Mastering the (Chief) Body

The avatar body can of course collide with objects when scripted to, but the recorded avatar, being merely a ghost, holds no such weight (or rather, mass). One’s current avatar, for example, can pass through the body of one’s previous avatar. A double identification can occur. What are the implications of passing through one’s own prior form, of following it, or of mimicking it in real time and space? Furthermore, one can change avatar’s between recording and re-performance, and thus compose and perform group movement with multiple disparate bodies. A single actor/player can devise, rehearse, perform, and watch an action at the scale of a dance company, or with the server space, at near infinite multiplication.

Another choreographic tool at our disposal is an NPC navigator. With this widget, we move through space dropping anchor points (or as they are called in the Interface, “beacons”), then drop any number of stock bodies onto the path.

The default body for this tool is a sort of science fiction military-adjacent superhero, like a Blue Power Ranger Master Chief. It seems like a strange choice at first, but perhaps it merely reveals the ethics and aesthetics of this system. I consider the process of moving one’s own avatar across a domain, and watching this aggressive, superhuman, masked figure follow one’s lead. It’s an inversion (or perhaps not an inversion but an illustration) of a viewer’s identification with military bodies in U.S. Army advertisements on TV. We can each be an Army of One, and we can each spawn our own Blue Ranger-Master Chief.

Master Chief from Halo 5, several NPC characters in High Fidelity, and a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Blue Ranger action figure from Bandai.

I decided to close the semiotic gap, and sourced a free FBX soldier model for my NPC. I set the NPC running slowly, so it appeared to run in place indefinitely. I then used a “live” avatar to interact, identify, and overlap with my soldier.