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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-Eight: Interfaces & Mods: Customizing the Gateway (Nathan Stevens / Anthony Limperos)


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Interfaces & Mods

Customizing the Gateway


The aesthetics, features, and capabilities of avatars within videogames are heavily shaped by the constraints imposed by a game interface. The dictionary definition of interface is essentially “the place or area at which different things meet and communicate with or affect each other” (Merriam Webster, 2017). While video game interfaces share some similarities with interfaces in general (such as communication and interaction between on-screen content and gamer), gaming interfaces open an interactive, ever-evolving world by providing mechanisms for players to influence that content. For example, a game such as Final Fantasy XV (FFXV; 2016) uses an interface heads-up display (HUD) that evolves as the gameplay switches from exploration to action. When exploring the world of Eos in FFXV, there are not many on-screen cues to interact with. Instead, the focus is mainly on pulling up menus manually through your console’s control scheme. When the characters begin a battle with enemies, the on-screen interface brings up options on its own, such as features to indicate throwing a spell or ordering a set of characters to attack.

Some such interfaces are simplistic and intuitive, working with the gamer and not against them, almost as if there is a virtual butler bringing options to use at your disposal. If you overcomplicate an interface system or make it inefficient for the user to interact with, such...

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