Monthly Archives: December 2005

In-Game Performance and the Player-Avatar Assemblage

Paper presented at e-Performance and Plugins: A Mediatised Performance Conference, convened by the School of Media, Film and Theatre at the University of NSW (December 1, 2005).

As gaming consoles have matured, the immersive interactivity they afford has made them an important site for the study of mediated performance. Game play is a hybrid performance of player and avatar, connected by controller cord and unbroken gaze in surprisingly tight symbiosis. Transdisciplinary new media research has found the abstract, flexible tools of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari useful in exploring this complex heterogenous hybridity.
This paper presents a conceptual model of the player-avatar ‘assemblage’, grounded in Deleuzian ontology. In such a model, the relations between components of the assemblage result in flows that determine the scope of mediated performance. Player and avatar are machinic multiplicities brought into relation through game play. As they articulate with one another, aspects of the assemblage shape the performance produced. The model presented here anticipates the ways in which this shaping occurs.
Following Manuel DeLanda, player and avatar multiplicities are conceived as multidimensional manifolds in state-space. As they engage to form the player-avatar assemblage, each extends and cuts the flux of the other. Flows are shared, lines of flight reinforced, divided, or extinguished. The nature of the resulting assemblage is driven by the singularities defining each manifold, and the ways in which they are concatenated.
There is a relative paucity of analytical research on digital avatars. However, theories of embedded cognition and cyborg relations nestled around this lacuna do provide numerous examples supporting the model presented. A general model of the player-avatar assemblage would be a powerful tool not only in the academic analysis of digitally mediated performance, but also in the praxis of avatar development and performance enablement. Should such a model hold following more rigorous experimental investigation, it will prove invaluable as digital avatars and mediated performance continue to take more prominent and complex roles in our lives.