Presentation on theme: "The Imago Effect Identity in Games Harvey Smith Midway Studios-Austin"— Presentation transcript:
1 The Imago Effect Identity in Games Harvey Smith Midway Studios-Austin Studio Creative Director
2 Who are you really? You’re sitting there…no one is in your head The person next to you can’t know youYou sort of think of yourself a certain wayYou have some vague sense of selfIt changes based on mood or circumstanceEach of your friends sees you differentlyYou’ll play many roles throughout your lifeYou’ll change jobs a few times
3 Who are you really? All your cells roll over every so many years You’ve probably forgotten a lot already……maybe as much as you rememberYour linear sense of time is in questionSomeone else probably has your nameSomeone else probably looks like youSo who are you, really?
4 Introduction Avatars and archetypes What avatar choices mean Identity is multi-layered Identity is constructed Wrap-up
5 Today’s topic Player identity during a game The player-to-avatar relationshipWhy people make specific identity choicesThere's a lot going on in the player's mindRelated to game avatars and sense of self
17 Modern Participatory Culture …reflects primal human drivesFacilitates our desire for more agency, self expression, differentiationAsserting your will, your view, your identityWeb 2.0, Amazon account, Netflix queue, iTunes/iPod, MySpace page, etcWe want lots of things to customize
18 Meaningful moments Character creation with “action figures” Tearing toys apartReassembling them as “my guy”
19 Meaningful moments Early RPG realization Some players assume a different personaSome players express some idealized aspect of themselvesLots of arguments about these two approachesNot everyone wanted to DM, to create massive amounts of content for the gameAlmost everyone wanted to create some content, via character/avatarOnly a few people wanted canned characters
20 Meaningful moments FireTeam Voice tech Revealed Gender Age Accent Contrast w/ projected teammate identityMilitary teletype network“This is Ramstein”Code namesText MUSHES and LAN FPS nicknamesWhy “witchboy?”Earliest Origin internal UO testSnakes on a plainMarc Leblanc’s breakdown of funEmphasizing discovery, expression, fantasyRPG character historyPsychological trends
21 Meaningful moments Character identity arguments The writer-game designer negotiationAdventure game, shooter, RPG?JC Denton or me?We were missing the point…In the end, the player was bothMilitary teletype network“This is Ramstein”Code namesText MUSHES and LAN FPS nicknamesWhy “witchboy?”Earliest Origin internal UO testSnakes on a plainMarc Leblanc’s breakdown of funEmphasizing discovery, expression, fantasyRPG character historyPsychological trends
22 Introduction Avatars and archetypes What avatar choices mean Identity is multi-layered Identity is constructed Wrap-up
30 Channeling Marshall McLuhan The archetype is the goalThe nature of the Sam Fisher character implies all of his goals in SplintercellSame with Agent 47 from HitmanOr SupermanYou’d never play Superman trying to assassinate a world leader during a geopolitical crisisMarshall McLuhan, on the quest for identity“…searching not for goals but for roles, a striving for an identity that eludes.”
31 Democratizing Heroics Interactivity is key to our medium…The player’s importance is a key way in which games are significant and different…The player assumes a hybrid role of self and protagonistThe player is not entirely empathizing with some separate entityThe player is not some lesser being, hearing a tale of heroicsThe player is the hero, in part
32 Introduction Avatars and archetypes What avatar choices mean Identity is multi-layered Identity is constructed Wrap-up
33 Expression via Avatar Choice So what do the player’s choices mean?What does Marlon Brando represent to people?When they choose some incarnation of Brando, what’s going on in their minds?
37 What does an avatar say?What about Manson and bin Laden?
38 What does an avatar say?Avatar choice communicates some sense of personal identity or mood stateHelps the player develop an understanding of self through personal fantasy construction
39 Henry Jenkins“All of us move nomadically across the media landscape, cobbling together a personal mythology of symbols and stories taken from many different places. We invest those appropriated materials with various personal and subcultural meanings.”
40 Meta-levels of Expression Even in games without character creationPlayers are making implicit character creation choices when choosing which game to buyPlayers engage in self expression when they choose between Sam Fisher or Lara Croft
42 What does an avatar say?Avatar choice communicates some sense of personal identity or mood stateHelps the player develop an understanding of self through personal fantasy construction
43 Introduction Avatars and archetypes What avatar choices mean Identity is multi-layered Identity is constructed Wrap-up
44 Double-consciousness Aside from what’s happening on screen…What’s going on in the player’s mind?Games are multi-layered in terms of identity experienceGame characters allow us to temporarily and dynamically restructure our sense of self
45 Rules of Play Player-avatar relationship is not simple “Double-consciousness”Player enters an imaginary world via avatarRelationship can be intense and immersiveAt the same time, the avatar is a puppetPlayer is aware of character-as-artificial-construct
46 Aspects of identity during play Fictional characterPerceived sense of idealized selfPlayer, solving problems, completing tasksSelf as a person, with life demandsPlayer, sense of skill level/repLiterary, pop, or mythic archetypePrimal emotionsAnger, fear, joy, sadness
47 Double-consciousness I am a thinking personI am the player of this gameI am the avatar in this gameI am some more primal drivesRepresented by the game’s verbsI am my anger, I am my desire for power
48 Susan O’Connor“Playing God of War, I was constantly aware of driving this little avatar forward as I played, having fun and accomplishing goals. Meanwhile, I felt completely guilty for pushing Kratos forward into misery, as part of the game’s (interesting) plot.”
49 FPS double-consciousness Playing young Vasili in COD2Only aware of Russian identity when called by nameThrowing potatoes instead of grenades
50 Identity Absorption Scott McCloud My car becomes an extension of my bodyIt absorbs my sense of identityI become the car“Hey, she side-swiped me!”She and meRather than her car and my car
51 Identity Absorption At run-time, avatars are not literary characters Avatars are masks, archetypes, cartoons, iconsWhen the player chooses an avatar, he often reflects some aspect of himselfIdentity during play is multi-layeredThe player becomes the avatarAnd stays himself
52 Double-consciousness Games are multi-layered in terms of identity experienceGame characters allow us to restructure our sense of self
53 Introduction Avatars and archetypes What avatar choices mean Identity is multi-layered Identity is constructed Wrap-up
54 Judith Butler Core aspects of identity are constructed The coherence of gender categories seems naturalBut this is constructed via repeated stylized actsThis establishes the appearance of coherent genderButler theorizes gender/sexuality as performativeGoverned by social regimesAppearing as coherent or "natural"
55 Identity construction Identity is constructed by repeated stylized actsWe’re all engaged in character creation all the timeAvatars facilitate thisGames reinforce identity via stylized gameplay actsCOD2 potato throwingDiablo II health restorationEveryone heals (ie, re-adds life points)Necromancer—transferring damage to a minionPaladin—healing others with aurasBarbarian—taking the blood from fallen foesStylized healing reinforces identity
56 Introduction Avatars and archetypes What avatar choices mean Identity is multi-layered Identity is constructed Wrap-upHarvey SmithMidway Studios-AustinBlacksite Creative Director
57 Summary Players find self expression powerful, enjoyable People express themselves all the time, often unconsciouslyPlayers make specific choices based on subjective reasonsPatterns come up as archetypesPlayers gravitate toward/away from archetypesArchetypes aid people in understanding/creating identityIdentity is multi-layeredAvatars are a combo of player, self and characterAvatars are vesselsAs much as players project onto them, avatars influence players
58 Thanks! Harvey Smith Game Director Current Project: Unannounced Arkane-Studios
59 Useful References Gary Allen Fine, Shared Fantasy Judith Butler, Gender TroubleMatt Hanson, The End of CelluloidJanet H. Murray, Hamlet on the HolodeckCassell/Jenkins, From Barbie to Mortal KombatScott McCloud, Understanding ComicsJohn Suler, The Psychology of CyberspaceSalen/Zimmerman, Rules of Play
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