conclusions were drawn about the parallel processes between online and offline selves.


Matthew Ponsford, Psy.D., 2016.

ORCID Scholar # 0000-0002-1168-4466

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