I’m not big on avatars. I mean, I have my fun dressing up an avatar but I lose interest in it soon enough. (Though I must admit, the southpark avatars did catch my fancy.)
But obviously I am not a majority, since there seem to be quite a few people spending amazing amounts of time and money .. and *money*
NHN Hangame , a Japanese game portal, recorded revenue of US $36.8 million from avatar and related sales.
Avatars are pretty big in schools even in my hometown of Chandigarh. My kid cousins routinely change and re-do their avatars (though quite a few are too sexy for the 13 yr olds to sport).
why the avatar is big
The avatar isn’t just a doll you dress up. Unlike a Barbie, where we’re dressing up another ‘person’, we think of the avatar as ‘ourselves’ (even if it doesn’t sport the paunch we do).
The avatar therefore ends the classic struggle between the ‘self’ and the ‘other’.
In reality, we have a self (towards which we may feel love, hatred etc) and the ‘other’ who is everything the self is not (which again we may like or dislike). The differentiation between the self and the other is essential for one’s understanding of oneself.
The avatar puts those two together, allowing us to create that which is us and at the same time is the other. Much like an actor. Only this time, the virtual is almost real (second life marriage).
The ‘connect’ stage is really the same as ‘discovering online chatting for the first time. There is a tendency to be all that you aren’t. Saying things you otherwise wouldn’t. Experiencing freedom from your physical self.
The ‘merge’ stage makes for a curious study. Here the virtual avatar begins to reflect the real self as one slowly becomes comfortable with oneself and opens up to the virtual world.
It is perhaps this mix of the ‘self and the ‘other’ in one, which merges the boundaries between the real and virtual
William Gibson said:
“One of the things our grandchildren will find quaintest about us is that we distinguish the digital from the real, the virtual from the real. In the future, that will become literally impossible. The distinction between cyberspace and that which isn’t cyberspace is going to be unimaginable”