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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 Nineteen: Class & Role: Frameworks for (Inter)Action (Oskar Milik)

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CHAPTER NINETEEN

Class & Role

Frameworks for (Inter)Action

OSKAR MILIK



The act of playing a digital game, especially for a new player, can be an extremely difficult task. One needs to understand different components of the game: the physics, the combat, the plot, and the objectives. In multiplayer games, additional requirements are added for the understanding of social cues as they are seen in the digital realm. The player may be responsible for being able to relay and follow instructions in a group setting, for understanding and responding to communications from others, and even presenting a particular identity for others to see. In both single-player and multiplayer games, the avatar serves as a focusing lens through which an individual can perform these duties. As such, the avatar becomes a tool of interaction that frames the events that occur in-game. The character class (e.g., priest, spy, hacker) and the combat role of an avatar (the “holy trinity” of tank, support, damage) in a group context serve as interactional shorthand for an individual to be able to predict what sorts of actions they are to perform, and what sorts of behaviors others may express toward them in return. Where class establishes how an individual should interact with the gameworld, the role establishes how to act in relation to other players. At the same time, an avatar’s identity may be linked to a specific social class, or may take...

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