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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 Twenty: Resources & Inventories: Useful Fictions (Isaac Knowles)

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CHAPTER TWENTY

Resources & Inventories

Useful Fictions

ISAAC KNOWLES



A player interacts with the digital world of a videogame through an avatar. The avatar drinks the potion and loots the dragon; it gets the quest and saves the child; it refines the ore and takes it to market; it wields the pistol and stores the ammo. Through an avatar, the player gathers, stores, transports, refines, and consumes the resources found in the digital word. The rules of the game define exactly what can be gathered, how much of it stored and where, how it can be moved, the ways it can be refined, and the effect of its use. This combination of rules over resources and inventories determine many of the constraints and affordances available to the avatar and thus the player, and their interaction is of fundamental interest to game designers, game players, and all students of videogames.

The examples given above suggest definitions of resource and inventory that are used throughout this essay, to wit: resources are present in the digital world—they are not properties of the avatar, but rather things that the avatar uses to manipulate itself or the digital world around it. In contrast, inventories are a characteristic of the avatar. They define what and how many resources the avatar can take with it from place to place, enabling action over a distance. The examples above also suggest that some...

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