Gaminguistics: Proposing an Ethnography of Communication for Video Game Avatars

Giyoto Giyoto, SF. Luthfie Arguby Purnomo, Lilik Untari, SF. Lukfianka Sanjaya Purnama, Nur Asiyah


This study attempts to revisit the ethnography of communication in video games with avatars as the axis of communication connecting the games and the gamers. Employing Aarseth’s textonomy Rehak’s avatar’s life cycle Lury’s prosthetic culture avatar’s theory and Hymes’ ethnography of communication as the basis of analysis on purposively selected fifty games, the research reveals that ethnography of communication for avatars requires an additional formula from that of Hymes’ SPEAKING (Settings and Scenes, Participants, Ends, Act Sequences, Keys, Instrumentalities, Norms, and Genres) due to the prosthetic nature of games; we propose ACTION (Avatars, Communicators, Transmissions, Instruments, Orientations, and Navigations). Avatars, borrowing Aarseth’s terms, are textonomically classifiable into interpretive, explorative, configurative, and textonic with four systems and sub classifications for each type. Communicators, referring to the participants involving in the communication with the avatars and their relationship with them, are classifiable into unipolar, bipolar, tripolar, quadripolar, and pentapolar. Transmissions, the ways the communications are transmitted, are classifiable into restrictive verbal and restrictive non-verbal. Instruments, the graphical embodiment of communications, are realized into dialogue boxes, non-dialogue boxes, logs, expressions, movements and emoticons. Orientations, the methods the game spatiality employs to direct the movement of the avatars, are classifiable into dictative and non-dictative. Navigations, the strategies the avatars perform regarding with the information saving system of the games, are classifiable into experimental and non-experimental. Departing from this ACTION, analysts are able to employ this fomula as an approach to reveal how the avatars ethnographically communicate in the prosthetic culture of video games. Game designers are able to benefit on how to design avatar based communication in regard to their characteristics and game genres.


ethnography of communication, game avatars, game studies, video games, prosthetic culture

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