Friday Fun #2 Get Your Own Avatar

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.

The Ten Avatars of Vishnu

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:
http://del.icio.us/psychemedia/avatar+editor

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?

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19 Responses to “Friday Fun #2 Get Your Own Avatar”


  1. 1 louise March 15, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    The Mii editor is fun — it reminds me a lot of a children’s software title I worked on five or six years ago, though we had better accessories ;-)

  2. 2 Tony Hirst March 15, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    Louise – so where’s YOUR avatar? ;-)

  3. 3 tethys March 15, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    here, possibly (louise posting from an old wordpress login).

  4. 4 Andy March 16, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    This (I hope) is my avatar.

    I have four wordpress blogs though (one personal, two work, one ARG) and WordPress (as far as I can tell) won’t allow one avatar for one blog and another avatar for another blog using the same account.

    This avatar wouldn’t be appropriate for all four sites. So, depending on the circumstances, I’d want to portray myself differently.

    Not sure what that says about me…

  5. 5 Tony Hirst March 16, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    “This avatar wouldn’t be appropriate for all four sites. So, depending on the circumstances, I’d want to portray myself differently.”

    This is a really good point. One of the things that’s going on in the worlds of 3d virtual worlds is a consideration of avatar and object portability between virtual worlds.

    I do wonder the extent to which a single avatar is useful… I have a couple of different usernames ofn different sites, for example, which i se for different purposes. In real life, many people have nicknames that identify them them in home/social life, and a ‘formal’ namae for work/professional life.

    Many people are also known by different names at different parts of their life – school or college nicknames, for example – that get left behind as life moves on. One thing about communities on the net is that you can move in and out of them far more quickly than in real life maybe… BUT there is the danger with online communities that your identities on several different networks can be reconciled…

    For example:
    http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/google_releases_social_graph_api.php
    and commentary here:
    http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2008/02/social-graph-visibility-akin-t.html

    And please don’t feel obliged to use a mii avatar here – indeed any avatar at all (even if it’s just a photo)…

    PS one of the reasons I chose the mii editor is that it’s quite hard to make anything offensive with it… although it has to be said, mii’s donlt necessarily have the gravitas you might want as your avatar in a professional setting! (What sort of avatar would be, though? A passport, or ‘press’ photo?)

  6. 6 Tony Hirst March 17, 2008 at 9:33 am

    Peter Miller, an academic experimenting in Second Life, has just posted a small collection of ‘novel’ avatars he has recently discovered for that world:

    http://tidalblog.blogspot.com/2008/03/alternative-avatars.html

    Worth a look…

  7. 7 Andy March 17, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    I’m heading to Anglia Ruskin tomorrow for http://www.inspire.anglia.ac.uk/mml08/

    I’m now wondering if I have time to build a Peter Miller style dragon beforehand. Not practical but fantastic.

  8. 8 r3becca March 17, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    I’ve built a mini mii! Then I had to remember my WordPress password in order to upload it. Will it appear next to this comment? I hope so.

  9. 9 r3becca March 17, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    Oh, and seeing as no one has identified the avatars, here goes:
    That’s Vishnu as Krishna in the middle and as Buddha on the bottom right.
    Bottom left he appears as Mastya, the fish
    Above that, he is Kurma, the tortoise.
    Above the tortoise, he is Varaha, the boar.
    Bottom centre he is Kalki – the machine man, on his white horse.
    I think he’s Rama on the right where he appears with Sita.
    He’s Parashurama on the top right, with an axe.
    Centre top he is Vamana, the dwarf priest
    So, on the top left, he must be Narasimha, the man/lion.

  10. 10 Tony Hirst March 18, 2008 at 12:20 am

    So 10 points to r3becca :-)

    For anyone interested in a little more background, one telling of the stories can be found at http://www.indianetzone.com/2/incarnations_vishnu.htm

    For a bonus 10 points (and I don’t know the answer to this…) are there any multilevel games that claim to have been inspired by these 10 avatars in their design statement, and that use the approach of the player character appearing in 10 different guises loosely corresponding to the avatars descending to the game world?

  11. 11 r3becca March 18, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    Well, since you ask…
    Sony is apparently getting together with Virgin comics to bring out a version of the Ramayana.
    Ramayan 3392AD

    Oh, and all my family are making mini miis now.

  12. 12 Tony Hirst March 18, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    Ramayan 3392AD – the movie?!

    http://video.aol.com/video-detail/ramayan-3392ad-trailer/2496687369

    Well, I guess the game of the film is sure to follow!

    ‘and all my family are making mini miis now.’

    Heh heh…. I’ve noticed some of the people who read my other blog have started looking for avatars too, now.

    Voki appears to be popular ( http://www.voki.com/create.php ), maybe because you can get them to talk!

    So far, though, I don’t know anyone who’s (yet?!) gone for a makeover with http://www.taaz.com/ …!

  13. 13 r3becca March 19, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    SAN DIEGO and NEW YORK, Aug. 9 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Through a deal that joins two of the world’s most innovative entertainment brands, Sony Online Entertainment (SOE), a global leader in the online gaming industry, is teaming up with Sir Richard Branson and Deepak Chopra’s Virgin Comics to bring the popular, India-based Ramayan 3392 A.D. comic book universe to life as an MMO video game initially for the PC.

    Quote from a page with a REALLY long URL.

  14. 14 Tony Hirst March 19, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    “Quote from a page with a REALLY long URL.”

    One of the easiest ways to share really long URLs is to create a TinyURL. Copy the long URL from the browser address bar, go to http://tinyurl.com and create a short form URL from there…

  15. 15 Tony Hirst March 21, 2008 at 1:14 am

    “The National Health Service is the UK’s state-funded health-care system, and with 1.3 million staffers, the fifth largest employee in the world. And thanks to a chance meeting at a Texas bar at last week’s SXSW, I discovered they’re about to get avatars for their internal resource network. As such, they’re probably the biggest non-gaming organization to incorporate whimsical alter egos into their enterprise infrastructure.

    “The enterprise part stems from NHS’s licensing deal with Microsoft, which built their online Resource Centre [ http://www.microsoft.com/uk/nhs/ ]. The avatars come from WeeWorld [ http://www.weeworld.com/ ], the Benchmark Capital-funded social network featuring customizable avatars that resemble “South Park” characters cleaned up for prime time.”

    ” ‘We thought avatars might engender more of a community feel,’ Microsoft Web Editor Marilisa Vergottini told me. ‘Otherwise it’s a bit more anonymous.’ (The site is not just for the NHS’s IT department, but for the organization’s health workers, admin staff, etc.) Microsoft last summer initially tried using more generic, non-customizable avatars, but was unsatisfied, so it recently partnered with WeeWorld. ”

    http://gigaom.com/2008/03/20/microsft-brings-weeworld-to-the-nhs/

  16. 16 Rebecca April 20, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    Sadly, the Mini mii is no more :-( We went there today to create a new avatar, and the site owner had posted the following message:

    Dear Friends,

    I deeply regret to have to inform you that due to legal action taken against this web site from the “Big N,” the editor service provided here will no longer be available.

    While still in ownership of this domain, I would like to personally thank each and every one of you who has supported this project and has provided me with positive criticism and feedback regarding the editor and this site. To my surprise, I have received many heart-warming stories concerning the use of the editor and the impact it has had on different people’s lives. It pleases me to no end to have heard those stories and would like to encourage everyone to continue to share their stories with other developers and site owners so that they too can feel the same appreciation that I have.

    Though I do not welcome what is being done, I do understand the reasons. And while I don’t necessarily fully agree with those reasons, especially in the context of this web site, there isn’t much I can do about it.

    I have had as much fun working on the editor as people have had using it and I am thankful of the time it was able to remain online.

    Sincerely,

    Trevor
    MiiEditor.com

  17. 17 Tony Hirst April 21, 2008 at 9:48 am

    Hi Rebecca –

    Thanks for spotting that take down notice on the miieditor site.

    In response, I’ve just deleted a load of wii games from my amazon wishlist, the cost savings on which get me a fair way towards an Xbox or PS3. For now, I guess I’ll just be using the wii for watching youtube and iplayer ;-)

  18. 18 Tony Hirst April 21, 2008 at 10:10 am

    If you have LOTS of time ;-), why not try drawing an avatar from scratch?

    I just came across “Learning Inkscape – An Order of the Stick Avatar Guide” [ http://www.trazoi.net/tutorials/inkscape/oots/index.html ] that describes in excellent tutorial fashion how to use the free to download inkscape editor ( http://www.inkscape.org/ ) to draw cartoon like characters.

    As soon as I get a chance, I know I;’m going to give it a whirl…

    Although not as polished as the miieditor described in the above post, here’s another online mii editor: http://www.joystiq.com/media/2006/10/mii.swf

    You’ll need to use a screen capture to actually take a copy of the avatar (I use Jing [ http://jingproject.com ])

  19. 19 R3becca August 28, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    The mii editor is no more, but its author has now replaced it with a Beta version of ‘My avatar editor’
    http://myavatareditor.com/myavatareditorbeta.html


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