[DigCult] Creating an online avatar

by Thom Kiraly

As an assignment for class everyone was supposed to create an online avatar. Reading Intimate Interactions: Online Representation and Software of the Self I understand an avatar as something more than just a representation of myself which I choose to display online. There needs to be an element of subjectivity and agency involved for an avatar to be considered an avatar, a simple .jpg on a social networking site is not enough. So, where does one go in order to create such an avatar? There’s always online gaming, but since I didn’t feel like signing up for trials and going through the hassle of downloading clients etc. etc. etc. I was looking for something else. Apart from not wanting to create a game-character I also wanted to find a platform giving me the opportunity to create an avatar looking like something other than a human(oid). This, I soon discovered, limited my options quite a bit. The option I ended up choosing was the Endless Forest by Tale of Tales. In tEF, users control deer running around in, well, an endless forest. What I like about tEF, apart from users being able to play something other than a human/humanoid being, is the way in which users communicate. Since everyone’s playing an animal, unable to speak, they too are unable to actually talk to each other and have to rely on the few animal sounds characters can make. This makes for a very quite and contemplative experience far from the hectic and, sometimes, abusive interactions of for example online games.

So, here’s a picture of my avatar. As you can see, it’s a fairly young little creature. The sign above its head is the one I chose when I registered for an account at the “game’s” website. It’s the only thing setting my avatar apart from other animals of the same age.