August 20th, 2019
Have you ever designed a customizable video game character or online avatar? This common and fun activity allows you to experience being someone other than yourself. Whether you’re designing your World of Warcraft avatar, or customizing a cosplay outfit from your favorite comic or manga, changing your appearance can be a fun and rewarding experience. But, where does the line get drawn between those who spend moderate amounts of time playing make-believe, to those who fully immerse themselves in their character to the point of changing their own physical, mental and emotional being?
this is the name given to the physiological changes one can experience when designing and using an avatar or any other type of interactive customizable digital character. The Proteus Effect essentially is what happens when one begins to imitate or take one the attributes of their virtual counterparts. The changes to their personality can be positive or negative depending on the circumstance. Avatars and virtual characters are the manifestations of what we want to be, or who we want to be with. In some cases, one’s avatar or digital persona can emulate an idea of who they envision themselves as.
Because of the time spent in the virtual world, or because of the mental energy required to maintain their persona to other characters, some avatar users begin to behave like their digital counterparts or take on their attributes. Those who are beginning to make subtle changes to their actual behavior or appearance in day to day life are experiencing what is known as, The Proteus Effect.
Designing an avatar or digital character can be done in 2 ways, creating an abstract persona based on your own personal desires, or tailoring one to an existing character or person, this can also mean designing one based on yourself! When you decide to create a unique character based on the available modifications, what type of character are you creating?
In some instances, players/users and costumer designers may create characters with attributes that they find appealing to themselves or others. What type of characters have you created in the past? Creating avatars has a large impact on the way we spend our time, and how we ultimately perceive reality.
There are fictional stories that specifically focus on those who use avatars and become immersed in the fabricated or abstract universe. The 2009 film, “Avatar” is a frank depiction of a story of one who uses an avatar and allows his artificial character to take precedence over reality.
The story is of a soldier sent to infiltrate the enemy and gain their trust, only to fall into his avatar character’s traits and decides to go against his subordinates, aiding the same people he has been sent to eliminate! Being handicapped, the main character “Jake Sully” naturally urns be healthy and agile again. As a “Navi” (the race of his assumed character), his able-bodied “avatar: is able to do and experience things he can never do as himself, including finding love.
What makes people take on the persona of their fictional characters? This can be for any number of reasons. The need for self-improvement, the need to escape reality, or maybe too simply become something other than themselves. A test was conducted involving groups of people who are assigned various virtual avatars, they were then told to communicate with each other through their virtual character. In cases where an individual was shorter than average, they were assigned characters that were taller in comparison to the one they are interacting with. Those who conducted the study recorded speech patterns that demonstrated a more confident state when addressing others as a taller individual. This is just one of the personal psychological aspects that can be transferred from an avatar to a human being.
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