Digital Embodiment: The Importance of Character Design

After playing as different avatars and exploring the worlds that the Digital Embodiments project created as historical representations of Lakeport and Soweto, I found that which avatar I chose did affect my personal experiences. For example, when I chose the black female slave avatar at Lakeport Manor, I was slightly cautious and worried as I explored the world. I felt a little bit uneasy and uncertain of the world I was in, and I questioned whether or not I had permission to enter certain places. When I chose the white male plantation owner as my avatar, this uneasiness went away.

However, while this did affect my thoughts and emotions while I explored the game, I still would have explored the world in the same way each time, regardless of which avatar I had chosen. Although it’s clear that which avatar I chose had an effect on my experience, I feel like this effect wasn’t nearly as strong as it would have been if it were in combination with a storyline or plot in which I was clearly treated differently depending upon my avatar.

Ultimately, I think avatars are important in having players think more about the physical attributes they have and how that may affect the world they are in. At the same time, I feel like it is much more important that when trying to create historical accuracies, the way in which the world “makes” them explore should reflect their avatar’s physical characteristics to some degree. At the very least, I think that the way in which the avatar is treated by its environment should change depending upon the avatar’s physical characteristics.

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