Video game avatars are created by users on various platforms to represent themselves when gaming, either serious or not serious. By definition, an avatar is a “personalized graphical illustration that represents a computer user, or a character or alter ego that represents that user. An avatar can be represented either in three-dimensional form (for example, in games or virtual worlds) or in two-dimensional form” (Janssen 2018). Most gaming systems, social platforms, blogs, forums, and many more outlets allow users to create avatars for their profiles to associate a face with a name.
A video game avatar can come in many different forms, video game avatars are all around the top systems, whether it be creating a mii on the Nintendo Wii or having a figure to be associated with a gamertag on Xbox live. Users have the ability to make their avatars look like themselves or make them look absurd and give them features and clothing that make them look nothing like themselves. Some systems like the Nintendo Wii allow the user to play with their avatars in actual games, but most systems use avatars for show. A somewhat new trend that has emerged in video games is an in-game avatar feature (separate from the systems avatar). Games like Call of Duty and Fortnite allow you to display characters as an avatar, but they can also be used for display in pre-game lobbies. Many online computer games like Runescape and Counter Strike: Global Offensive use avatars too that are separate from in-game characters.
Video Game avatars are ultimately created to represent ourselves in an accurate way online. Robert Hotz of the Wall Street Journal suggests that video game avatars may portray characteristics that we would not normally reveal, saying that “Psychologists are discovering that the digital identities we create for play online, known as avatars, reveal more aspects of our personalities than we may intend to disclose and can change how we behave in the real world” (Hotz 2015). The likely reason gamers reveal more online is due to the fact that playing video games is harmless by nature and most gamers do not know each other on a personal level so it is not normal for a face to be put with a name (and be judged).
While it is not uncommon for video games to have their own avatars for each specific player, video game avatars are generally made for a specific username. Whether it be Xbox, playstation, Nintendo, online gaming, or numerous other platforms, these large systems ask for avatars to be paired with a gamer and username. Significant strides were made in gaming in 1974, where the video game Basketball would change gaming moving forward. According to the writers at ultimate history video games, Basketball was “the first example of a video game that displayed sprite images, both for the players and the baskets, first game to depict game character, first attempt at accurately simulating a team sport, first basketball game” (ultimatehistoryvideogames 2014). Basketball raised standards for video games and allowed the future of gaming to benefit from their genius through usage of sprites. By definition, a sprite “is a type of “stand-alone” computer graphic element that has evolved along with modern computer graphics technologies” (Janssen 2018). Video game avatars are essentially sprites that are larger, have better graphics, and have more features.
Video game avatars have been able to be created and enhanced over the years due to the various software that goes in to creating a video game. These software advancements have caught the attention of many for the future, like Fox Harrell, where he says “New technologies for creating empowering identity representations” (Harrell 2010). The future of these software and identities joining could tell companies about users and use it for economical advantage and improvements. Video game avatars are usually created in the same routine way across all gaming platforms. For instance, after unboxing a system and putting personal information in, the Wii and Xbox systems allow the user to create an avatar after the individual creates a username. After the username is created, the user typically is asked to create the face, being that it is the key to an individuals identity, then hair color, then body type, and the accessories and clothing. While users are asked to start with the face, systems do allow users to start wherever they want and proceed as they wish being that some people do not take the process of creating an avatar seriously, this allows those who are serious and not serious about creating an avatar to navigate freely, like Ryan Khosravi when he talks about the choice of creating an avatar seriously, saying that “some people want to make a character that looks badass or interesting, and some people just want to make something that resembles them” (Khosravi 2017). After creating an avatar, gamers can start gaming and show off their character.
Harrell, F. (2010, April 24). Identity And Online Avatars: A Discussion. Retrieved from https://kotaku.com/5523384/identity-and-online-avatars-a-discussion
History, U. (n.d.). Basketball. Retrieved from https://ultimatehistoryvideogames.jimdo.com/basketball/
Hotz, R. L. (2015, January 20). Practice Personalities: What an Avatar Can Teach You. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/practice-personalities-what-an-avatar-can-teach-you-1421703480?ns=prod/accounts-wsj
Janssen, D. (n.d.). What is an Avatar? – Definition from Techopedia. Retrieved May 2, 2018, from https://www.techopedia.com/definition/4624/avatar
Janssen, D. (n.d.). What is a Sprite? – Definition from Techopedia. Retrieved May 2, 2018, from https://www.techopedia.com/definition/2046/sprite-computer-graphics
Khosravi, R. (n.d.). How Non-Binary Folks Navigate Creating Avatars In Video Games. Retrieved from https://intomore.com/culture/How-NonBinary-Folks-Navigate-Creating-Avatars-In-Video-Games/96ce009cb01140c3
Image Attribution: Image One: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) The image used in this post is in the Public Domain; Image Two: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) The image used in this post is in the Public Domain; Image three: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) The image used in this post is in the Public Domain
Written by Matthew Tancredi, 2018.