What can we learn from abandoned avatars?

Keeping in line with my interest in quitting and non/participation in games, I’m happy to share this new paper I wrote with Suzanne de Castell and Jennifer Jenson. Here we went back to look at an old dataset of avatars created for VERUS. Due to the nature of the study design, these avatars will never be played again by the people who created them. We argue that there is still a wealth of information that can be gleaned from these avatars, even if they have been shelved.

I will be presenting this paper later this summer in Scotland, and eventually it will appear in the Digital Games Research Library.

Digital Detritus: What Can We Learn From Abandoned Massively Multiplayer Online Game Avatars?

ABSTRACT: Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) player data has been used to investigate a variety of questions, ranging from the sociality of small groups, to patterns of economic decision making modeled across entire game servers. To date, MMOG player research has primarily drawn on data (e.g. server-side logs, observational data) collected while players (and their avatars) were actively participating in the gameworld under investigation. MMOGs are persistent worlds where avatars are held in stasis when the player logs out of the game, and this is a feature that allows players to return after an extended absence to “pick up where they left off”. In this paper we explore the sorts of information that can be gleaned by examining avatars after their creators have played them for the last time. Our preliminary findings are that “abandoned” avatars still contain a wealth of information about the people who created them, opening up new possibilities for the study of players and decision making in MMOGs.