February 10, 2007
Yesterday, I witnessed Rune Klevjer‘s highly entertaining and presumably successful defense of his dissertation What is the Avatar: Fiction and Embodiment in Avatar-Based Singleplayer Computer Games at the University of Bergen. In the Norwegian tradition, Rune had to dodge the slings and arrows of his “opponents,” Espen Aarseth from ITU Copenhagen, and William Urrichio from MIT, which he did most skillfully. An amusing and elucidating exchange occurred between Aarseth and Klevjer on the importance of the concept of fiction within computer games that included an extended metaphor in which imaginary tree stumps were agreed to be bears, though Aarseth insisted that the bear behind him was in fact dead and therefore not a threat. Klevjer’s most clever response to an Aarseth jab was to illustrate the difference between indirect and direct discourse as the difference between “throwing you over my shoulder and carrying you out of here” and “politely asking you to leave the room.” Though I have yet to completely read and absorb the above-linked dissertation, my initial impression is that it is a very careful and well thought-out examination of the nature of the avatar(s) in computer games, with a particular focus on the relationship between the player and the avatar in the first-person shooter genre.