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Avatar, Assembled

The Social and Technical Anatomy of Digital Bodies

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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.
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Chapter Six: Voice & Sound: Player Contributions to Speech (Hanna Wirman / Rhys Jones)

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CHAPTER SIX

Voice & Sound

Player Contributions to Speech

HANNA WIRMAN & RHYS JONES



Turning the sound off on your favorite game offers a peak into just how much information is conveyed via music, sound effects, narration, and spoken dialogue. Game soundtracks and character voice remixes continue to garner audiences, such as the Final Fantasy franchise’s (1987) translation into orchestral concerts and the Diablo franchise’s (1996) Blood Raven voice sample remixed by the dubstep artist Ephixa. To this point, we often recognize canonical game characters based on what they sound like: Pac-Man’s paku-paku-paku, Sonic’s successive pings when colliding with gold rings, or Ryu’s Hadouken! Avatars’ voices—the aural, spoken qualities of speech—and the other sounds they make (from pings and grunts to spell effects) are important components of how players engage avatars.

THE HIGH COST OF AVATAR SOUND

While story-based PC games are typically well-crafted and often unique in atmospheric sound, game avatars remain without much aural variety. Except a few rare cases (e.g., Saints Row: The Third, 2011), it is typical for customizable avatars to either be silent or limited to variations in only the pitch and tone of their grunting and attacking sounds (e.g., Dark Souls III, 2016). More frequently, voice qualities are pre-assigned based on avatar race and gender (e.g., World of Warcraft, 2004). Options are limited by design or due to technical constraints, since customizable avatar sounds require...

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