Stepping into an Online Persona


O is for the power of the online persona and avatars we create whilst playing in Webland.

There are games out there now, that offer us an extreme scale of customisation for the online characters we want to embody. Just check out the video below, which provides a run down of some of the best around in MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) games in 2013.

O.k. I admit it, a lot of the times I’ll judge whether I event want to pick up a game purely on how good the character creation options are. Those rich customisations trigger all the hundreds of different imagined characters I could be that sometimes end up more interesting than the games themselves.

I love playing around with my online persona as a way of exploring my own identity, in my hero-ing days I’ve been a blue-spiked one eyed brawler, a suited old lady and an undead cowboy, to name a few. So it wasn’t that a big surprise to see research from Nick Yee and others finding that inhabiting these online personas can also have tangible effects on our real life interactions. For example, finding that people who are given a taller avatars to play in experiments, then went on to negotiate more aggressively in a bargaining task or students, who had a digital doppelgänger aged by 40 years were found to be more willing to put aside money for the future.

It seems that the powerful creation of these flexible image of ourselves are already drifting into our world,  whether we intended it or not. With the advent of gamification, my hope is to see the crafting and use of our virtual egos wielded more precisely for the kind of effects we know and choose.

Where we might be able to select from those sliders not only the different faces, shapes and sizes to try on, but also from an understanding of the intimate way this might change our outlook on life, even just for a while.

In this kind of gamified world, the truths uttered by a fairy in a fictional world might be closer than we think.

You see, there’s a fundamental connection between seeming and being. Every Fae child knows this, but you mortals never seem to see. We understand how dangerous a mask can be. We all become what we pretend to be.

Bast, The Name of the Wind

Jump in to: This amazing video from PBS Ideas Channel on Controlling vs. ‘Being’ your Avatar, which includes a whole load more great links.

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