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18May/17Off

Steam Avatars – Read this Comprehensive Article About Steam Avatars.

Earlier this week, we pointed you towards an appealing paper by Georgia Tech Professor Fox Harrell, which handled the surprisingly complex politics of avatars and identity in online games. Sadly, it seems like many failed to get much from it.

No, judging through the comments inside the post it seems like many chosen to read simply the headline in the piece (which, for an angle to entice readers into something just a little heavier than we're used to, could have been better-presented on our part), and not the suggestion to read either a fuller piece or Harrell's whole paper elsewhere. Inside the interests of presenting Harrell's ideas on the challenge 100 %, then, he's been so kind concerning present this post.

Top: A screenshot from Harrell's interactive game/poem "Loss, Undersea" (left), and a selection of possible avatar transformations (right) (you can enjoy a relevant video in the project actually in operation here)

Gamers are beautiful, so consider this being a love letter for your needs. I love how we can circle the wagons once the medium we take care of a lot is assailed. So, let me tell you directly: my goal would be to support your creativity in gaming as well as other digital media forms. In recent days, I needed the pleasure being interviewed by Elisabeth Soep for boingboing.net on the topic of research into identity representation i are already conducting. This post, "Chimerical Avatars as well as other Identity Experiments from Prof. Fox Harrell," also had the distinction of obtaining been reblogged on Kotaku beneath the sensationalistic headline "Making Avatars That Aren't White Dudes Is Tough." I am thrilled to find out the dialogue started by my fellow denizens of gamerdom, though the title and article misstated my aims. In this line of my research (I also invent new sorts of AI-based interactive narrative, gaming, poetry, and also other expressive works), I am just considering two things:

1) Technologies for creating empowering identity representations, not just in games however in social networking, online accounts, and more.

2) Using these new technologies to create best steam avatars and related gaming systems more artistically expressive.

A Few Things I have called "Avatar Art," could make critical and expressive statements regarding identity construction themes including changing moods, social scene, marginality, exclusion, aesthetic style, and power (yes, including gender and race but definitely not exclusively). My own, personal works construct fantastic creatures that change based on emotional tone of user actions or based upon other people's perceptions as opposed to the players'. My real efforts, then, are very far removed from the goal of creating an avatar that "well, appears to be [I really do]!"

Look at the original article too. And, for your convenience as well as in the spirit of dialogue and genuine want to engage and grow, I offer a listing of 10 follow-up thoughts i posted towards the comments on the original.

1) On race. The points argued within the article will not primarily center around race. Really, since this is about research, the objective is to imagine technologies that engage a wider selection of imaginative expression, social awareness/critique, fun, empowerment, plus more.

2) On personal preference. This game examples discussed represent personal preference. The initial one is allowed to prefer Undead that appear more mysterious (like "lich-like" or some other similar Undead types - the concept is really a male analog for the female Undead that may look far more much like the Corpse Bride) than similar to a Sid Vicious zombie on steroids. The first is also able to think that such options would break the video game maker's (Blizzard's) coherent cartoony aesthetic driven with the game's lore. The greater point is that issues like aesthetics, body-type, posture, and much more, are meaningful dimensions. In the real world or tabletop role-playing it might be an easy task to simply imagine these attributes - they do not need being built into rules. Yet, in software they can be implemented through algorithmic and data-structural constraints. Why not imagine the way to do better without allowing players to get rid of the video game or slow things down?

3) On the bigger picture. This game examples I raise are, at some level, rhetorical devices. They address fashion, body language, gender, culture, plus more. The thought is the fact in the real world it comes with an incredible amount of nuance for representing identity. Identities are much greater than race and gender. Identities change over time, they change depending on context. Research is forward looking - why not imagine exactly what it means to have technologies that address these complaints and just how we can rely on them effectively. That features making coherent gameworlds rather than bogging people down during or before gameplay. The rhetorical devices may be more, or less, successful. Nevertheless the point remains that it is a *hard* problem.

4) On back-end data structures and algorithms. The studies mentioned fails to focus primarily on external appearance. It targets issues like emotional tone, transformation, change, community perspectives, stigma, plus more. As noted, these are internal issues. But we are able to go further. New computational approaches are possible which do not reify social identity categories as discrete sets of attributes or statistics. Categories could be modeled more fluidly, and new game mechanics may result. My GRIOT system provides for AI-based composition of multimedia assets, including characters in games. Let's imagine and create technologies that could do more - after which deploy them in the most beneficial ways whether for entertainment, social critique, or social networking.

5) On fiction as social commentary. The approach argued for may also help to create fantastic games begin to approach the nuanced analyses of fiction writers like Samuel R. Delany, Joanna Russ, and even the introspective metaphysical work of Haruki Murakami. You will find a tradition of fantastic fiction as social critique. Tabletop gamers may are conscious of the overall game "Shock: Social Science Fiction" as a good indie example of this.

6) On characters distinctive from one's self. This content will not indicate discomfort with playing characters like elves with pale skin, or propose that you need to inherently feel uncomfortable playing a role that is certainly far from a real life conception of identity. Rather, it begins having the ability to happily play characters ranging from elves to mecha pilots. It is a wonderful affordance of many games. But more, it is actually great to be able to play non-anthropomorphic characters and a lot of other available choices. I have done research for this issue to describe different ways that folks linked to their characters/avatars: some are "mirror players" who would like characters who want characters that are like themselves, other people are "character users" who see their identities as tools, yet others still are "character players" who use their characters to discover imaginative settings and alternative selves in playful ways (this is actually the nutshell version). However, no matter what, the types of characters in games are usually relevant to real life social values and categories. It can be disempowering to encounter stereotypical representations repeatedly.

7) On alternative models. Someone mentioned text-based systems and systems designed to use other characteristics like moral choices to determine characters (c.f., Ultima IV). That is the sort of thing being argued for here. Meaningful character creation - not simply tired archetypes and game-mechanics oriented roles. Another person mentioned modding and suggested that does not modding can be a mark of laziness. Yet, the aim the following is actually building new systems that may do better! Certainly less lazy than adapting existing systems. And this effort is proposed having a humble, inviting attitude. When new systems fail, the input of others (for example those commenting here) can certainly make them better still! Works like "Loss, Undersea" and "DefineMe: Chimera" are only early samples of artistic outcomes or pilot work built in some instances using an underlying AI framework We have designed referred to as the GRIOT system. This endeavor is referred to as the Advanced Identity Representation (AIR) Project ("advanced" not due to hubris, but as it is easy to go much further than current systems allow).

8) On platforms. The study mentioned studies not simply games, and also at social networking sites, online accounts, and avatars. There are several strong overlaps between the two, despite the obvious differences. Considering what each allows and will not allow can yield valuable insights.

9) With this guy, that guy, and also the other guy. Offering appropriate constraints for gameworlds and making it possible for seamlessly dynamic characters is important. Ideally, one results of this research can be methods to disallow "That Guy" (described as a selected form of disruptive role-player) to ruin the video game. Having said that, labels (like "That Guy") can obfuscate the difficulties accessible. So can a give attention to details rather than general potential of exploring new possibilities. The objective is not to offer you every nuanced and finicky option, but rather to illustrate what some potential gaps may be. People are complicated, any elegant technical solution that enriches role-playing in games seems desirable. But this should be done in a sensible method that adds meaning and salience towards the game. Examples just like the ranger and mesmer classes in GuildWars: Nightfall really are simply to describe how there are many categories which can be transient, in-between, marginal, blended, and dynamic. Probably more than you can find archetypical categories. Let's think on how to enable these categories in software.

10) Around the goal. The greatest goal is not a totalizing system that may handle any customization. Rather, it really is to appreciate which our identities in games, virtual worlds, social media sites, and related media happens to an ecology of behavior, artifacts, attitudes, software and hardware infrastructure, activities (like gaming), institutional values and biases, personal values and biases, systems of classification, and cognitive processing (the imagination). Within the face of this all complexity, one choice is to formulate technologies to aid meaningful and context-specific identity technologies - for example rather than just superficial race, gender, masquerade masks, along with the tinting of elves, let's think about how to use all of these to mention something concerning the world and the human condition.

Thanks all for considering these ideas, even those who disagree. Your concerns may have been clarified, and so they may have been exacerbated, but this is just what productive dialogue is focused on.

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