Co-Constructing Virtual Identities: Insights from Linguistic Analysis

Burkholder Ross
2019 DiGRA '19 - Proceedings of the 2019 DiGRA International Conference: Game, Play and the Emerging Ludo-Mix

This article critically examines the co-construction of personae for fictional characters in virtual environments. Expanding upon Gee’s (2003) tripartite notion of identity in virtual worlds, this paper focuses on how virtual identities are created, and who does the creating. Using sociolinguistic methodology, I show how alterations in behavior based on avatar characteristics (The Proteus Effect: Yee and Bailenson 20007) can be used as a window into the virtual identity creation process. Potential contributions to virtual identity from three sources are analyzed: the community, the creators of the virtual environment, and influences from the non-virtual world, concluding that community created knowledge seems to play the most significant role in virtual identity construction.


Is My Avatar MY Avatar? Character Autonomy and Automated Avatar Actions in Digital Games

Willumsen Ea Christina
2018 DiGRA '18 - Proceedings of the 2018 DiGRA International Conference: The Game is the Message

This paper will explore the borders between the avatar and character dimensions of the player figure, as outlined by Vella (2015), particularly in cases where this line is blurred. Through investigation of five different examples, I suggest we use the measures of avatar control and character complexity to study the relationship between avatar and character in a given instance. Avatar control refers to the amount of agency the player has in a given instance in a game compared to the default mode of agency, whereas character complexity builds on transmedia and literary theory approaches to characters, to explore what constitutes complexity of the character in question. The analysis allows us to assess whether the instance can be considered representing either character autonomy or automated avatar actions, and in turn may help us understand the relationship between the player, the avatar, and the character.


Avatars, Gender and Sexuality for Brazilian Players on Rust

Caetano Mayara
2018 DiGRA '18 - Proceedings of the 2018 DiGRA International Conference: The Game is the Message

This study aims to understand what the aspects are that make players identify with and relate to avatars, including discussions on issues of gender and sexuality. To carry out this research qualitative experiments were conducted using gameplay sessions and semistructured interviews. The Massive Multiplayer Online game Rust (Facepunch Studios 2013) was chosen for empirical study because of its gender-based system, a controlled variable for the experiments. Volunteers from the study were divided into two groups: one with the gender of the participants matching the gender of the avatars they controlled; the other not matching. From the results we were able to determine: the level of identification between player and avatar was not so important and did not affect how they played; there were mixed feelings about the race of one of the avatars in the experiment; having avatars appear nude also made the participants feel uncomfortable, especially regarding the male avatar; female participants responded to gender questions more easily than males; overall, the participants were not aware that they were playing a game related to gender swapping; and even though they were not comfortable speaking about sexuality, the participants were able to recognize patterns in the representations as well as critique them and offer other suggestions.


Discovering Social and Aesthetic Categories of Avatars: A Bottom-Up Artificial Intelligence Approach Using Image Clustering

Lim Chong-U Liapis Antonios Harrell Fox D.
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

Videogame avatars are more than visual artifacts—they express cultural norms and expectations from both the real world and the fictional world. In this paper, we describe how artificial intelligence clustering can automatically discover distinct characteristics of players’ avatars without prior knowledge of a system’s underlying data structures. Using only avatar images collected from a study with 191 players, we applied two clustering techniques— namely non-negative matrix factorization and archetypal analysis—that automatically revealed and detected (1) an avatar’s gender, (2) regions that appeared to isolate shapes of items and accessories, and (3) aesthetic preferences for particular colors (e.g., bright or muted) and shapes for different body parts. These clusters correlated with players’ preferences for character abilities, e.g., male avatars in dark clothes correlated with having high physical but low magic-casting attributes. These findings show that a bottom-up analysis of images can reveal explicit categories like gender, but also implicit categories like preferences of players. We believe that such computational approaches can enable developers to (1) better understand players’ desires and needs, (2) quantitatively view how systems may be limited in supporting players, and (3) find actionable solutions for these limitations.


Digital Detritus: What Can We Learn From Abandoned Massively Multiplayer Online Game Avatars?

Bergstrom Kelly de Castell Suzanne Jenson Jennifer
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) player data has been used to investigate a variety of questions, ranging from the sociality of small groups, to patterns of economic decision making modeled across entire game servers. To date, MMOG player research has primarily drawn on data (e.g. server-side logs, observational data) collected while players (and their avatars) were actively participating in the gameworld under investigation. MMOGs are persistent worlds where avatars are held in stasis when the player logs out of the game, and this is a feature that allows players to return after an extended absence to “pick up where they left off”. In this paper we explore the sorts of information that can be gleaned by examining avatars after their creators have played them for the last time. Our preliminary findings are that “abandoned” avatars still contain a wealth of information about the people who created them, opening up new possibilities for the study of players and decision making in MMOGs.


Main(s) and Alts: Multiple Character Management in World of Warcraft

Hsu Sheng-Yi Huang Yu-Han Sun Chuen-Tsai
2012 DiGRA Nordic '12: Proceedings of 2012 International DiGRA Nordic Conference

Most online games let players create multiple characters, and during avatar creation and gameplay, the relationships between players and their game playing goals are revealed. As multiple characters are developed, player behaviors become more complex. Yet a major characteristic of avatars is that they cannot act at the same time—since gameplay is usually continuous and players alternate between or among avatars, time patterns tend to emerge. For this project we employed a user interface to collect real and continuous data on World of Warcraft players, and developed an algorithm for grouping avatars owned by specific players into sets. We then attempted to identify goals for individual characters, types of set management, and relationships within avatar sets.


“Whose Game Is This Anyway?”: Negotiating Corporate Ownership in a Virtual World

Taylor T.L.
2002 Computer Games and Digital Cultures Conference Proceedings

This paper explores the ways the commercialization of multiuser environments is posing particular challenges to user autonomy and authorship. With ever broadening defi nitions of intellectual property rights the status of cultural and symbolic artifacts as products of collaborative efforts becomes increasingly problematized. In the case of virtual environments – such as massive multiplayer online role-play games – where users develop identities, bodies (avatars) and communities the stakes are quite high. This analysis draws on several case studies to raise questions about the status of culture and authorship in these games.


Digital Art in the Age of Social Media: A Case Study of the politics of personalization via cute culture.

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

Undoubtedly, as social media ubiquity spreads, the attendant forms of emerging creativity, collaboration and community further appropriate and adapt Digital Art current trends. As Jean Burgess observes in her studies on YouTube, one of the key attributes of this personalization phenomenon is what she calls “vernacular creativity” [9]. Here Burgess spearheads the amateur / professional nexus that has been transformed through networked social media. In these transformations, the role Digital Art vernaculars play in the divergent world of the global games industry in an age of social, networked media has been given little focus. One such vernacular can be seen in cute culture. As a highly emotional and affective vernacular with its roots in Japanese personalization culture, cute culture has straddled various Digital Art terrains such as gaming and new media. I argue that through charting the cartographies of personalization through cute character culture we can gain insight into Digital Art vernaculars both inside and outside Game Studies. By honing in upon one of the most pervasive modes of Digital Art—cute character culture—this paper provides new ways to conceptualize Digital Art. To focus upon cute culture is to explore an aesthetic that has its genealogy in Japanese technocultures — a realm that has, until recently, been left under-researched in the Englishspeaking world. In a period marked by the increasingly proclivity towards “personalized technologies” it is cute culture, with its history in the rise of Japanese personal technologies from the 1970s, that can lend much insight into the politics and practices of contemporary Digital Art. In this paper I uncover some of the meanings that have caused cute culture to become a lynchpin between so much media converging Digital Art with games in an age in which the personal—epitomized by personal technologies—has a deeply political edge.