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February 12, 2007

What is the Avatar:


Fiction and Embodiment in Avatar-Based Singleplayer Computer Games

In this study I will suggest a theory of the avatar in singleplayer computer games1, and discuss how avatar-based games are different from other kinds of computer games as well as from other kinds of media. I believe that a closer study of the role of the avatar will cast light on some of the central aesthetic parameters that structure both how we play and why we play computer games.This knowledge will also have potential implications for our understanding of other formats and genres in the wider domain of digital media and culture. The notion of the avatar that I am suggesting is not concerned with playable characters as a vehicle of communication and self-expression, but addresses how players engage with singleplayer gameworlds through fictional and vicarious embodiment. This approach connects computer game avatars to a broader category of avatars, from radio-controlled model planes to Lego men and paper dolls. In computer games, the vicarious body can take different forms; a character, a racing car, a rolling ball, a camera, a gun.

The emphasis on the role of the avatar also reflects a theoretical concern with the notion of embodiment and the notion of fictionality in computer games. My general claim is that the concepts of ‘fiction’ and ‘representation’, as these are typically being employed in game research and analysis, should be critically discussed and revised. Game studies needs a new concept of fiction, which can better account for the relationship between play and simulation, and which is more sensitive to the distinctive characteristics of computer-simulated and screen-projected gaming environments. This re-orientation needs to question the assumption that ‘fiction’ is synonymous with recounted (or diegetic) fiction, and it needs to be able to address the different mechanisms of embodied interaction and corporealized pleasure that are involved in computer game play. My analysis of avatar-based play in computer games is meant as a step in this direction2. Continue Reading What is the Avatar: Fiction and Embodiment in Avatar-Based Singleplayer Computer Games by Rune Klevjer’s [via]

Posted by jo at February 12, 2007 02:58 PM