Video Game Avatar: From Other to Self-Transcendence and Transformation
The aim of this paper is to establish a model for the relationship between the player of a video game and the avatar that represents that player in the virtual world of the video game. I propose that there is an evolution in the identification of the player of a video game with the avatar character that performs embodied actions in the virtual world of the game. This identification can be described through an examination of theories from a variety of subject areas including philosophy, literary studies, video game theory, and educational theory. Specifically, theories in hermeneutics, literary immersion, embodiment, empathy, narrative, game ego, play, and learning theory are synthesized to produce a broad picture of the player/avatar relationship as it develops over time. I will identify three stages in the process of feeling immersed in a game. This feeling of immersion can, but may not necessarily will, occur as the player engages in game play over a period of time. I will identify this process in three stages. I will call the first stage “other”; the second stage “immersion”; and the third stage “self-transcendence.” In this final stage, the avatar does not merely represent the player in a virtual world, but can become so relevant that it moves the player to a state of self-transcendence. At this point, the game play can offer a critique of the player’s worldview, to call into question the player’s approach and event presuppositions about the world. A result of this critique is a transformation that takes place within the player that may actually transform one’s self-understanding, thus providing the player with an authentic learning experience.
Keywords: Literary Immersion, Virtual Worlds, Gaming Pedagogy, Avatar, Presence, Video Game Theory, Play, Self-Transcendence Through Play, Empathy, Embodiment, Self, Other, Learning Theory, Narrative Theory, Hermeneutics, Game Ego
Graduate Student, Department of English