Photoshop-ing avatars

Via Raph Koster, I saw this interesting tutorial on how to use Photoshop to glamourize your avatar. I probably wouldn’t have thought much of it except for a random comment that criticized the desire to touch up even virtual appearances. Can we not even be satisfied with our natural-virtual human selves? Perhaps it’s just for those people who are ugly IRL and need to pretend they’re pretty elsewhere. Maybe, but that’s rather cliché and I think there’s more to it.

Creativity, certainly. Exhibiting one’s artistic abilities – yes. But also, touching up one’s avatar is a way to further identify our virtual selves. Rather than just being a Night Elf with green hair in braids like 30% of the rest of the Night Elf population (stats from my ass), I could instead edit the avatar for a signature, for example, that detailed her markings, changed her eye color, shortened her ears, etc. Instead of being generic, she is now me. She is now the identity I see in my mind.

Although this wouldn’t appeal to everyone as not all players connect themselves with their avatars, for many it would. Character customization is always a selling point in MMOs. Players continually ask how unique they will look – will there be different gear sets, will there be different hairstyles, body shapes, etc. Humans like to be individual even in a virtual world at the same time that they want to participate in a community and be a member of a recognizable social unit, such as a guild.

How would you change your avatar or would you even at all? Why?