Whenever I post to the Digital Worlds blog, I get offered the chance to upload my “avatar”. I intend to have a ramble about avatars and how they relate to – and represent – identity in online, digital and virtual worlds later on, but thought it might be fun if we did start to use avatars to represent ourselves in the Digital Worlds space…
The term avatar has its roots in the Hindu religion, where it describes the earthly manifestation of a god on earth. Typically, the avatar would have a human form, although it could also be an animal.
Ten (10) points to whoever’s the first to identify the names and representations of each avatar. Five points each for a brief summary of the background story to each one ;-)
[I’m trusting you to keep your own scores… maybe I need to post a stars chart, somewhere?! ;-)]
In online communities, avatars are representations that of real people, in some form or another. They can be used to provide an identifiable way of identifying and communicating with anonymous individuals who might otherwise be hidden away behind a textual user ID.
An avatar may range from a simple photo, image or static cartoon like character, such as you might use to identify yourself in an instant messaging system or in a web forum, to lifelike 3D characters that roam around virtual worlds such as Second Life. There’s an interesting history here of the avatars one person has used over the last few years that’s well worth a read: History of Avatars; and this post on The History of Avatars describes how the notion of avatars has been used across different media, from cyberpunk literature, through IM, to today’s online virtual worlds. What are the different ‘treatments’ of avatars that are described in that second article?
In the ultimate expression of postmodernism – the self-referential construction of cultural artefacts out of other cultural artefacts (or something like that – I’m no philosopher or critical theorist;-) – there is now even social network for avatars: Koinup
Create Your Own Avatar
There are more than a few sites out there that allow you to create your own avatar – you may already have one or more avatars – so this bit of Friday Fun is about setting up avatars to hide behind in the Digital Worlds universe ;-)
If you already have an avatar in an appropriate form, maybe you’d like to create a WordPress account and use it as your avatar when posting a comment here. If you haven’t already got an avatar, or if you haven’t got one that you can – or want to – use here, then chop chop, get to it, let’s create one now…
There are many ways of creating online avatars, from simple cartoon images to 3D animated figures that inhabit 3D rooms you can decorate yourself. I suggest spending about half an hour or so (5 mins is enough, but hours can go by…;-) creating a cartoon-like character that can be saved as a simple image file, and then uploaded to a personal web profile page in the same way that you might upload a photograph of yourself.
Of course, you might have other ideas…
[The editor on the Mii Editor site has been taken down due to legal action by Nintendo.]
The Mii Editor
The Mii Editor is an interactive Flash application that works online, or that can be downloaded to your desktop.
Like many avatar editors, you can customise many aspects of your avatar’s appearance – eyes, nose, mouth, hair, eyebrows, skin tone, clothes, and so on. As you can see from the above, it is even possible to create photo-realistic avatars ;-)
Once you have created your avatar, many web avatar creation services will allow you to save it as an image file that you can then upload to sites such as WordPress. Some services allow you to create an account and then get an online embed code for your avatar that you can embed in personal profile pages on services like MySpace.
The Miieditor actually allows you to save an XML file that can be loaded into a Wiimote for the Wii games console – so you can bring your avatar alive in your favourite Wii game!
What’s the alternative?
If you have time,
or if you don’t like the idea of creating a Mii avatar, there are plenty of other avatar and 3D room creation sites.
I bookmarked a few I’ve come across using the delicious social bookmarking site:
The Dress-Up Games website also lists several dozen avatar creation sites.
Be warned, though, creating avatars can be addictive, and very time consuming, and some complex, Flash animated 3D avatars can take a long time to load if you add them to a webpage! If you do try any of these other sites out, why not post a link to ones you found particularly engaging (maybe with a quick review) as a comment?