The Social and Technical Anatomy of Digital Bodies
Edited By Jaime Banks
Chapter Two: Shape & Size: The Body Electric (James M. Falin / Jorge Peña)
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Shape & Size
The Body Electric
JAMES M. FALIN & JORGE PEÑA
When players step into digital worlds and videogames, they often use some object or entity—avatars—to navigate those worlds; these digital representations serve as bodily extensions, allowing players to traverse places they cannot physically touch. Much like human bodies, avatar bodies and their physical builds are diverse. From the ultra-macho physique of Kratos (God of War, 2005) to the lithe and agile frame of Lara Croft (Tomb Raider, 2001), the bodies of avatars are not only a part of strategic gameplay (e.g., strong warrior vs. agile scout classes offering different play style benefits), but also of game narratives (e.g., Leisure Suit Larry’s pudgy belly reflects his hedonic lifestyle). Perhaps the most obvious aspect of avatars, then, is their physical structure. Although avatar bodies aren’t always human (Nowak & Rauh, 2005), most still rely on human-like forms of variable shapes (overall physiques) and sizes (volume or weight). Together, shape and size are useful ways to characterize the apparent physical structures of digital bodies. Importantly, though, these terms describe the perceived or visual shape and size of the avatar. Because avatars are made of polygons, sprites, and textures and not organic muscles and bone (Altizer, this volume), the physical structure of avatars shows the conscious and unconscious preferences of game designers and players, and as such they communicate a message not only to...
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