Show Less
Restricted access

Avatar, Assembled

The Social and Technical Anatomy of Digital Bodies


Edited By Jaime Banks

Avatar, Assembled is a curated volume that unpacks videogame and virtual world avatars—not as a monolithic phenomenon (as they are usually framed) but as sociotechnical assemblages, pieced together from social (human-like) features like voice and gesture to technical (machine-like) features like graphics and glitches. Each chapter accounts for the empirical, theoretical, technical, and popular understandings of these avatar "components"—60 in total—altogether offering a nuanced explication of avatars-as-assemblages as they matter in contemporary society and in individual experience. The volume is a "crossover" piece in that, while it delves into complex ideas, it is written in a way that will be accessible and interesting to students, researchers, designers, and practitioners alike.
Show Summary Details
Restricted access

Chapter Two: Shape & Size: The Body Electric (James M. Falin / Jorge Peña)


| 23 →


Shape & Size

The Body Electric


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...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.