« You Need Four Coders [Game Development] | Main | Video Game Writing and the Sense of Story [Writing] »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Nice writeup.

How would you categorize the Sims, or the dwarves in Dwarf Fortress? To me they don't look as "dolly" as the examples you presented. But they neither fall on the NPC category (your Sim will do what you tell it to, as long as doesn't go against its principles - an unclean sim will refuse to clean often, for example. Dwarves will - eventually, when they have time - build that workshop you told them to build)

I guess my question is - on these kind of games, whitout an (obvious) doll, do you think there is a place for that "he narrativist relationship between the player and the on-screen character", or do you think it is still wishful thinking?


The Sims are like the Total War units re: morale mechanics. They do what they're told until a game rule trips them up. Great example though.

Influencer units (as in your example of DF) could be said to be characters. It depends. In several Molyneux games, the doll is actually your god hand and you're trying to influence/coax characters into doing things.

Hope that makes sense?


Steve Swink in Game Feel calls the way you almost "feel" your way around the corridors of a first-person shooter game "virtual proprioception". It seems connected to the idea that you feel like the car you drive as a driver being an extension of your own body. That in turn's an idea from Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics. I'm also reminded of Gary Penn insisting games are toys, that playing eg. Soul Edge is like being nine and bashing He-Man into Skeletor, saying "GRAAAAH!!!", only much better. :)

I'm just piecing together the different theorists I know and their terms. I think it would be useful to have a common, agreed vocab'. I think a lot of very smart people are trying to describe a particularly abstract elephant!


What's wrong with 'avatar' as a term? Is there a difference between what is commonly called an avatar and what you call a doll? It's certainly not a symbol which is loaded with any meaning common to the word 'character', which seems to be what you're trying to make a break from.

And it follows the time honored tradition of appropriating archaic words for modern technological concepts, like 'icon', or 'scroll'. Using a word like this with little existing contemporary meaning avoids having your term loaded with outside irrelevant meaning. You note yourself that the term doll might be threatening to some readers.


It's pretentious.

Anthony Chen

Just started reading your blog. It is really awesome. Will definitely recommend to my emplyoees and friends!

Two points:
1) what are the dolls in trivia type games?
2) I think your use of dolls is funny, but I think it is intentionally demeaning, which is pretentious in its own way. A majority of the gaming world is men 18-30, you are basically trying to say they play with dolls as an attention getting device. Above you use Agent and others use avatar. I think both of those are more likely to be accepted and are just as valid, but less pretentious


I'm down with "owning" the term doll. Makes me think of the tv show Dollhouse. (And the 1950s German "Bild Lilli" doll comes to mind).

Initially I also gravitated towards "avatar," but it really kinda reeks of the movie and/or the microsoft-specific product line. ... Think I'd prefer "Golem" because of it's history. Or maybe "projection" or "possesion," to try and take the terminology beyond video games (to general computer interaction).

But none of these alternatives is as simple to grasp as doll. It's a word that communicates quickly and effectively. so, dig.

* however, I'd be curious if you, Tadhg, saw Matthias Worch's GDC2011 talk "The Identity Bubble..." ? It seems very related tot his article.

While reading your thoughts just now, I kept thinking back to Worch's talk, and his Portal example in particular - The way that game presents GLaDOS talking at Chell in order to address you personally.
(this seems to be all-sorts-of wrapped up in the idea of projection and transference)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Follow What Games Are

What Games Are is about game design, game development, games as art, craft, culture and industry and how you can make better games, written by Tadhg Kelly.

You can follow Tadhg on Twitter here:

Follow @tiedtiger

You can also subscribe via email:

Or RSS (Google Reader etc):


Search What Games Are

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...