October 27, 2020

What does it mean to be another? The relationship of player and avatar in digital games

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Earlier this month, Dr. Daniel Vella was invited to deliver an online talk for the Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies (CoE GameCult), a joint venture of the Universities of Tampere, Jyväskylä and Turku (Finland), and one of the world's leading game studies research communities.

Virtual Existentialism: Philosophy in and through Games

On Monday, 5th October, Dr. Vella gave a presentation entitled "What does it mean to be another?: Games and the aesthetics of the self" The talk presented ideas from Virtual Existentialism: Meaning and Subjectivity in Virtual Worlds, co-written with Prof. Stefano Gualeni and published earlier this year on Palgrave Macmillan. Referring to work in game studies on players' relation to their avatars, as well as to the philosophy of play of Eugen Fink, the talk focused on the existential significance of games' stated capacity to let us explore other selves, as well as the ideological problems of such a claim.

The Difference Between Players and Avatars

After the talk, discussion focused on questions regarding the complex relations of identity and difference between players and avatars, the ways in which our in-game selves relate to our already fragmented and multiple everyday selves, and to the notion of masks and the taking-on of roles inherent in many mask-wearing practices.

Dr Vella has also previously discussed acting as an avatar in this THINK podcast.

The full article is also available on THINK Magazine, an Dr. Vella's work is covered in broad less-academic terms. Drawing on philosophers like Kant and Schiller of the aesthetic tradition and their views on the concept of play Dr Vella explores how the player relates to the game world.