Our Bodies Our Selves

In the absence of playing a game right now, or working on my own one much, I happened to make a bid to return to meditating. Not particularly successful or “zen”, but at one point I found it interesting to just stare at my own face in the mirror while meditating. It got pretty surreal pretty quickly, some major detachment between my mind and the me that was staring back.

All of which led me to feel very much as if my body is a kind of avatar. It’s a bit like the silly “homunculus” theory of the mind, as if I’m a little person (“me”) who drives this body around in the world, but that it’s not, strictly speaking, mine. Just like controlling my FemShep, Agent York, or John Marston, I steer this avatar around in the world and do stuff.

So I’ve been wandering around feeling avatarial. And even better, it kind of fits in with some of the freaky psychology/brain science connected with notions of free will and identity. Notably, there’s this idea that our volition is detectable in our brains before we consciously experience it – as in, the conscious us (the us we usual think we are) is more of an observer (and rationaliser) of our actions than their genesis. That seems a lot like what the experience of an avatar would be like – they walk around the virtual world doing things as if it’s under their control, whereas in fact there’s something else (us) pulling the strings.

As such, it’s more or less like we’re the avatars of our unconscious mind. We see it all happen, and play along, but ultimately don’t really do anything for ourselves. I’ve always found the inner experience of an avatar interesting – there was a great quote from someone, I think perhaps Will Wright, talking about how avatar’s must feel schizophrenic, constantly justifying their own actions as the player inputs them (“now I think I’ll run over here! now I think I’ll jump up and down!”).

Now I think I kind of have some sympathy for the avatars I’ve manipulated.

Now I think I’ll run over there!

4 May 2011
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