Unrealistic Avatars Break ImmersionAugust 19, 2014
In a recent article, Katie Goode of Preloaded wrote about putting on a VR headset, looking down to where her chest, legs and shoes usually are, and finding a surprise:
If I’m playing as myself, as a female, when I look down I expect to see my breasts. I lose presence on demos which I have been forced to play as male avatars. It is important that people who associate themselves as a certain gender can play as that gender when they are physically forced to walk around as it.
The experience of walking around as a man threw her off, and we should expect similar results for male players forced to walk around with female avatars.
Experiences in other games
There aren’t clear best practices currently on what developers should show on the screen when users look down to where their body would normally be. Jaunt VR, working on a World War II action movie in 3D, can’t show the area directly below your head because that’s where the tripod stand goes. They show the Jaunt logo where your legs would be, though I sadly don’t have a screenshot of this.
Other games haven’t implemented avatars well.
The answer, for developers that want to persist with avatars, may be yet another configuration screen before beginning to play the game, to go along with choosing your sound settings (headphones vs speakers, to allow for proper stereo sound) and your intensity setting. Until we have a better picture of best practices, it’s probably good to allow users to choose how they’d like to be represented.
If an unrealistic avatar breaks presence, here are some strategies you can use to help maintain immersion.
An avatar wearing long sleeves and pants will have less exposed skin needing to be drawn with the user’s correct skin tone.
Setting your avatar in a chair in a cockpit, as seen in Elite: Dangerous, can help you control (or hide) which parts of the avatar are visible onscreen.