Virtually Visual: The Effects of Visual Technologies on Online Identification

Martin Jennifer
2005 DiGRA '05 - Proceedings of the 2005 DiGRA International Conference: Changing Views: Worlds in Play

Identification is regarded as an important aspect of beneficial online interaction. In addition to providing the individual with potential psychological benefits, identification with an online self or avatar can also increase individual and social understanding and tolerance of difference. The ability to create a character, or avatar, that can be identified with is the initial, and arguably the most important, step in the process of identification. However, this process has changed significantly with the advent and development of visually oriented games. Through participant-observation conducted in World of Warcraft and textual analysis of online forums associated with the game, this paper investigates the ways in which visual elements of online games affect the process of identifying with an online self. Ultimately, it argues that although interacting in a virtual environment where everything is immediately visible can ease the identification process, limits on character appearance, movement, and interaction imposed by visually rendering the game could simultaneously compromise this benefit.