The Imago Effect: Avatar Psychology

I am becoming more and more interested in avatars, the online, graphical representations users create as their identity. The avatar can be as simple as finding a photo of your favorite movie character or, in massive online games that implements a character creation system, a fully fleshed out character. No matter which end of the spectrum a user is on, one thing holds true: people love self-expression.

Game designer and panelist Harvey Smith of Midway put together a thoughtful presentation. He said that the avatar phenomenon is part of the larger modern trend of participatory culture. There is a greater desire (and, thanks to the web, outlet) for self-expression and asserting one’s will, views and identity.

Despite this, an avatar is still a mask and only so much information can be gleaned from them. The reasons people choose their particular avatar is a combination of an individual’s self perception and state of mood. Images across the web are appropriated with personal meaning. The state of mood is important, because it always changes, and so can the avatar. The avatar is the pulse-check into a person’s state of mind, and as more and more people sign on to instant messengers, social networking sites, forums, blogs and massive online games, the use of the avatar will only continue to increase.

posted by Bryan Keplesky 

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