Centaurs and Horsemen: Composite Avatars and the Epistemology of the Playable Figure: Theorizing the Player-Playable Figure Relationship

Hans-Joachim Backe, Petri Lankoski

Publikation: Artikel i tidsskrift og konference artikel i tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


The paper revisits a central question in the study of characters in digital games: Do players of, for example, a racing game steer the virtual car directly themselves, or are they controlling the body of a virtual driver? This seemingly technical question is shown to be primarily cognitive and conceptual: players draw on their real-life and fictional frames of reference in an ongoing epistemological process of situating themselves vis-à-vis gameworld and playable figure. The traditional metaphor for this relationship, that of a cyborg, neither captures the variety of relationships suggested by games, nor the range of interpretations open to players. To overcome this limitation, I propose six conceptual types, based on the significance that tools and vehicles have for the playable figure. I ask: is there a co-dependence between equipment and user, is it permanent, and do they have a metonymic relationship to each other? These abstract categories are shown to be connected to archetypical proto-narratives epitomized by characters from mythology and popular culture, which players implicitly refer to in conceptualizing their relationship to the gameworld. The essay, then, offers a framework for the conceptual variety of player-playable figure-relations, which, in drawing on cultural history, should be equally transparent to scholars of game studies and narratology.
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)240-254
Antal sider14
StatusUdgivet - maj 2022