The process of making an avatar is always an interesting one and reminds me of my time spent deeply on the Sims, habbo hotel, IMVU, and other platforms growing up. It is an intimate process, a familiar one, and one that I don’t feel like I navigate in the same way now.
More recently, it feels like my “avatars” seem to more closely mimic my ideas and understanding of myself and feel less playful. In some ways, when I was younger I experimented more with coming up with unique usernames, character names, and ways of being that extended beyond me.
For the process of creating an avatar for the homework assignment, I began with IMVU which is a platform I used growing up. It felt very different to be making this character directly in the browser compared to downloaded a third-party app and I wondered how the browser based character creation differs from the character creation I was used to growing up.
Immediately, when creating an avatar here you are forced to pick from the gender binary which makes the options already tremendously limiting. As usual, I found it to be very difficult picking a hairstyle that felt similar or authentic to my hairstyle so had to settle on something in between. I also found it to be very interesting that in general, there weren’t alot of customization tools when it came to eye shape, eyebrows, body type, nose shape, which makes it so it already feels like there’s a certain privileging of a specific body type.
After running up against the limitations of this platform, I decided to try something which I viewed as more “simple,” which was the memoji sticker and animation feature available on the iphone. I have been growing particularly interested in memoji because of its ability to project your features, face movements, eye movement, tongue movement in animation mode, something I unfortunately have not been able to experiment with because of an older phone model.
Although this technology felt “simpler” upon initial judgement. I actually felt like the Memoji was more expressive. There were more specific customization options for the face and it foregoes making you pick a gender, and in fact I had access to facial hair options which isn’t always allotted to me. I also think there’s something interesting about the focus being solely on the face and the rest of the body for the most part is not visible unless you choose a specific emoji that incorporates more body elements. In general, I felt like I could get the avatar to feel like a more authentic version of myself, which is important since sometimes people may use memoji as a substitute for more standard types of emojis, to add personality to a message, or to enhance a video recorded (or voice memo) message.