Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Portfolio Essay #2

Gage Katz
Eric Dinsmore
English 114 B
February 27, 2012

Who is in Control?
In the movie Gamer we follow the story of Kable, and his controller Simon Silverton. Gamer takes place in the near future in a world where people can control other people. In Gamer two games “Society” and “Slayers” were developed to let human beings use other human beings as “avatars”. In “Society” users take control of live action models that act out their every whim in a social environment, and in “Slayer” users take control of convicts and place them in a warzone to fight to the death.
Society is an interactive social based game that lets “actors” volunteer to be played by random people and not have any influence on what happens to them. The people who pay to play avatars in Society, are usually middle class and occasionally of opposite sex than that of their avatars, but are mostly portrayed as those you might find to be downtrodden in the social world, the unattractive, the overweight, etc. The mind frames of the players are usually perverted and only use their avatars as a means for sexual exploration, because they may be incapable in regular life of performing such acts, and are entirely incapable of performing such acts with the incredibly attractive models that they control. In certain scenes in the movie Kable’s wife who is an actor in Society, being controlled by a fat sweaty man who eats waffles in a power chair, starts conversing with another player and they quickly head to an apartment and are begin to get intimate. From what I have seen in the movie the main roles people use Society for is sex and other generally sexual interactions, and do things they wouldn’t be able to do in real society.
Slayers on the other hand is a completely opposite from Society. The people who are in slayers are Death Row inmates that were given a second chance at life by surviving 30 rounds of Slayers. The people who control these inmates are generally wealthy from what is seen in the movie. The most famous of the Slayers is Kable. Kable is on his 28th round of Slayers which has never been done before. Kable’s player is a rich seventeen year old who has played Kable since the beginning. He was offered countless times hundreds of millions of dollars to sell Kable. The type of people who are playing slayers are hardcore gamers that love to play shooters and are typically wealthy because they have to buy new weapons and armor for their Slayer which is expensive.

The movie Gamer seems to be playing on cultural phenomena that we can see in our own lives. The most prominent of which, reflected in society is the act of changing one’s identity and their social roles once situated behind the guise of an online avatar. As noted in John M. Grohol’s article The Proteus Effect: How Our Avatar Changes Online Behavior”, a study in 2007 has shown that the use of online avatars not only change our personality over the web, but also in our day to day interactions.

            Participants in the study noted by Grohol are given either a short or a tall avatar. Those given a short avatar were more likely to allow being taken advantage of, while the taller was more aggressive in their dealings. Subsequent interaction with the participants showed that the effects followed them out of the virtual world, and affected the real world behavior. What we are seeing here is an online avatar not only effecting the actions of the user whilst behind their mask, but also in real life. In the film Gamer we only see those actions that are performed from behind the controls of the avatar, however the effect of the avatar’s guise is immense. The user completely ditches any action that one might expect of them given their personal appearance and what we would imagine their level of self-confidence to be at, and the dive straight into heavy flirting and quick sexual encounters.

            In reality too we are finding that it is easier to socialize from behind these avatars, and even personal social networking sites, than it is to socialize in real life. For instance, as Andrew Pettigrew noted in his article “The Rise and Rise of Social Networking, Could Facebook be making us Less Social”, research has been looking into what it means for one person to call another a “friend” and have found that more and more superficial relationships are being attributed as friendship. This seems to be breaking down the wall between what we call acquaintances and actual friends in young people’s lives. And yes, while social media is not the same thing as an avatar, it is a form of a created identity that we portray to the world.

            As found in Sonia Livingstone and David Brake’s article “On the rapid rise of social networking sites: New findings and policy implications”, the use of a social networking site is a similar tool to the young person as their room’s decorations is. The social networking site allows young people to express a self to the world from behind something they have crafted on the internet. These personas are not strictly their ‘self’ but rather a mask that they have crafted for the world to view them as.

            This act is somewhat similar to the act of using an avatar to act in ways that you could not, as your online persona may be portrayed as friendly and outgoing on your social networking site, which may not be an accurate portrayal of your actual life. For instance one’s Facebook may be covered in photos of parties, concerts, and trips to the beach, but these are not the only things that take up their day, and instead of portraying an accurate picture of the individual, they are selecting only things they wish to share with the outside world to curtail judgments.  This is not such a stretch from sitting behind an avatar online, as a quick Facebook check may provide a similar effect of confidence boost outside the virtual world.

            Gamer has tapped directly into this trend of crafting and sitting behind an online avatar, and has taken it to a possible extreme in which we completely do away with interpersonal relationships and rely exclusively on online interactions. It’s no so farfetched an idea when we consider the notes cited above, the rise of social media in lieu of real interaction, the effect of using an online persona, and the use of social media to craft our own identities.








Work Cited


Grohol, John. "The Proteus Effect: How Our Avatar Changes Online Behavior | World of Psychology." Psych Central - Trusted mental health, depression, bipolar, ADHD and psychology information .. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2012.


Pettigrew, Andrew . "The Rise and Rise of Social Networking, Could Facebook be making us Less Social?." . N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2012. <>.


Livingston, Sonia, and David Blake. "On the rapid rise of social networking sites: new findings and policy implications ." Rapid Rise of Social Netwroking Sites. N.p., 30 Dec. 2004. Web. 16 May 2012. <>

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