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Jaime Banks
@amperjay
Nicholas David Bowman
@bowmanspartan
West Virginia University, USA
@wvucommstudies
#ixlab
From toy a...
Avatars
• Graphical user representations
• Carriers of meaning/agency
• Participants in varied
relations with players
• Me...
Metaphorical characterizations
Examples:
• “The uncanny aspect of the relationship between player and
avatar is heightened...
Metaphorical characterizations
• Utility
• Addressing nuances in avatar use, perception
• Making unfamiliar experiences ac...
Player-Avatar Interaction (PAX)
Object Me Symbiote Other
(Banks, 2015; Banks & Bowman, 2014, 2016)
*
Research questions …
• RQ1: Can avatar metaphors be meaningfully situated
within the sociality continuum?
• RQ2: Can avata...
Method …
• MMO-related gaming forums and FB groups
(general and game-specific)
• Online survey re: self-selected ‘favorite...
Participants …
• N = 501
• 31.5% female
• Age M = ~30,
ranging 18-69
• International sample
(33 countries)
• Diverse MMOs
...
Results …
(Banks & Bowman, 2015)
Discussion …
• Theoretically divergent characterizations are
sometimes empirically convergent
• PAR typology may be useful...
@amperjay
@bowmanspartan
Means …
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From toy and tool to partner and person: Phenomenal convergence/ divergence among game avatar metaphors

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An avatar is “an interactive, social representation of a user” (Meadows, 2008, p. 23) in a digital environment. Although avatars broadly include textual screen names or social network profiles, we specifically discuss here the two- or three-dimensional graphic
bodies representing players in online games. These bodies are at least partially controlled by players as they engage a game – in movement, gesturing, communicating, and acting in/on the world – and these interactions constitute a multimodal gaming
literacy that is central to play (Gee, 2004).

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From toy and tool to partner and person: Phenomenal convergence/ divergence among game avatar metaphors

  1. 1. Jaime Banks @amperjay Nicholas David Bowman @bowmanspartan West Virginia University, USA @wvucommstudies #ixlab From toy and tool to partner and person: Phenomenal convergence/ divergence among game avatar metaphors
  2. 2. Avatars • Graphical user representations • Carriers of meaning/agency • Participants in varied relations with players • Mediators of phenomenal gameplay
  3. 3. Metaphorical characterizations Examples: • “The uncanny aspect of the relationship between player and avatar is heightened by the use of them as vehicles through a 3D game space ….” (Carr, 2002). • “The same is true for users of avatars – the effects of donning their “virtual costumes” are enhanced by deindividuation and the reactions of others (Merola & Peña, 2010). • “… while in the avatar-supported medium, anonymity can be further increased by ‘wearing a mask’ to confuse or distract the recipient about one’s identity” (Balanxhi & Nah, 2007). • “Self-differentiation was revealed in … stories of avatars’ existence as whole, independent personalities in the gameworld” (Banks, 2015).
  4. 4. Metaphorical characterizations • Utility • Addressing nuances in avatar use, perception • Making unfamiliar experiences accessible • Problems • “Metaphor sprawl”  inhibits synthesis of new knowledge within existing frameworks (cumulative/static developments not progressive/dynamic) • Often analytical artifacts rather than phenomenologically valid characterizations
  5. 5. Player-Avatar Interaction (PAX) Object Me Symbiote Other (Banks, 2015; Banks & Bowman, 2014, 2016) *
  6. 6. Research questions … • RQ1: Can avatar metaphors be meaningfully situated within the sociality continuum? • RQ2: Can avatar metaphors be collapsed into a parsimonious model for metaphorically characterizing player-avatar sociality?
  7. 7. Method … • MMO-related gaming forums and FB groups (general and game-specific) • Online survey re: self-selected ‘favorite’ MMO avatar • One-item sociality measure: I connect with that avatar as I connect with other humans. (M = 3.81, SD = 2.89) • 26 avatar metaphors, 10-point Likert scale, not at all/very accurate ratings: How well do each of the following words describe how you see this avatar? • Analysis • RQ1: Correlations between sociality and metaphor ratings • RQ2: EFA of metaphor ratings
  8. 8. Participants … • N = 501 • 31.5% female • Age M = ~30, ranging 18-69 • International sample (33 countries) • Diverse MMOs (39 games)
  9. 9. Results … (Banks & Bowman, 2015)
  10. 10. Discussion … • Theoretically divergent characterizations are sometimes empirically convergent • PAR typology may be useful for synthesizing existing scholarship using different characterizations, as function of sociality • In analysis, pair generalizable ‘meta-metaphors’ with more nuanced metaphors for breadth and depth
  11. 11. @amperjay @bowmanspartan
  12. 12. Means …

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