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Avataritis — On the Abundance of Customizable Game Characters 78

Posted by Soulskill
from the forty-nine-precisely-placed-freckles dept.
Martyn Zachary writes "The Slowdown has posted a new critique, 'Avataritis,' that attempts to portray the utilization of character customization as a pandemic, emotional response on behalf of publishers and developers to finding the easiest, most efficient solution to the very unique dilemma presented by the enlarging, widening player base of video games. 'No mechanisms are in place stopping developers from writing and designing heterogeneous yet fully structured, narrative-based computer games with carefully constructed and immutable, unchangeable characters.' The article discusses the emergence and role of gender criticism and research in relation to the recent proliferation of the customizable avatar. The story also dissects the very act of character creation, subsequently aiming to clarify several semantic distortions related to the terminology utilized in character creation, and in turn breaking apart the concepts of relatability and understandability, wholly differentiating the two. The overarching analysis is finally related to examples from the gaming marketplace, where many continue to corroborate apparent falsehoods and misunderstandings in relation to the utilization of the avatar. Ultimately, the writer hopes to dissuade readers, developers and players from believing that written narratives are going away as customization and emergent content are entering video games with full force."
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Avataritis — On the Abundance of Customizable Game Characters

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  • by debrisslider (442639) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @09:20AM (#29776953)
    Basically:

    Remember how Time's 2006 Person of the Year was YOU? And everyone hated it and thought it was a terrible choice, because user-generated content is often idiotic, base, lowest common denominator, whatever (not trying to be biased, that's just how I remember this place reacting)? That no one cares about your stupid band, your podcast, your profile, or your feed? That the average web user's narcissism might not be the best method of content generation, that social networking concepts were being shoehorned into places for sake of bandwagon jumping, at the expense of added noise and reduced quality content?

    In other words: do you really need to put your face on Mario's body? Does that truly enhance your game playing experience? Should game storylines be written around a shallow method of providing a surface-level customization for added 'personalization'? The article takes issue with inappropriate uses of character customization, a trend that has begun to spread from its traditional place in choice-and-consequence RPGs (Fallout, not Final Fantasy) to pretty much any kind of game (often, seemingly randomly), a move that has begun to change the manner of storytelling in video games. The author thinks that this customization, in attempting to bring players further into the narrative, is actually alienating them by presenting them with meaningless choices, confusing identification with understandability, distancing the player from whatever intent the storyline has by introducing surface-level similarity at the cost of a more coherent characterization of the game's hero. Think of the Time cover writ large; a mirror over the face of a video game's protagonist. If there were a technology to easily switch your face with that of an actor's in a movie, would that help you understand the film or extract any additional meaning from it? Does every story need to be turned into a choose-your-own-adventure with branching paths, at the cost of a greater unifying vision? And what purpose does customization serve in the cases where there are no branching paths, when it is thrown in because of market trends?

    Assuming you care about video game narratives at all, let alone as any sort of art, of course. I don't think slashdotters are the right crowd for this kind of article. You need a few years of undergraduate literature and film classes to write like this, I don't think this place has the background in narrative theory necessary to be interested in the points this guy is making. Frankly, you guys should consider yourselves lucky not to understand this guy's writing, it probably means you are gainfully employed.

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