Using avatars to boost your sense of self?
December 11, 2015 11:06 AM   Subscribe

What games (or possibly other things) can you use to accomplish boosting your self-esteem via avatars and virtual experiences?

So I was reading Future Visions and there's a story in it called "Riding With The Duke," in which a guy uses a television device that plugs him into video, so he can personally portray John Wayne, Steve Rogers, etc. and it starts boosting his ability to do his job IRL because he's seen himself acting in a positive manner. The quote from this story that really stuck with me is this:

"Most of the people who fail in what they want to accomplish do so because they underestimate who they are. When they don't believe they can succeed at something, they have little chance. Unless they get lucky. But show them visions of themselves exercising the qualities that most of us are born with, courage and a brain, and they tend to recognize the reality. After that, there's no stopping them."

This reminded me of this TEDx talk on video games and how virtual selves affect your real life self.

So how can someone replicate this sort of thing in this time period? What games or other media exist where you can create a virtual you to make things better?

(Personal disclaimer: I'm not a gamer except in the phone games sort of way, kinda prefer anything that doesn't require investing in a gaming system/subscription fee because I don't know how long I'd stick with a game before my attention span wanders off, but feel free to mention whatever exists just in case.)
posted by jenfullmoon to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Depends entirely on what you mean by "avatar," what you mean by "improve," and what you mean by "game." If you want to build your idealized visual self, there are virtual worlds like "Second Life" (and the myriad clones) which provide lots of customization but limited "gameplay" or "goals" (and have a pretty extensive seedy side). If you want somewhat smaller customization opportunities, but a curated single-player game story, there are a ton of role playing games (that offer more or less personal agency, mostly less). If you just want to drive a character who's really good at what he or she does, in a game environment, that's more or less every first or third-person game ever (so long as you're okay with "what he/she does" being "jump and shoot things," and "he/she mostly being he."). If you want to interact in social situations with a computerized world, you are more or less limited to experiments like Facade (and there you never actually see yourself, just the results of what you say on the other computer characters).
posted by Alterscape at 11:45 AM on December 11, 2015

My off the cuff response would be to try something cooperative such as World of Warcraft. I find that the addition of actual people to play with towards a goal makes the experience seem more real. I don't think I could ever get a self esteem boost from a single player game.

I also used to play multiplayer combat/shooting games such as Counter Strike and if you get good you feel a sense of accomplishment.
posted by christiehawk at 11:57 AM on December 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Tabletop RPGs like D&D and Pathfinder might work. Your character is the avatar, and you control his or her actions in response to the environment set up by your gamemaster. You exercise your character's skills through your imagination and ingenuity, and you'll have to work around any restrictions or obstacles placed in your way.

These do depend on having a nice playing group you can gel with and interested in storytelling. However, it is nice in that you're reacting to ever-changing situations rather than the programmed ones in video games, especially shooter games where hand-eye coordination is the primary key to success.
posted by CancerMan at 12:08 PM on December 11, 2015

One of the things I loved about playing Skyrim was that is was easy, and they would call me all sorts of wonderful names such as Thane, Harbinger, Dragonborn. And they said it like they meant it. So I would go around saying, "yes, yes I am." It was awesome.
posted by Vaike at 12:12 PM on December 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Find a free-to-play phone RPG, start on the newest server you can find, form a guild, recruit people, lead them, motivate them, sympathize with their setbacks, celebrate their victories, conspire with them against their rivals.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:12 PM on December 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm not a gamer either... but as someone mentioned above, I love Skyrim (first game I've ever played for real) for just that purpose. Whenever I'm having a day when I need a boost, I just go and get on with my bad self. Kill me some dragons or pick flowers... whatever I'm in the mood for. I know you said that you didn't want to invest in a system or go on Steam or whatever... but seriously. It was totally worth it, and it's old enough that it doesn't cost that much. And modding the game, completely gives me a boost in self-esteem because of the world-building aspect... Now I can make it just how I want it by adding and taking away mods. Perfect!
posted by patheral at 12:32 PM on December 11, 2015

I have made myself into a Sim many, many, many times over the past decade using the Sims 1, 2, and 4. The Sims 4 offers a lot in terms of personality traits and aspirations so I enjoy living out my goals with it because it's the most authentic Sim version of myself that I've made thus far. I also highly recommend MMORPGs like SWTOR because they let you customize your character so much and the personalization really makes the story experiences that much more engaging.
posted by Hermione Granger at 12:43 PM on December 11, 2015

They're old, but the Impressions city building games do this for me (Zeus and Pharoah are my favorites). You talk to people in your town and if you're doing a good job (not difficult) they say things like "This city is the best, thanks to you!" It usually takes an hour of them complaining about being hungry to get to that point, but since they're thanking you for something you actually did, it's very satisfying, and once you're there you can save the game at that point and just keep playing it and making them happier.
posted by tchemgrrl at 12:48 PM on December 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Or a walk-around-and-explore-the-town-and-meet-people-capturing-the-flag-game: Ingress.
posted by tilde at 3:05 PM on December 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

There are tons of console/computer games with fairly deep avatar creators. To the point where I've seen some people joke that their favorite game is "the character creator".

Off the top of my head: Bloodborne, Skyrim, Saints Row (2-4), Fallout, Dragon Age, Rock Band, Mass Effect... Well maybe not Bloodborne, that's pretty harsh, though it sure is satisfying to finally kill a boss you've been dying to for a week.

Personally portraying The Hero is kind of the main selling point of a LOT of video games.

Or hell, I was profoundly affected by getting to play a snarky black dragon lady for years on Furrymuck, which is an entirely textual domain.

Realistically, beware. Any huge game is a potential life sink. It can become a place where you go for a bunch of easy wins, and that can be addictive to the point of detriment. I'm sure you've seen horror stories about people whose entire life became Warcraft, or Everquest, ot Ultima Online, or a MUD, to the detriment of all else. If you do something social it can be especially pernicious, as all your friends end up being people you only see in the game.
posted by egypturnash at 3:46 PM on December 11, 2015

If you're anything like me, the feeling of accomplishment is quickly overwhelmed by a feeling of deep self-loathing that you've been tricked into feeling a sense of accomplishment over such meaningless achievements.

I find the only games that really make me feel good are ones where I'm accomplishing some mental or physical work beyond flipping a bit in a database someplace. Stuff like Duolingo where you learn some vocabulary in another language, or Ingress where you're at least outdoors getting exercise and seeing new things, make me feel much better about myself.
posted by town of cats at 7:03 PM on December 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

do you know anyone you can borrow a PS3 from? Journey is very beautiful, I sometimes re-play it for the feelings of calm an inspiration I get from it.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:20 PM on December 12, 2015

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