I'd like to describe it. Imagine you've just died. You were murdered in cold blood, and have returned as a ghost to exact your revenge. The catch: Spirits can't directly influence the living world, only watch. You need a body, a conduit for your will. You need to possess someone. So the question is, who do you possess?

Introduction: A Revenging Spirit

Let's say you live in a fairly large city. That means your choices number in the millions. You could take over a hitman or a martial artist for example, or if you value brains over brawn, perhaps a doctor or a surgeon is more your style, someone with an extensive knowledge of the human body and all of its weak spots, or a top-ranking criminal investigator, because who better to catch a crook than a detective? If you want to get really crafty, you could find someone who has access to power, lots of power, like a police commissioner or the city mayor, and wreak some real havoc, provided you don't attract too much attention.

Better yet, let's imagine you don't need any of these people. Let's say you're perfectly confident in your guile, your intelligence, and your courage, and all you really need is a shell to crawl into and commandeer. Suddenly the pool of potential candidates has widened, and your search criteria has shifted from what is practical to what is interesting. Your eyes wander from the hitman to the charming comedian down the street, then to the tear jerker of a single parent struggling to feed a family of four, then to the very, very sexy swimming instructor you've been fawning over since the day you moved into town. (Because after all, nothing says "Be mine" like "BE. MINE.")

You get to choose anybody, anybody, in the whole wide town. So, who do you wanna be?

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...Well, for the purposes of this essay (and bear with me, as this intro doesn't go on forever and ends on a very important point,) we'll say you decide to take over the owner of a local flower cart. Heaven knows what you were thinking. Maybe something about her special brand of twee, daisy-chained wholesomeness reached down into the place where your heart would be if you weren't, you know, pushing up daisies in a morgue somewhere. Or maybe you just have a sick sense of humor and a cruel sense of irony to make her the host of a ghost and a murderer to boot.

Either way, things don't go as planned. For one thing, I hope you weren't expecting total control. You don't get that. You don't even get close. What you actually get is about half as effective and twice as strange. Your host, let's call her Ava, is still totally conscious, and although for the most part you can override her will on a whim, she knows you're in there, and there are certain actions that go so far against her character, taboos that are so deeply burned into mind, that no matter how hard you try, not even you can force them out of her. Interestingly, taking a life doesn't seem to be one of them, or so she says, she agrees to let you stay if you'll lend a hand with her business, which just started and isn't going too well. Otherwise, she's calling a priest. It's a strange offer for an ordinary person to make, but she seems benign. Apparently, she envisions her little cart and its flowers starting a chain reaction, a ripple effect that someday spreads waves of happiness through the city. It seems a bit silly, it seems a bit naive, but in the end you go along because common sense tells you she's the most agreeable host you're ever gonna get.

You and Ava end up as two minds sharing one body, your actions constrained by the limits of her personality, lifestyle, and physical abilities. This means you spend the next few days living her life on her schedule, navigating her priorities, pursuing her goals and taking part in her relationships while trying to track down your killer by night. When Ava asks you what the killer looked like, you just shrug and say "I dunno. It was dark. Never saw his face."

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In the meantime, Ava's life consists largely of collecting flowers, selling them to the most miserable folks you, er, she can find, long walks on the beach, and obsessively tending to the fish in her fish tank; a few big ones, a few little ones, some bacteria and some photoplankton under a bright light, all connected in a tiny ecosystem. All in all, it's a little boring, until you notice something surprising on the job: You two make an amazing team. Sharing her brains give you full access to her repertoire of entrepreneurial knowledge and skills, with practically no physical effort from you. Would you believe that she used to an executive at an ad agency before she picked up this shabby little cart? Weird. With a little practice you pick up on the fine art of matching each customer to his or her ideal flower using carefully selected and individualized pitches, which she executes with the greatest of ease. Eventually you get so good at it that you begin to enter a flow state, challenging yourself to see how many flowers you can sell in day, a number that swells, then soars, then skyrockets as you and Ava slowly fall in sync.

Strange events then begin to take place. Your flowers start bringing people together. One guy proposes to his fiancee by hiding a ring in a bouquet of roses. One particularly miserable kid attempts to send flowers to both of his parents, the same kind they bought each other on their honeymoon, and writes their names on each other's cards in a desperate bid to get them to stop fighting, and it actually works, if only because the parents caught on and noticed the impression they were making on their child. The flowers you sold to one woman gave her the courage to finally visit her sick mother, which was fortunate, as that turned out the be last visit she got.

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People use your flowers as Valentine's Day gifts, to cheer themselves up on a bad day, to hang from windows and plant in parks. Many days and countless customers later, the two of you have formed a symbiotic relationship, and with your input and her output, business booms, and the city shines as if covered by a blanket of stars.

So her conspiracy ends up working out after all, on the townsfolk...and on you. Because the more time you spend in her body, in her brain, sharing her every thought and experiencing every aspect of her life for days on end...the more you start to see things the way she sees them. Maybe it's overexposure, maybe it's a side effect being bombarded with all this information, and you begin to wonder just who is being held captive by whom, but it doesn't matter in the end, because you get the ride of your life. You're happy to able to live out her dream vicariously alongside her, through her, to be able to get a taste of her happy-go-lucky nature by seeing the way it plays out in her life. And best of all, you two are growing fond of each other. Maybe once this whole bloody affair is over, you can go skip town go on a nice relaxing vacation together. You could really get used to this body.

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And then you find out why she really started this business.

Fun Fact about Ava: She killed someone once. Oh, she was trying to get revenge, not unlike you actually, on someone who she found out indirectly caused the death of a loved one through what she could only describe as poor decision-making and heartless self-interest. But the results were so catastrophic that something inside her snapped, and she decided she had to start over. Catastrophic in that she removed a human being from a complex and delicate ecosystem full of people who cared about and relied on that person, and the results were farther-reaching than she could have ever wanted. That's what drove her to start a flower selling business not long after, trying to reassure herself that the kind of butterfly effect that can arise from something so simple as pulling a trigger...or giving someone a flower...can be harnessed and controlled, not with ill intent, but as a force for good. It is then that you begin to realize why she cares so much about that fish tank: It represents precisely the kind of delicate ecosystem that she unwittingly destroyed, and she never wants to forget. And she makes sure she doesn't; the tank is positioned directly across from the foot of her bed, making it the very last thing she sees as she closes her eyes at night. Pleasant dreams.

Although you're moved by her remorse, and can't quite pull yourself to be mad at her, you're also worried that she's become a bit too fixated for her health. Meanwhile, you can't shake the feeling that revenge is beginning to sound less and less and less appetizing, and less and less and less and less glamorous an idea, and the more she describes the details of her ill-fated escapade, the more you begin to see that Ava's past self is your present self, and the more you begin to dread that her present self, a guilt-ridden, self-loathing mess hiding behind a plastic smile, is in your possible future.

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In any case, you two are in the same boat now, and as such you try to console her. You've grown to care about her very much (so much so that the fact that you're essentially a parasite invading her body is beginning to make you feel kinda gross,) and you're proud of the good she's done, of the life she's managed to eke out for herself in the face of despair.

But then you ask her how long ago it was, and she answers "Recently. Quite recently, in fact."

You pause.

And then you ask her what the victim looked like, and do you know what she does?

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She just shrugs and says "I dunno. It was dark. Never got to see the victim's face."

And somewhere on the edge of town, the blood of a corpse begins to chill.

The corpse belongs to you.

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***

In the end, you're left with a difficult choice to make: Do you kill her?

I mean, on the one hand, she's right there. You have sufficient control. All you have to do is give the impulse, and her body will gladly throw itself over a bridge. You could make it look a suicide. They'd eat it up, too. "Poor Leslie, She was so lost, so guilty, we should have DONE SOMETHING!!"

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Although on the other hand, that idea could make you sick to your stomach. You could forgive her, realizing that if you didn't, you'd be perpetuating the same cycle of revenge that sucked her in and consumed her, and perhaps consumes countless individuals every day.

And by coming to terms with both your death and your killer...You could finally cross over to the other side.

Either way, it's going to be a tough decision to make. If you'd only known her in passing, from a distance, as she knew you on the eve of your death, I doubt you'd have any kind of difficulty deciding what to do. But see, you're close now. In fact, you're even closer than close. You and Ava now share a very special relationship, a kind of fifth love, one that not even the ancient Greeks could have predicted.

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And this, my friend, is where I start talking about avatars. Ha, get it? Ava?

The Principle of Empathy

I have a hypothesis. It probably seems a little bit far-fetched now, but the implications would be staggering. My hypothesis is that avatars are more than mere glorified game pieces and aren't quite puppets either, and that like the ghost and Ava, a player and her avatar share a very special relationship, one in which the player will be biased by her avatar by default, an effect that mechanics can either feed or neutralize... or weaponize.

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This idea was a long time in the making. It was the capstone on a very long discussion about a completely different subject, a tumblr conversation between me, Shaun Trautman of the discovergames blog, and isaackuo. You can find the whole thing here. The topic: Guns. More specifically, the seemingly paradoxical idea that although gaming is saturated with guns, the actual level of tension that comes from a character pulling out a gun in video game is a lot different than it is in other media, where they tend to equal instant suspense. And just so we're on the same page here, I'm not saying that they make less of an emotional impact in video games. After all, that would mean implying that they make one.

I'm getting this out of the way now so you know where this idea came from, and I'll dig back into the topic of guns and how it relates to player-avatar relations soon. But let's get back on topic. We were talking about avatars just a moment ago.

Part 1: Love

If you really think about it, designing a good video game avatar is even more difficult than designing a regular protagonist in any other kind of media. Normally, all you have to do is make sure the character is interesting and serves his or her role in the plot. And granted, that in itself is more challenging than it sounds, but throw the element of interactivity into the mix and suddenly you get a truckload of new problems. Avatars have to act as vessels for player influence! While still being interesting characters in their own right! But not interesting in a way that breaks the illusion that the player is the character! Although can get a little more leeway depending on what genre you're working in, but even then we're only working best guesses, and it gets even worse when dialogue is involved. Does the avatar talk? Does the avatar not talk? Did the avatar used to not talk, but can suddenly talk in this game? (That's not even strictly a videogame problem. Any of you heard of Tom and Jerry: The Movie? No? GOD BLESS YOUR SOUL.) And what about those cases where a character acts one way in the cutscenes while the gameplay tells a completely different story (I'm looking at you, Nathan Drake!) Seriously, there have been more cases of this kind of ludonarrative dissonance than there have been brick blocks broken by Mario's mitts, which is fitting, because not even he is exempt from this. (I used to get so guilty every time I broke one of those blocks because I knew there were tiny little mushroom people inside and I was killing them.) This business of making avatars is a nightmare! It's a wonder we ever get it right at all.

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And if any of you designers are wondering who to throw your computers at,

<AIM HERE.

The man to the left of this text is Toru Iwatani. Those of you who know your video game trivia will know that this guy is credited as the designer of the game Pac-Man in 1980, although that's a bit of a misleading statement, if only because nothing about this is even remotely trivial. From a formal viewpoint, Pac-Man was one of the most important videogames ever made, and trust me, that is not open up to discussion. But in case you'd like to know why, Pac-Man more or less codified the avatar as we know it today.

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Pac-Man was created by Iwatani in 1980 to get new players, specifically women, interested in the arcades (called game centers in Japan) that were booming at the time, especially in Japan, bolstered by the success of such games as Space Invaders, Asteroids, Ozma Wars, Galaxian and Lunar Lander. When he tried to investigate the problem, he eventually decided that the market was oversaturated with violent, hyper-macho shooter games. The fact that he came to a conclusion like this in 1980 is kind of amazing, but let's not give him too much credit. After all, his previous concepts were a game about fashion! And a game about dating boyfriends! And the only reason he decided on the universally relatable topic of eating was that, quoting a Wired interview from 2010, "After eating dinner, women like to have dessert."

Well, ya don't say? I mean, it's kind of a useless induction, isn't it? Everybody likes to have dessert. Do you not like to have dessert, Mr. Iwatani? I like to have dessert. I myself am quite partial to cheesecake. But hey, it seemed to work, and if I ref used to accept that I'd be committing the Fallacy Fallacy.

Another great idea Pac-Man had going for it was its carefully-considered aesthetic. Take another look at the arcade games I just mentioned. You know what all of them share in common?

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Hey, at least that last one had color.

The smart ones in the crowd will know exactly what I'm getting at here. As fun as the games of that era were, they tended to look so crude and generic that they almost blended together (like in the above image, where it's tricky to tell where one game ends and another begins,) and a potential player looking over the shoulder of the guy at the machine would have to be a full-on fanatic to appreciate what what was going on under the flat imagery and non-color schemes.

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(Really, this is one of the big problems with getting someone into games. Unless you're familiar enough with the way games work to guess how one would feel to play (and even then it's not really the same,) There's a big difference in perception between seeing a game and playing it: The complex interplay between mechanics and kineaesthetics is something that is more seen than felt, and they make up most of the experience. Even the visual effects that do pop up tend be there largely to enhance this invisible effect. We're basically dealing in intangibles here, and what you see is not what you get.)

Then came Pac-Man. Pac-Man was unusually attractive, and the appeal of its core conceit (self-destructive hedonism) was not only universal, but also that rare example of a real spectator's game, a game whose appeals are so readily apparent that you don't have to be a longtime player to appreciate them, telegraphed wonderfully with an eye-catching color palette, cute characters, unforgettable sound design and an atmosphere that was as refreshingly personable compared to its sterile contemporaries as the Apple Macintosh was compared to the arcane and somewhat menacing command-line computers of its day.

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But the real draw was Pac-Man himself. Half inspired by a pizza with a slice missing, half inspired, fittingly enough, by the Japanese character for "mouth," and originally called "Puck Man" until his name was changed for English-language audiences on the off-chance some smart guy tried to make a smart-guy joke about it, Iwatani intentionally refrained from adding too many features to Pac-Man's rudimentary face, opting instead for a simple character whose image would be left to the player's imagination. All that said, the real reason the character worked was that he wasn't a totally blank slate. Pac-Man, though he didn't look as cool as a Ferrari and wasn't actually capable of killing anyone, had one thing that the edgy starships and race cars of the arcade scene didn't have: a face. It was only some vague semblance of a face, sure, but that was enough, because now he had a layer of humanity onto which players could project a sense of intention and personality. And although that personality was pretty basic (namely very severe hunger) it was, for lack of a better word, very effectively dramatized, upheld and emphasized by the gameplay, by Pac-Man's specialized range of verbs and even by the way eating feels and sounds. In Pac-Man, players were given a safe space in which they could explore what it felt like to be...well, Pac-Man.

You might say that the player completed Pac-Man. You might even say that it was as if the player and Pac-Man merged into one being. It would be exhilarating, a relationship not quite like a player and a pure extension of the player, but a power play between two minds in a single body, an exchange negotiated within the boundaries of your ability to input and your avatar's unique range of outputs, the chains that bind you together. It would be a symbiotic relationship, a rapturous union, each half influencing, inhabiting, and exploring the other. It is a combination of mutually acceptable domination over, and submission to, the other party, as you figure out how to fit into each other OH GOD WHAT AM I WRITING

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Between us, I remember hearing every now and then that the resulting videogame became somewhat popular. But no, seriously, think about it; you can ignore the TV series, the cereal, the overwhelming sales, the top ten pop song, the generalized fever that enwrapped the world in its wake, and still confirm the scale of Pac-Man's legacy by asking yourself a simple question: You think that whole "character" thing ever caught on? As a matter of fact, you could even go so far as to argue that Pac-Man was the first videogame to give us something of a rudimentary character-centric narrative (whereas Donkey Kong simply established the practice of using cutscenes to tell the story, and in the process crippling our entire understanding of what a "story" even is in videogames for decades to come. Yaaay.)

It's been years since Pac-Man, and avatars inevitably became more complex, from the first-person gunslingers of Doom, Quake, and Wolfenstein 3-D, to the more dialogue-heavy traveling parties of the Final Fantasy games, to clever experiments like Avenging Spirit, wherein you play a ghost jumping from one body to another as you track down the folks who killed you, and from which the idea for the introduction was very clearly lifted (though not in every detail.) It's interesting in that, free to choose from some 20 different bodies with fairly balanced abilities, figuring out who to make your avatar becomes less about figuring out the most practical option and gets back to that magic union, to who has the best chemistry, to who you mesh with best. Of course, being a pitiful human being, my choices tended to be fairly superficial, opting for the coolest hosts, the most stylish, the most attractive. If I ever get the time to play it again, I'm going to shake things up by any means necessary.

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So...Does this mean we secretly want to...er...have sex with our avatars?

Ha! Of course not! That's not true at all!

...

No, seriously, it's not. It would be unsound for me to even entertain the possibility.

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I mean, if that were true, it would take the phrase "I want to inhabit your virtual body" to a very dark, very Freudian place. I would actually hate that. Besides, everybody knows Freud turned out to be a fraud in the end.

But since it's Valentine's Day tomorrow, and since I will almost certainly be alone on that day, I thought I'd try to console myself by yammering on about sex, or at least something that vaguely resembles sex, because hey, it's Valentine's Day, right? (Look how far we've fallen.)

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But in all seriousness, I think the relationship between us and our avatars is so much deeper than we give it credit for, and I've just been itching for a chance to bring it up. Think of it a Valentine's Day card made for you, reader, whether you're on TAY, Wordpress (Does anyone even visit my Wordpress anymore?) Tumblr (In which case I encourage you to respond and keep the conversation going) or the Kotaku mainpage (anxiously crosses fingers(is delusional and self-absorbed)) Yes, an essay on the psychology of videogames was the most romantic thing I could think. And now you know why I'm alone today.

Oh, and uh, by the way...did you ever decide on what to do with Ava? Because if you haven't, I want you think very hard about it and why you're doing it, because I'm we've reached the point where this warm, gushy "We love our avatars!" talk takes a dark turn.

Part 2: Cruelty

By now some of you might be wondering how something like this came out of a discussion about the proliferation of guns in video games, or what any of this has to do with guns at all. Well, let's get back to that discussion.

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First, let's get the givens out of the way: In video games, guns are everywhere. Doomguy has his guns. Master Chief has his guns. James Bond and Joanna Dark have theirs. But this isn't just an FPS thing, no sir! Especially since the popularity of first-person games have to do with completely different phenomena. ()

Nah, Lara has guns akimbo (please don't snicker.) Nathan Drake has guns aplenty, and Ratchet & Clank have more guns than you can shake an itchy trigger finger at.

Heck, this isn't even a Western thing. The Zombie killers of Resident Evil are handy with their guns. Samus Aran of Metroid fame has a rocket launcher for an arm. Speaking of arm cannons, Mega Man must have acquired enough weapons over his 28-year career to fill a small museum. Of all the weapons in the video game world, Cave Story's Quote can clear a room with a bubble gun. Oh, and remember the list of old arcade games I rattled off earlier, when we were talking about Pac-Man? The first, second, and fifth were all Japanese shoot-'em-ups.

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And that was in the past. Now we have this.

Bullet Hell indeed.

And like I said earlier, the way we use these gums surprisingly lacks the moral weight and plot-twisting gravity that seems to come default in other media. On TV, in movies and in books, having one person pull out a gun is often enough sufficient to turn a sweet story sour, scary, and suspenseful. It's the perfect cliffhanger waiting to happen.

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In video games, however, the general response would be closer to "What?"

"Just one gun?"

Many keys were pressed trying to figure out why this was, and all kinds of ideas were thrown about, from the way shooting mechanics are set up to our collective desensitization as an audience, if I recall, instinctive fight-or-flight responses. And those are definitely factors, but I think there's something deeper at play here.

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On Bias

We have a fascinating tendency to identify with the characters we play as and internalize the things that happen to them. The extreme version of this is easy to recognize; you've probably at least heard about players that go "Ouch!" when their avatars get hurt, or tear up when their avatars go through something that bears an uncanny resemblance to their own lived experiences. (Both of these things are beautiful.) But even in everyday play, it's not uncommon for us to get wrapped up in our avatars' relationships and well-being. Remember Ava? In the hypothetical scenario that opened this essay, you developed a remarkable bond with Ava after spending some time in her shoes, and the body that wore them. It was a very rare kind of relationship. It was deep. It was powerful. And more importantly, it justified murder. Or at least, it might have.

On top of that, we tend to be biased toward ourselves and the things we identify with. Combine that with the healthy level of disbelief that we have while engaging in fiction (and the equally detached way we portray violence does have some weight here,) and you end up in a situation where it's easy to overlook your avatar's misdemeanors, especially when the game actually encourages it. What little narrative distance there is left evaporates as you assume more and more control of your avatar, from RTS to Pet Simulator to JRPG to Motion-Controlled Sports Game to First-Person Shooter (in which murder tends to be, depending on the situation, either the most gratifying or the most terrifying,) and although this principle effects individual players differently, it's there. It's an effect that gameplay can either indulge, neutralize, or weaponize.

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Dark Chocolate

We already know how to indulge. We're pros at that. We very often go out of our way to push things toward this bias, reinforce it through mechanics, make the player feel like he's always right.

And that's what it's all about, isn't it? Being right? You spend your whole life in a world that isn't fair, a world that's cruel, broken,

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where things don't go your way,

where you get picked on at school,

where you get dehumanized at work,

where getting by is stressful,

where people don't care about you,

where people don't care about your feelings,

where people step on you,

where people hurt you,

where the world is turning, changing faster than you adapt,

where everything is scary,

where you're constantly made to feel powerless,

worthless,

hopeless,

scared.

But guess what, champ? You don't have to feel that way! For a measly 60 bucks, we'll make you the center of the fucking universe.

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All the NPCs will be obsessed with you. They'll love you, hate you, envy you, respect you, worship you, and fear you. You'll be the only thing they ever talk about, and they'll spend their every waking moment vying for your affections. We'll give you the most loving girlfriend in the whole wide world, and then maybe we'll kill her off to make you mad, and also because she wasn't all that important. Nobody else really is. Except you, champ. You're awesome. And do awesome people let the world push them around? NO WAY CHAMP. Awesome people get even. We'll give you a real monster of a villain to get REVENGE on, too. He'll twirl his mustache and kick puppies and want to take over the world AND ONLY YOU CAN STOP HIM champ because your SUPER STRONG, SUPER COOL AND SUPER SEXAYY. And your the hero, because you're good, and he's really really bad, and that makes you good, and that make you RIGHT so now you can KILL EVERYONE! You can kill hundreds of people! You can eve killl thousands of people because you know your RIGHT. And the NPCs will be worshiping your RIGHTNESS and BADASSERY as you set their planet to blow up behind you as you fly off into space and WIN YOU LUCKY BASTARD CHAMP, because you were RIGHT all along. NOW WHERE'S OUR MONEY

champ

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***

Look, this sort of indulgence isn't bad by default. I'm sure Mega Man and Halo aren't harmful by themselves. But of course, It can be a dangerous high if you don't know where to stop.

As you might've guessed, we don't, sometimes. We've definitely taken it too far on more than a few occasions. Consider Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian. RapeLay. Chiller for older readers and Hatred for younger readers. The more you hear the guys who make a game like this talk, especially the way they take criticism, the more it feels like they've taken the bait, hook, line and sinker.

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Milk Chocolate

But why not spice up this sugary monotony with a little variety? At this point, the Principle of Empathy might be coming off as a one-way ticket into a self-indulgent abyss, but it doesn't have to. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

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When I said players tend to be inherently biased toward the interests of their avatar, I forgot to mention: We've managed to play as, to inhabit, so many unusual, complex, just plain odd or downright horrible characters over the decades, and we have a remarkable capacity to fill in whatever shoes the designers throw at us. And possibly the best thing about walking in someone else's shoes is that the sheer amount of information you absorb about that person's life, the hyperexposure you get to another point of view over what is often a very long period of time, giving you a constant psychological pull to empathize with them. It's a power like a love potion, like a pheromone that makes us suggestible, a fragrance that draws us in. And although this, again, varies from player to player, it's also the principle on which cultural propaganda lies. I forgot to mention that.

What I forgot to mention is that players tend to be inherently biased toward their avatar, regardless of who that avatar is. Loophole detected!

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This is so incredibly important. You can take advantage of that effect to get the player to walk in some very interesting pairs of shoes, and feel empathy for kinds of people they otherwise may not have had it in them to care about or may not have ever even considered, like a lowly schoolteacher, or a retail vendor, or a customs officer. We live in a veritable sea of people, and yet it's often so difficult to see far enough outside ourselves to get even a passing sense of the complexity and beauty of the lives of the strangers we pass by everyday on the way to work, let alone appreciate other cultures, lifestyles, political opinions or anything else. If you're reading this from Tumblr, I'm certain that this needs no further explanation. You know exactly where I'm going with this. And guess what: you're right. I bet it sounds pretty awesome in your head right now, doesn't it?

Ultimately it all comes down to ethics. There are very good ways to use the Principle of Empathy, and there are very bad ways as well. Some applications are probably harmless. Some might be extremely harmful. It really all comes down to the person and what the person chooses to do. Does the designer hand you a gun, or a flower? There's a right time for both. But one thing's for certain: The people who make these choices have got to take some level of responsibility for them, because remember, we are dealing with something so powerful that it managed to legitimatize wanton murder for 37 years.

And of course, this is all still just an elaborate hypothesis. I'd love to hear you tell me what I got wrong, seriously. This is really only the beginning of a very long journey, fraught with roadblocks and obstacles to course-correct around, and it going to take all of our collective intelligence to finish it. But I'm convinced that there's at least a tiny kernel of truth in what I'm saying, although that truth, and although I can barely make it out, I can feel its size and weight. It's growing. It's practically kicking. It's ominous, definitely, maybe even the slightest bit scary, but at the same time, it has the potential to be truly beautiful, it opens up a slew of new possibilities for interactive media, and to be honest...it's maybe a little bit sexy. Just a bit.

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...Although that's probably just my loneliness talking : I

So, what do you think I got wrong? What do you think I got right? Anything you'd like to expand on or add to? Got any ideas of your own about this? Sound off in the comments below!

(Oh God I miss saying that.)

You can also try your hand at one of these questions:

1. Did you actually end up killing Ava?

2. Have you ever actually fallen in love your avatar (yum saucy)

Here is my contact page.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

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P.S.: By the way, the avatar on the left side of the image pic is Momo from Wonder Momo. I wanted to find a sprite of an avatar kicking something and she was the first image that came to mind. Conveniently, her hair color fit the color palette perfectly, and I kind of just like referencing obscure video games anyway.

<Here she is. And here is her in action.