<a novref=true text=@key href=pattern-avatars.html>Avatars</a>


Avatar is a game element, which is tightly connected to the player's success and failure in the game. In many cases, the Avatar is the only means through which a player can affect the game world.

Example: The computer game Paradroid used an extended variant of the Avatar pattern. The player controlled a defenseless robot, which could control one other robot, and the gameplay consisted of switching between these second-order Avatars to defeat all robots on a spaceship.

Example: The players are represented as personalized Avatars in Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games.

Using the pattern

When used, an Avatar is typically the only way in which a player can affect the game world. Thus, of primary importance in the design of an Avatar regarding gameplay is what actions it can perform. By limiting the actions that can be performed early in the game (for example, Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda series), the game can provide a Right Level of Difficulty in the beginning and Smooth Learning Curves as the game commences. Further, the game design can support the Narrative Structure by limiting access to game areas until various Privileged Abilities have been acquired, either by Tools or Character Development. The possibility to improve the Avatar's abilities and attributes through Character Development can thereby be used to merge the development of the Narrative Structure with goals the player has. This can strengthen the player's empathic link with the Avatar as an effect of the Investments made while developing the Avatar.

New Abilities or Improved Abilities given to players can either be given to Avatars or Characters; the abilities are linked to Avatars when the abilities are only observable through actions in the Game World or there is no abstract representation of a Character behind the Avatar.

Avatars may be used in a layered fashion where the player's Avatar controls another game element directly. This is presented to the player by replacing the Avatar with the other game element and providing the actions of the game element to the player. Examples of this are the possessing of other droids in Paradroid and the possibility to enter the driving position in vehicles in Battlefield 1942.

The death or destruction of the Avatar typically signifies the end of the game or the loss of one of the Lives available for the Avatar. This makes the Survive goal an integral part of games using Avatars in Player Killing. Other possible options include the loss of Privileged Abilities, Score, or Tools.

Many Avatars are designed to let the players feel a positive empathic link towards the Avatar to achieve Emotional Immersion. This can be achieved either through a design so that the Avatars have a sympathetic personality or appearance, have abilities the players would like to have, or have been mistreated. However, they do not usually have strongly developed personalities, as this can prevent the players from interpreting what they want into the Avatar's actions. Further, if the Avatar can initiate actions on its own, this lessens the players' Freedom of Choice and may destroy an Illusion of Influence as well as Emotional Immersion directed towards other objects or players in the Game World. The use of Avatars in Persistent Game Worlds is common to create stronger Emotional Immersion and a sense of Ownership.


Avatars are the representations of players' Characters or are players' Focus Loci and are therefore an expression of player Ownership. They are what are created by Producers when players are Spawning. They allow Improved Abilities to be presented to other players within a Consistent Reality Logic by changing the Avatar's appearance to reflect the current abilities the player has.

The use of an Avatar gives players a focus for Immersion ---particularly Spatial Immersion when used with First-Person Views ---and a focus for Roleplaying without affecting Consistent Reality Logic negatively; players can pretend that they are the Avatars on a physical level. The Spatial Immersion is further increased by the use of a Camera for Third-Person Views at the expense of Consistent Reality Logic. God Views, on the contrary, are not necessarily suitable for use with Avatars. Being a Focus Loci for players, Avatars can have strong emotional links to the players: what is good for the Avatars is good for the players and what is bad for the avatars is bad for the players. Avatars can provide Enemies for other players, and their abilities usually modulate Combat and can provide the basis for Orthogonal Unit Differentiation.


Instantiates: Spatial Immersion, Immersion, Ownership, Enemies, Third-Person Views, First-Person Views

Modulates: Combat, Persistent Game Worlds, Player Killing, Roleplaying, Consistent Reality Logic, Survive

Instantiated by: Mule

Modulated by: Privileged Abilities, Tools, Character Development, Characters, Improved Abilities, Producers

Potentially conflicting with: God Views, Units, Parallel Lives, Emotional Immersion