In Favor of Standards

With the rise of XR it’s apparent there’s an opportunity to bridge divides in order to offer cohesive experiences to all. One area where difference occurs is in the appearance of our avatar. It seems inconceivable that now in 2022 there are still games that omit certain skin tones and body types in character creation but it is more common than you might think. While avatars will probably give way to 3D imaging of our actual bodies once personal photogrammetry and LiDAR capable devices become more widespread, in the meantime many people will use avatars. Personally I spend as little time on avatar creation as possible but this is largely due to the fact that I more or less identify with the default settings anyway.

Most people and especially children will begin to relate to their avatar. For this reason, across the broadest categories, people will prefer that their avatars generally resemble them. This means that practically all video/virtual games/experiences need to support a wide variety of body/skin/hair types as well as any other characteristics that may vary from person to person. This includes facial/skeletal/musculature features and will also have to include various levels of physical ability.  Lower mobility users who benefit from therapeutic VR will require suitable avatars. One practical solution would be to create an open source avatar creation library that includes all possible types. This could be modular and plug in to existing game engines eliminating the need for each team to develop their own. This would also include any gender neutral/binary options and could be made open source. Whoever controlled that platform could virtually control the identity options of humans in the metaverse.

Although this was often lacking in 2D games some systems do it well. Some of these could provide best-practices to be shared industry-wide.

Another issue is the tendency of players to choose a common avatar type simply to fit in with others. This can happen whenever a player finds that they stand out in some way. This may result in their choosing an avatar simply to appear the same as everyone else. This is a problem in my opinion as it may conflict with the natural identity options of children as they play through the developmental stages of their lives. This need to fit in has the effect of literally erasing the very diversity that VR and IT desperately  needs. This can only be resolved by supporting true diversity behaviorally within the culture of a service and technically within avatar creation options.


Leave a Comment