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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 Thirty: Licensing & Law: Who Owns an Avatar? (Tyler T. Ochoa / Jaime Banks)

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CHAPTER THIRTY

Licensing & Law

Who Owns an Avatar?

TYLER T. OCHOA & JAIME BANKS



Leeroy Jenkins is a videogame character of wide internet and gamer culture fame. He first came to popular attention in 2005, in an iconic game scenario in which—while his cohort was diligently planning a complex dungeon battle—he suddenly sprang to life, let out the gravelly battle cry Ah’Leeerooooooy Ah’Jeeennnkiiinnns!, and led his compatriots into a slaughter by dragon whelps. He subsequently noted: “At least I have chicken” (DBlow2003, 2005/2014). The ridiculousness of this event led first to the viral appropriation of the character—crafted into memes about everything from riots and warfare to politics and cinema—and this broader reception led to an increased presence in other videogames and game-related products, from the digital card deck-building game Hearthstone (2014) to third-party t-shirts and allusions in films like Wreck-It Ralph (Spencer & Moore, 2012). While it’s not uncommon for game companies to carry characters from one property to another (e.g., the host of characters imported into Super Smash Bros. [1999]), Leeroy’s case is different. He wasn’t created by a game company. He was created by a player, Ben Schulz, as he played the MMO World of Warcraft (WoW; 2004).

As outlined in various chapters in this volume, both players and game developers have great influence over how avatars—via their assembled components—manifest in digital gameplay. Developers craft their...

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