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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.
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Chapter Twenty-One: Code & Logic: Procedural Desire (Peter Kudenov)


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Code & Logic

Procedural Desire


In the cyberpunk classic Snow Crash (1993), Neal Stephenson described how high-fidelity three-dimensional (3D) graphics and sound can make a digital world appear real: “By drawing the moving 3D image at a resolution of 2K pixels on a side, it can be as sharp as the eye can perceive, and by pumping stereo digital sound through the little earphones, the moving 3D pictures can have a perfectly realistic soundtrack” (p. 24). Stephenson’s explanation of the “matrix”-like world available to hackers in Snow Crash reflects the complexity residing at the heart of any videogame: code (programming instructions) and logic (conditional evaluations) brings the digital world to life. “A [game] platform’s influence as experience by a user is mediated through code, the formal behavior of the program, and the interface” (Bogost & Montfort, 2009, section 8, para. 4). Specifically, behind every game, code is performing logical evaluations that create visible consequences in the ludic experience and connect the player’s actions with the avatar; the push and pull between the avatar and the player is the product of code and the logics it implements.


Avatar code is the driver of user experience for many genres of games, and it aggregates system and player attention in myriad ways. For a roleplaying game like Fallout 4 (2015), a player manages an avatar’s movement, plays with and...

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