This may be a little preview of what’s to come in the extended blog post from myself and Evan. As a theatre student, what really strikes me as fascinating is the connection between gaming and acting. Our representative characters and concepts of self are strikingly similar in both occasions. The avatar is, to me, just another word for character. We assume so many roles in our daily life, I don’t see a reason why play should differ.
On a daily basis, a twenty-something year old college student could easily “play” as the student, boyfriend/girlfriend, roommate, employee, son/daughter, friend, etc. (This is often a topic of discussion in the Theatre Arts classes: i.e. “what is theatre?” It often leads to rather frustrating vague conversations about what is or isn’t art and what is or isn’t performance.) My point here, is that we are frequently taking on the traits to fit the relationship we are attempting to have. This is in its own way, a form of performance. And furthermore, how is playing a character in a game any different from any of that? Coleman may argue that an avatar walk the line between the virtual and the real (and may not be either), but I would like to state that if avatars don’t have a classification, perhaps actors playing characters don’t either. Which would be a travesty. Yes, I am biased, seeing as acting is the foolish career that I am hoping to pursue. But I admit to my biases and will continue to argue in their favor.
(aha a silly image to intrigue you!)
Back to my point. An avatar is another way to communicate, to tell a story, to play. I don’t really care if it is or isn’t real to anyone else. It might lack the presence of beings communicating in a space, but the same is true of telephones, texting, and skype. Theatre may even lack the authenticity of a true conversation generated in real time. However, as an actor, it my job and the job of my peers to feel truthfully even in imaginary circumstances. If the emotion is real, I don’t see how that makes the experience any less real in any situation. I don’t see how this is any different than getting really into a game of D&D or cosplaying. You are telling a story, you are having an experience, it is real to you even if it was imaginary. I may not be a gamer, but as an actor, I rest my case.