Supporting visual elements of non-verbal communication in computer game avatars

Kujanpää Tomi Manninen Tony
2003 DiGRA '03 - Proceedings of the 2003 DiGRA International Conference: Level Up

Communication between players in networked computer games is often inadequately implemented. The games do not exploit the full potential of using different forms of communication possibilities between players, and therefore result in problems in sending and receiving messages. This paper introduces a model that describes how visual aspects of non-verbal communication (NVC) in avatars could be systematically designed. The model can be used as a guideline in the design process of more communicative avatars. The study was conducted using a variety of research methods. The topic has been approached from both the constructive and theoretic-conceptual viewpoints. Nonverbal communication theories have been used as the framework to construct avatars for game environments and to form a model that supports the design of NVC elements into avatars. The primary result of the work is a model that describes how to design more communicative avatars. The model introduces the aspects required when considering the designing of the visual elements of NVC. As an empirical result, the avatars based on the model determine how different elements of NVC work, and how NVC could be used in the avatar context. The results can be applied for design and construction purposes, as well as for further research into the diverse areas of avatar design. The model describes three layers that can be used to guide the work of avatar designers and creators in supporting the visual elements of communication in computer game avatars. The model shows that designers and creators should search for the required elements of the NVC, vary these elements to form a rich set of ways to use them, and finally, personalise the avatars by selecting varied elements for separate avatars to support natural communication.


‘Remembering How You Died’: Memory, Death and Temporality in Videogames [Extended Abstract]

Mukherjee Souvik
2009 DiGRA '09 - Proceedings of the 2009 DiGRA International Conference: Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory

Death is an intrinsic part of gameplay. On considering the role of killing, dying and negotiating the 'undead' in videogames, one cannot be faulted for noting in them an obsessive engagement with the act of dying. It is almost a prerequisite that the player's avatar has to 'die' many times in the process of unravelling the plot. Instead of the traditional tying and untying (desis and lusis) of narrative plots, held sacrosanct since Aristotle, videogame narratives are characterised by 'dying and undying'. The sense of an ending, as literary theorist Sir Frank Kermode calls it, is constantly frustrated by its absence in videogames. Western conceptions of ending, whether Hellenic or Judaeo- Christian, are based on telos and a linear temporality. In a culture where death is a grim finality and where resurrection is only possible by the divine, videogames seem to shockingly trivialise death by adding to it the perspective of multiplicity. Videogame theorist, Gonzalo Frasca, observes that from the perspective of real life, this reversibility can be seen as something that trivializes the "sacred" value of life. This paper argues against such a conception and in doing so, it shows how videogames point to a different but equally serious view of death and endings that has so far been largely ignored due to an occidental bias.


“I’m overburdened!” An Empirical Study of the Player, the Avatar, and the Gameworld

Jørgensen Kristine
2009 DiGRA '09 - Proceedings of the 2009 DiGRA International Conference: Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory

This paper presents the first results of an empirical study of how players interpret the role of the player and the relationship between the player and playable figures in gameworlds. In the following, we will see examples of four genres that situate the player in different positions with respect to the gameworld. Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars illustrates a game where the player does not have a playable figure in the gameworld, while Crysis exemplifies a game where player and playable figure viewpoints merge into one entity. Diablo 2 represents a game with a developing figure, and The Sims 2 demonstrates a hybrid combination of named, developing figures controlled by the player from a god perspective. The study shows that players tend to accept all features that aid them in understanding how to play the game, and that it does not matter whether features have a stylistic or naturalistic relationship to the gameworld. Regarding the relationship between player and playable figure, the respondents do not see the dual position of the player situated in the physical world while having the power to act within the gameworld as a paradox, but a necessary way of communication in games.


Horror Videogames and the Uncanny

Kirkland Ewan
2009 DiGRA '09 - Proceedings of the 2009 DiGRA International Conference: Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory

This paper explores the uncanny dimensions of avatars and gamespaces in survival horror videogames. The avatar’s combination of animation and lifelessness personifies Freud’s notion of the uncanny. Simultaneously, the cybernetic interaction between player and machine, whereby the digital figure appears to act with autonomy and agency, unsettles the boundaries between dead object and living person. Spaces in survival horror games characterise the uncanny architecture of horror films and literature. Many suggest the unsettling psychological disturbance lurking behind the homely and the familiar. A recurring aspect of survival horror combines the investigation of a protagonist’s origins, a return to the family home, and the exploration of gynecological spaces – blood red corridors, womb-like caverns, bloody chambers – reproducing what is for Freud the primal site of the uncanny.


Transgressive Gender Play: Profiles and Portraits of Girl Players in a Tween Virtual World

Kafai Yasmin B. Fields Deborah A. Giang Michael T.
2009 DiGRA '09 - Proceedings of the 2009 DiGRA International Conference: Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory

Little is known about how girl players navigate through virtual worlds, negotiate their identity, and challenge cultural norms and practices. We investigated over 500 players in a science-themed tween virtual world called with girls being the majority (68%) of its 1.5 million registered players. Using logfile data collected over a six-month long period, we identified three distinct groups: core gamers (7% of all players), semi-core gamers (34% of players), and peripheral gamers (59% of players). We found that all groups participated in common practices but that core players also participated in non-traditional, transgressive practices. These included private flirting with other players and aggressive scamming of others for personal profit as well as public denials of such activities because they violated gender and social norms. Often hidden, these facets of girls’ play indicate the value of virtual worlds as digital publics that offer youth opportunities to engage in identity exploration and border crossing.