QJ.NET interview - Alter Ego: Avatars and Their CreatorsBy: Ibelieve posted at Aug 16, 2007 3:05 am
What is Alter Ego? MTV, CNN, The New York Times, and various MMORPG sites have introduced us to the concept:Alter Ego is an intriguing concept book presenting the phenomenon ofthe contemporary avatar - the virtual characters we gamers create toplay online.
In Alter Ego: Avatars and Their Creators,you see pictures of gamers from all over the world (including leadingfigures in the gaming world) alongside their avatars. Add to that ashort and interesting biography, and you have a visual testimony of whoand what we are as gamers.
Now QJ.NET takes a closer look at thebook: from its successful launch and its reception, and going back toits creative roots. We also get a glimpse into the minds and visions ofRobbie Cooper (the project originator and photographer) and Tracy Spaight (the project writer / researcher).
QJ.NET:Alter Ego: Avatars and Their Creators is presented as "a cool conceptbook." But the messages in the biographies seem timeless. Now, monthsafter your first round of interviews and reviews in the press, how hasthe concept been received?
Robbie Cooper:It's been received very well. When I first started talking about it topeople, it was quite hard for people to get their heads around. It'squite important for people to understand that these are games where thegame-world is there all the time. And people log in and out of it.
Nowthat people are generally more familiar with the idea of virtualworlds, it's much easier to explain. And when people see it they relateto it. Magazines are still contacting me and the publisher to runserializations. Three museums have gotten in touch recently to put onexhibitions. It's an idea that's become mainstream during the time Iwas shooting it.
Tracy Spaight:Alter Ego poses questions about identity and community. "Who am I" and"how do I find my place" are timeless questions. What's different isthe medium in which this quest for self is being played out.
Thetechnology of virtual worlds allows for types of interaction - andforms of association - that are quite novel. People who didn't grow upwith computers or the Internet are curious about virtual worlds. Theimages and stories that make up Alter Ego are easy for people to relateto, even if they've never logged into Second Life or EverQuest. They speak to the modern condition.
"... a socially awkward,
hygienically challenged teenage male
that gets the shakes ..."
QJ.NET:Some of the people in this book are quite attractive - even sexuallyattractive. Have people expressed surprise that we MMO gamers arenormal - and even attractive?
Robbie Cooper: I'd love to say no. But yes, they have. [Laughs.]
Tracy Spaight:When most outsiders think of gamers, the mental image that comes tomind is a socially awkward, hygienically challenged teenage male thatgets the shakes if he gets more than twenty feet away from hiscomputer. Everyone has met someone like that, but the average gamer ispretty much like everyone else. According to the ESA,the average game player is 33 years old, has a job, is involved intheir community, and is basically "normal," whatever that means.
QJ.NET: Your book has Ailin Qin, a lady who makes over a million real dollars from Second Life.There's also Lucy Winkett, a precentor - a cleric - of St. Paul'sCathedral in London. Were these and other biographies accidental finds?Or was there also a conscious effort to present a diversity of people?
Tracy Spaight:We sent a request for subjects to major gaming news sites, forums, andblogs in an effort to find interesting people for the book. We receivedliterally thousands of emails, many of them filled with colorful,humorous, or off-the-wall stories about life in virtual worlds. Many ofthe people in the book were serendipitous finds, but a few of them(like Jeremy Chase or Lucy Winkett) were folks we'd read about online.
Robbie Cooper:We avoided presenting the same type of person too many times. Even so,we were restricted in our search in that we were dependent on peoplecontacting us. I met one person online, for example, who told me sheplayed these games because she had been facially disfigured in carcrash. She refused to be photographed. I bet there are thousands ofmore stories out there that we never came across.
"I used to be a satanic priest,
but then I got a girlfriend."
QJ.NET:The biographies are sometimes heartbreaking in their honesty. Do youfind that people are open about their gaming lives or their personallives or both?
Robbie Cooper:It's interesting that a few people chose to role play their answers.And yet also included, somehow, real information within the role play.For me the best statement of all was "I used to be a satanic priest,but then I got a girlfriend." David said it with no irony whatsoever.Beautiful.
Tracy Spaight:Many of the people I interviewed have invested hundreds of hours increating their online identity. They poured their creativity intodesigning their avatar's appearance or writing an elaborate back-storyabout their alter ego. Their avatar is an expression of who they are orwho they want to be. They were eager to tell their story.
QJ.NET: Can you give our readers some insights about how you chose which biographies and pictures to include in the book?
Robbie Cooper:Bruno at Chris Boot, the publisher, edited them. But we were aiming totry and represent the diversity that is undoubtedly there.
Tracy Spaight:There were some pragmatic considerations that came into play. If theperson lived in Mongolia or Saskatchewan, we couldn't always fly outthere to interview and photograph them. But once we'd reached acritical mass of subjects, Bruno helped us select the right images andstories.
QJ.NET: The finalvariety and diversity of biographies are astounding. Did you end uphaving to cut a lot of biographies from the final book? Will there be asequel?
Robbie Cooper:It would be great to do a sequel. I would like to return to this, in awhile, and in the meantime do something that is closely related.
Tracy Spaight:It would be interesting to tackle the project again in a few years, asvirtual worlds become more and more mainstream. We've only scratchedthe surface.
Bookmark and share to your friends
Hot Articles Weekly
Recipe for a master mmorpg?
2687 views 37 comments By Katling21
Nintendo says No! No! To youtube monetize system.
2334 views 27 comments By Pelagato
F2P Weekly News #1 May 10th
2066 views 9 comments By Spammie
[First Look] Arcane Saga (CBT)
1983 views 21 comments By Zugai
World or Warcraft Subscription Base drops by 1.3 Mio as Patch 5.3 draws nigh
1532 views 6 comments By Stan D
Why i love my Whipper
1466 views 12 comments By CassieChu
DOT: Defender Of Texel The Mobile Game To Play.
1332 views 6 comments By Ammunition
[Review] Fishing Hero (CBT)
1065 views 12 comments By Zugai
Throne of Thunder Cross Realm Enabled in Patch 5.3
902 views 0 comments By Stan D
Ammo's Pick: Top 5 Bugs, Glitches, and Errors In MMOFPS
783 views 2 comments By Ammunition
- [Quest at GDC] Our one on one interview with WoW's Tom Chilton1 comments
- RIFT interview with Trion dev Scott Hartsmann0 comments
- BlizzCon 2010 interview with WoW's Alex Afrasiabi0 comments
- Blizzard claims another next-gen MMO, planning new Battle.net features, hints StarCraft 2 Beta2 comments
- LotRO Book 11 explained: The Rift, Lore-Master, and more0 comments