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Does This Avatar Make Me Look Fat?

It’s easy for our imaginations to outpace reality. It’s a blessing and a curse of being human. Naturally, we imagine what we crave, but what if it’s far out of reach?
| Mar 6, 2019 | 3 comments |

The Matrix turns twenty years old next month. Nine out of ten doctors agree that it is the pinnacle of 90s scifi awesomeness. I still remember watching the movie trailer during the Super Bowl a couple of months before and my jaw hitting the ground when I saw Neo’s gravity-defying bullet ballet. Twenty years later, it’s still a pretty sweet movie, and although it’s politically incorrect to say the Wachowski “Brothers” anymore, movie lovers will be forever in their debt for giving us this classic.

Image copyright Warner Bros Pictures

Despite all of its amazing moments, one part in the movie always made me chuckle. It’s the scene were we get a rotating view of the crew on board the Nebuchadnezzar. Everyone is seated and plugged into the ship’s computer. While drum-and-bass music pulses in the background, we also get a rotating view of a ringing phone, and behind it are the same crew members dressed in pseudo-Goth finery and fancy shades. It’s a scene made purely for the movie trailers, and it personifies a statement made by Morpheus to a confused Neo earlier in the film, where he explains that who we are in the Matrix is the projection of our digital selves. Essentially, we can look however we want in the Matrix, and of course, everyone chooses to look as cool as possible.

This concept plays out in real/virtual life every day. Look at any game with customizable characters or any online message board with a buffet of avatars to choose from. People spend countless hours (and countless dollars) making their “digital selves” as cool and unique as possible. Girls often try to strike a balance between tough and sexy, and guys usually go as macho as possible. Form-fitting outfits to show off curves and/or muscles, cool gadgets and weaponry, tattoos (wink wink), jewelry/accessories, etc. are irresistible catnip to fans of all gaming genres. Best of all, it doesn’t have to make sense in the real world. Did Neo and Trinity ever stop to think about how dumb it is to wear sunglasses indoors? Or how bulky and cumbersome trenchcoats are, except for the purpose of concealing weapons? No; sunglasses and trenchcoats are cool, and that’s that.

There is nothing wrong with indulging in virtual wish-fulfillment when it comes to avatar creation (as long as one doesn’t neglect their real world responsibilities by spending excessive amounts of time choosing the right hairstyle). I doubt there is a person on this planet who is 100% satisfied with their physical appearance, and I guarantee you that every avatar or playable character is sexier, stronger, or generally more attractive than its real-life counterpart. Sometimes, though, this can morph into an unhealthy perspective, where a person identifies more with their avatar than with the person in the mirror. They see themselves as the young, slender, popular, fashionable Sims character, rather than the mother-of-four who struggles with her weight and gray hair or the obese kid who gets teased at school and has trouble making friends.

Image copyright Snapchat

It’s easy for our imaginations to outpace reality. It’s a blessing and a curse of being human. Naturally, we imagine what we crave, but what if it’s far out of reach? It seems that the more society tries to ingest ideas like body positivity and loving the skin you’re in, the more hyper-conscious people become of their bodies, and more aware of their personal flaws in comparison to the barrage of models and celebrities they are pummeled with every day. Creating an awesome avatar is a temporary escape, but only as long as the computer is turned on.

While our current bodies will eventually die and decay, it’s necessary to realize the important role our bodies play in God’s plan for us as believers. Our bodies are literally temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19) and are intended to be living sacrifices that please God (Rom. 12:1). So instead of thinking about what is wrong with our bodies or dwelling on a cheap substitute, let’s find ways to honor God with our bodies, which can mean using our muscles to help someone in need or going to the gym to increase our health and fitness. What matters is that we all have a body, but it’s not who we are. It is simply a tool to be used during our short time here on Earth.

Mark Carver writes dark, edgy books that tackle tough spiritual issues. He is currently working on his ninth novel. Besides writing, Mark is passionate about art, tattoos, bluegrass music, and medieval architecture. After spending more than eight years in China, he now lives with his wife and three children in Atlanta, GA. You can find Mark online at MarkCarverBooks.com and at Markcarverbooks on Facebook.

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Brennan S. McPherson
Member

I definitely have issues playing too many video games for much too long. It irritates me that it continues to be a struggle to maintain balance. It’s easier for me to make hard rules for myself (like I can only play for one hour per day, max, and then have to shut it off immediately) than to live in a squishy nebulous world of “meh, I could play a bit longer.” Seems to me, this whole shift in identity that you’re talking about (which is absolutely real) between the real you and the digital projection of you, interacts pretty strongly with the Bible’s injunction to remain sober-minded. Video games have a tendency to numb you with stimuli, and kind-of turns into a strange sort of “drunkenness.” If I just keep my mind “sober,” rather than use video games to numb myself, it’s a heck of a lot healthier, and I have more fun with it and don’t feel so gross afterwards. Idk, I’ve just been thinking about this a lot ever since my wife bought me a Nintendo Switch, hah. Because I definitely think video games are good, not evil, but I have a tendency to abuse them and I think it really comes down to remaining sober-minded while engaging with them. Anyone else relate to this?

Great post, Mark!

Autumn Grayson
Guest

I’m usually too impatient to play video games, which is both a good and bad thing. I think I would have been better with certain problem solving skills if I played them more growing up, but at the same time having more time to write sounds better.

When I was little I did spend hours on playing Reader Rabbit cds and Commander Keen. And as a teen I got into roleplaying, which was extremely beneficial for both my writing and social skills. But then I haven’t really felt like doing that lately either. For me it’s somewhat easy to lose interest in things that don’t help my goals well enough. Technically roleplaying would help me practice writing, but it’s hard to find good roleplays, and by the time I do that I might as well work on my fanfictions and original stories.

notleia
Guest
notleia

My personal style is pretty androgynous (meaning I still dress like a homeless college student), but as much as I want cut-glass cheekbones, I inherited the demure-looking round face of my grandmothers. I woulda been considered a hottie at the turn of the last century, I’ll have you know.