Are socially exclusive values embedded in the avatar creation interfaces of MMORPGs?

Tyler Pace (School of Informatics, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, USA)
Aaron Houssian (School of Informatics, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, USA)
Victoria McArthur (Interdisciplinary Studies Program, York University, Toronto, Canada)

Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society

ISSN: 1477-996X

Publication date: 1 May 2009

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to show how both the presentation and limitation of visual choices in massively multiplayer online role‐playing games (MMORPG) avatar creation interfaces tends to exclude or favor different real life social groups.

Design/methodology/approach

A novel method combining both quantitative and critical analysis of the syntagmatic‐paradigmatic structure of MMORPG avatar creation interfaces is used to inform the findings of this study.

Findings

This study concludes that as cultural interfaces, current fantasy themed MMORPGs remediate socially exclusive values both from fantasy literature and from their own game lore. The socially exclusive values deal largely with extreme and immutable racial and sexual dimorphism.

Research limitations/implications

Interfaces which present users with color palettes and/or smooth slider‐based body modifiers do not lend themselves well to this method of analysis. In addition to this, only a handful of the popular MMORPGs are analyzed within the body of this work.

Practical implications

This paper demonstrates that MMORPG players and designers need to be more aware about how they are constructing and embedding social values in their worlds. Avatars are critical conduits for online social dynamics and embedding socially exclusive values may transfer negative ideologies from old media to new.

Originality/value

This paper offers one of the earliest critiques of embedded values in avatar creation interfaces of MMORPGs. The paper aims to begin discussion on an overlooked area of now popular media that has not received any critical attention regarding its embedded messages of social inclusiveness or exclusiveness.

Keywords

Citation

Pace, T., Houssian, A. and McArthur, V. (2009), "Are socially exclusive values embedded in the avatar creation interfaces of MMORPGs?", Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 7 No. 2/3, pp. 192-210. https://doi.org/10.1108/14779960910955909

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Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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