"Blacks Deserve Bodies Too!" Design and Discussion About Diversity and Race in a Tween Online World

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Conference Paper

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Situated Play: Proceedings of the Digital Games Research Association (DIGRA)


Akira Baba

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In this paper, we investigate racial diversity in avatar design and public discussions about race within a large-scale tween virtual world called Whyville.net, with more than 1.5 million registered players of ages 8—16. One unique feature of Whyville is the player’s ability to customize their avatars with various face parts and accessories, all designed and sold by other players in Whyville. Our findings report on the racial diversity of available resources for avatar construction and online postings about the role of race in avatar design and social interactions in the community. With the growing interest in player-generated content for online worlds such as Teen Second Life, our discussion addresses the role of avatars in teen/tween identity development and self-representation, and the role of virtual entrepreneurs and community activists in increasing the diversity of avatar parts available.

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