The Other_Home of Subcultures_Robbie Cooper_Alter Ego13 DIGITAL / May 2014

MY AVATAR, MY ALTER EGO

Photography by Robbie Cooper
Text by Dora Moutot

What does your avatar look like? Here at The Other, we’re fascinated with the way in which people represent themselves through their look, so inevitably, we’re also interested in the way people represent themselves virtually.

British photographer Robbie Cooper went on a journey to meet 62 players of MMORPG, such as Lineage, Second Life, City of Heroes, Everquest and World of Warcraft. His reportage uncovers the face of humanity hiding behind these virtual worlds and shows what an avatar can reveal about a personality.

 

The Other_Home of Subcultures_Robbie Cooper_Alter Ego8

 

A WORLD WHERE YOU CAN LOOK HOWEVER YOU WANT

 

Now on the decline, video games such as World of Warcraft, Second Life, City of Heroes etc, once generated millions in revenue at the height of their popularity in the mid-2000s. In the world of gamers, these games are called “MMORPG”, meaning “Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games”. In this type of game, the player incarnates a character with a personality living in a virtual world populated by avatars, which interact with one another in real-time.

The MMORPG are not only virtual universes where you can kill monster upon monster – they are also universes where you can personalise the finest details of your avatar, imprinting them with a quasi-unique identity. A man can take on the appearance of a little girl and a white woman can become a black man. In the MMORPG, the player has free reign over his or her avatar. Without limits or constraints, this is a world where you can be whoever you want to be and take on whatever appearance you wish.

 

The Other_Home of Subcultures_Robbie Cooper_Alter Ego9

 

THE AVATAR AS A MIRROR?

 

Over the course of 3 years, Robbie Cooper travelled the world in order to meet MMORPG players. From the United States to Asia and Europe, he photographed them in real life. He then had the brilliant idea to juxtapose these photographs alongside portraits of their virtual avatars in a book entitled “Alter Ego: Avatars and their creators”, published in 2007. The images of the avatar and the person in the flesh mirror each other as if in a dialogue.The book offers a rich and fascinating look into the psychology of these players and their relationship to their avatar.

A text accompanies each character, providing us with the details about the person’s age, occupation, the game in which they participate, as well as the number of hours spent playing. In their own words, each person reveals the history of their avatar and why they decided to represent themselves in such a way.

Kimberly, a player on Second Life explains her process: “Most of the time my avatar looks like my real self but about twenty years younger. I’m jealous of some of her clothes. I made a pair of boots that I wish I could export into real life. I usually dress my avatar in the same sort of stuff I wear. She doesn’t have a separate persona or anything. She’s just an extension of myself in the virtual space”.

 

The Other_Home of Subcultures_Robbie Cooper_Alter Ego15

 

“Naemie is my digital spirit, perfectly realized in her striking image-red headed, savage, generous, lethal! And with a strong resemblance to my feminine side”, says Thierry, a player of “Guild Wars”.

 

The Other_Home of Subcultures_Robbie Cooper_Alter Ego12

 

“I designed Thalia to look the way I aspire to be when I’m older. I know the kind of person that I want to be because I see some women like that in real life or in film. In some ways, by creating my hero’s journey character to look like my own future goal, it gives me something to visualize and work towards”, says Elizabeth, a player of “Hero’s Journey”.

 

The Other_Home of Subcultures_Robbie Cooper_Alter Ego5

 

“I have different avatars but my favourite is an elf. My other avatars are not all females. Some are really good looking male characters, very attractive. But it’s not like I want to play like a woman or a man. It’s like having an avatar as a boyfriend or girlfriend. It’s more like your partner”, says Harisu, a transsexual player on “Lineage II”.

 

The Other_Home of Subcultures_Robbie Cooper_Alter Ego10

 

The identity that the players choose is sometimes a real-life replica; for others the virtual identity goes towards the opposite of the physical personality of the player, pushing the limits of imagination.

I think people use avatars in different ways. We noticed in Asia players were much more focused on creating an avatar that they liked looking at, rather than thinking about what other people were seeing inside the game world. So a lot of guys played girls for that reason… Other people really throw themselves into the role-play element, or consider their avatar to be an extension of their real world selves. Very often the role play story that players gave their characters seemed to echo something about the person…To cut a long story short, it takes all sorts to make a world, and it takes all sorts to make a virtual world too”, says photographer Robbie Cooper.

A large spectrum of players is represented: more or less regular players, obsessive players, creators of virtual worlds, entrepreneurs, elderly, teenagers, a drag queen, actors, a butcher, students, a consultant, a model and even the disabled. For some, the virtual world offers new forms of freedom, far away from the constraints of the real world.

“The difference between me and my online character is pretty obvious. I have a lot of physical disabilities in real life but in star wars galaxies I can ride an imperial speeder bike, fight monsters or just hang out with friends at a bar”, says Jason.

 

➜ www.robbiecooper.org

 

The Other_Home of Subcultures_Robbie Cooper_Alter Ego4

 

Avatars and Their Creators by Robbie Cooper is published by Chris Boot.

 

The Other_Home of Subcultures_Robbie Cooper_Alter Ego1 The Other_Home of Subcultures_Robbie Cooper_Alter Ego2 The Other_Home of Subcultures_Robbie Cooper_Alter Ego3The Other_Home of Subcultures_Robbie Cooper_Alter Ego6 The Other_Home of Subcultures_Robbie Cooper_Alter Ego7The Other_Home of Subcultures_Robbie Cooper_Alter Ego13 The Other_Home of Subcultures_Robbie Cooper_Alter Ego14The Other_Home of Subcultures_Robbie Cooper_Alter Ego17 The Other_Home of Subcultures_Robbie Cooper_Alter Ego18 The Other_Home of Subcultures_Robbie Cooper_Alter Ego19

One Response to “MY AVATAR, MY ALTER EGO”

  1. Malee says:

    I am Princess Warrior Malee

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>