DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-795-4.ch003
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Virtual worlds may be the future of e-commerce. The game designers who fashioned these flourishing virtual worlds have invented a much more appealing way to use the internet: through an avatar. This usage of the term was coined in 1985 by Chip Morningstar, a user of the first avatar environment created by LucasFilm called Habitat. Habitat lacked many of the features we have in today’s games such as quests and puzzles. It was more similar to a social MUD in which the interactivity between avatars was the ultimate goal. According to Encarta: “Avatar [Sanskrit]: 1. incarnation of Hindu deity: an incarnation of a Hindu deity in human or animal form, especially one of the incarnations of Vishnu such as Rama and Krishna. 2. embodiment of something: somebody who embodies, personifies, or is the manifestation of an idea or concept. 3. image of person in virtual reality: a movable three-dimensional image that can be used to represent somebody in cyberspace, for example, an Internet user.” Unlike previous video game alter-egos, these avatars can be completely customized and are designed mainly for social interaction (Lastowka and Hunter, 2004). The average player dedicates hundreds of hours (and hundreds of dollars, in some cases). To cultivate his avatar. A survey suggested that approximately 20 percent of Norrath’s citizens deem it their place of residence; they just commute to Earth and back. To a large and growing number of people, virtual worlds are an important source of material and emotional well-being. (Yee). Ordinary people, who are bored and frustrated by regular web commerce, participate vigorously and passionately in avatar-based on-line markets.
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“The inner life of video games is bound up with the inner life of the player whose response is aesthetic.” (Poole, 2000)


A. What Is An Avatar, And How Do I Create One?

Economists have asked, “What features of the virtual worlds give them this competitive edge?” (Castronova, 2001; Simpson, 1999; Barzel, 1997; Lehdonvirta). A synopsis of the conditions for existence in virtual worlds will provide some interesting answers. To enter a virtual world, the player must first connect to the server via the internet. Once the connection is established, the player enters a program that allows him to choose an avatar for himself. In all of the major virtual worlds, one can spend a surprisingly lengthy time at this first stage, choosing the appearance of the avatar as well as its abilities. Avatars, like their human counter-parts, express themselves through appearance and body language. “Ultima Online gives you the option to choose your character from a set of templates of traditional professions. You are certainly not required to build your character from a template, but we highly recommend it for the first-time player. You may create multiple characters on each shard (except the Siege shards), so do not worry about creating a character you may not like. Using a template for your first character is an excellent way to get a feel for Ultima Online.

To create a character from a template, choose the ‘Samurai’, ‘Ninja’, ‘Paladin’, ‘Necromancer’, ‘Warrior’, ‘Mage’, or ‘Blacksmith’ option. The ‘Advanced’ option is for those comfortable enough with the UO skill system to build a character from scratch.

Once you have chosen a starting profession, you will need to customize the ‘look’ of your character. The image you create will be visible to other players in the game whenever they double-click on you. This image is also known as your ‘paperdoll.’ You can specify gender, skin colour, hair style and colour, shirt colour, pants/skirt colour and, if you’ve chosen to play a male character, facial hair style and colour.

Your first character will show up with defaults for all of these options, to change them, simply click on the corresponding part on your character. If you click on an item of clothing, you will then be able to select a colour by clicking anywhere in the palette box to the right of your character. If the selected item is a hair-style, you will see a drop-down menu appear to the left of your character listing all of the style options. Clicking on one will apply it to your character. When you are satisfied with your appearance, click the small green arrow to continue.” (http://www.uo.com/newplayer/newplay_0.html).

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