Avatarred With The Same Brush

It may not have been Schindler's List, but Avatar was a techno geek's wet dream

Imagine a Marmite designed specifically for the movie going public. Avatar. There really is no in between when it comes to this movie as there only appear to be two schools of thought – those who regard it as utter dross, and those who hail it as the greatest thing since sliced cellulose. There are two things that make me love this movie though, the first of which is that it is absolutely stunning to behold in terms of colours and textures… and the graphic whore in me (which, admittedly, is most of me) was excited to the point where an internal “wow” was being voiced every few minutes for most of the movie. The second reason is that I’ve always adored anything 3D, even pop up books. You really haven’t watched the 1953 release House Of Wax unless you’ve seen that bloody paddle ball almost smack you in the face several times over. It has always been my hope that one day we’d be able to have that choice of whether we watch movies and TV, or play games, in either standard 2D or an acceptable form of 3D… and Avatar was exactly that. A 3D movie which didn’t jar or cause headaches. I loved it.

So why the blog about a movie on a gaming site?

The reason is because I read something the other day which jarred me, something that James Cameron had said of Avatar which actually escaped me completely. I could see the typical metaphors within the movie, I could see the underlying social commentary and I even got the subtle tones that the Avatars were also being used as a form of escapism, albeit less subtle in the case of Sully.

It would appear that the world has this twisted perception of the gamer. Thanks go out to my sister for agreeing to pose for me.

What I missed, and I mean completely missed, was Cameron’s stab at the gaming community as a whole within the movie. Granted, it is one of those “blink and you’ll miss it” moments but it’s in there and it’s cited by Cameron as being written in specifically as a slight against gamers. The scene has Sigourney Weaver’s character emerge from her Avatar form and immediately demand a cigarette. I thought nothing of it, not a jot. Whether that means that the obvious metaphor was lost on me or whether it was just so inconsequential, I don’t know. This is what James Cameron had to say about it to the New York Times…

She’s rude, she swears, she drinks, she smokes. Also, from a character perspective, we were showing that Grace doesn’t care about her human body, only her avatar body, which again is a negative comment about people in our real world living too much in their avatars, meaning online and in video games.

I actually found this logic to be somewhat misplaced, given the ridiculously small percentage of gamers who are happy to abuse their bodies in order to continue their “career” as a gamer. I couldn’t possibly begin to count the number of gamers I know, and have known over the years, but I’ve yet to meet one single gamer who abuses their body solely to pursue their gaming. I know of two instances, and in both cases we’re looking at intense boss battling on Warcraft, where the gamers have died because they haven’t wanted to stop playing and spent days doing so. That’s hardly a landslide, and yet seemingly worthy of 30 seconds of screen time on a movie which is reported to have cost $500m USD, meaning that Cameron blew $1.5m of his budget on an unwarranted dig at us gamers.

All the proof required that a gamer can also be an Adonis, as our very own Victor snogs his guns

It’s not the first time that the gaming community has been tarred with the same brush though, and probably won’t be the last. Perhaps we’re an easy target because people perceive us to be nerds sporting corduroy trousers, creased shirts with pocket protectors and sticking plaster holding our black rimmed glasses in place? That we never leave our rooms or want anything to do with the outside world as it can’t possibly compare to our online fantasies, and so we sit glued to our creaking chairs hunched over our keyboards or slumming it on the sofa with a controller resting on our pizza-bloated bellies?

Apart from one or two rare exceptions, I’ve always found gamers to be very social creatures that are happy to get out and about and probably abuse their bodies less than those who spend their evenings frequenting the local pub before dragging themselves home via several dozen car alarms and the nearest greasy kebab shop whilst reminding us at very high volume that we’re not walking alone. Unlike Cameron, I’m not one to throw around stereotypes ;)

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Last five articles by Mark R



  1. Kat says:

    Uhh. I don’t understand. I pulled a wtf-face. Is his point that I should be on the exercise bike instead of playing games? What about people who have a smoke while reading? What about the bajillions of people stuffing their faces with popcorn and pick n mix while escaping into a movie?

    I think his dig could be aimed at someone like me. I don’t treat my body badly due to gaming. In fact I can’t eat when playing a game, neither would I be able to puff on a cig and use the controller. My body gets treated badly when I AM in the real world… getting takeaway with the family, drinking more than recommended if socialising with friends etc.

    I don’t treat my own body worse than my online one. If I could feed her pizza and get her drunk too I would ^_^

  2. Rook says:

    If Cameron means the characters we control in games as our avatars and we treat them better than our real bodies, then I cannot agree. Playing many games for many years, I have lost a lot of lives, something I haven”t done with my real body. Although, if I had a motorbike I might consider Reality Trials HD TV.

    At least Spielberg recognised the importance of gaming as a form of entertainment today and got involved.

  3. Nicholas says:

    How very dare he accuse Gamers of being un-healthy! I maty sit in the house playing on my xbox, but when I’m not I’m socialising or learning. It is over a 5 mile walk from my house to college, and I walk there and back every week day. I also have to walk atleast 2 of those miles to go to town, which I do most days. I’m actually most unhealthy when I am socialising because most of what I eat when I’m doing this is cakes from greggs and Haribos.

  4. MrCuddleswick says:

    I’m going to be contrary. If Cameron is making the point that many people pay more attention to their gaming or online social activities than they do to their “real” lives, then I think it’s a fair argument.

    I know I escape to games sometimes, and also that as a result some stuff doesn’t get done in my world outside of games that should get done. I think it’s ok to make the point that some peoples’ physical wellbeing can be affected adversely by too much gaming and not enough exercise.

    If someone is saying, “There’s a balance there that needs to be struck a little bit more healthily between the ‘real’ world and your gaming world MrCuddleswick.”, I think it would be a fair comment in my case, and in the case of many others around the world.

    If a theme from Avatar is a reminder that there is a balance to maintain between the online/gaming world and the “real” world, then I don’t see it as a reprehensible standpoint from the director.

  5. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I could be wrong, but I think what Cameron was trying to get at was that gamers will go to any lengths to preserve their online personas and characters, after spending so much time levelling them up etc, that they will happily abuse and destroy their own bodies in the process. As though we’ve transferred all self worth and self preservation to our virtual characters, removing it completely from our real lives.

    While it may be the case for some select individuals, to aim it at “gamers” as a collective noun rather than “overly obsessive gamers” was misplaced, especially given the fact that our current generation has more “gamers” than ever thanks to the Wii and it’s ability to draw in people from all walks of life in a casual sense.

  6. MrCuddleswick says:

    Personally, I think it’s a problem for more than a few select gamers, and it’s also something to think about for anyone who inhabits social/gaming online worlds, even casually. If he’s taking things to extremes then he’s being provocative, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for such a big film-maker.

  7. Kat says:

    Ah but why do we feel the need to separate “online” or “gaming” from the “real world”? I do it myself but *only* with online things. If I visit the cinema I’m still in the real world. I don’t consider myself elsewhere even if my mind may be wrapped up in something else. Why do we put gaming as a separate “world”? Why isn’t it just another aspect of our real world?

    All hobbies are escapism in some form or another. I bet people within all hobbies put off things to make time instead for their interests. The washing up may not get done for a while cos of band practice, a trip to relatives may be cancelled for a golf tournament etc. Life is mundane for most of us and whether we escape from that for a few hours horse riding or reading or playing a game, we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about it.

    Specifically linking games with affecting yourself physically has never made sense to me. Whether aimed at adult gamers or obese children. If I wasn’t sitting on my arse playing a game I’d be sitting on it watching TV or a film or reading a book. It’s easier to look elsewhere to lay blame and it’s just too simple to put games at fault instead of saying “hey, you know what? Maybe we’re just fucking lazy”.

  8. Kat says:

    Not sure how much sense my comment just made. I’m possibly making two different points but my head is fuzzed up by bleach so I was rambling a bit ^_^

  9. MrCuddleswick says:

    I see what you’re saying, and I certainly agree that other hobbies provide escapism in much the same way as games, and people have been escaping to them probably as long as there have been people.

    But I see two key differences between escaping to these online worlds and escaping to more traditional hobbies.

    1) The escapism offered online and in games can be almost all-encompassing. We can quite literally escape to another life in games and online these days, and it’s only getting more immersive. It’s not a bad thing, but it does make it harder for the likes of me to put down and concentrate on literally what’s going on in my day to day life.

    2) We can jump into games or online almost any time we want. The console or computer is right there for us. Any time we want it.

    With these things together, I think it becomes far more difficult to strike a perfect personal balance between the two worlds.

    I guess some people might say that they don’t need to strike a balance, but I know I do, and I’m certain many other people around the world also need to do so.

  10. Lorna Lorna says:

    Others have all made great points, so I’m too lazy to re-iterate Kat’s wise words. I will say however, that this certainly sounds like just one more pot-shot at gamers – big surprise. Yes, some folk get a little too immersed, but it really is no different to other hobbies. Television is just as immediate as consoles and PCs and sucks people in a lot more I think. People talk of their precious soap characters as if they really exist, sending in money to help ‘free so and so’ causes for fictional characters, spitting on soap actor ‘villains’ in the street, possessing an inability to separate actors from characters… I’m looking forward to Avatar 2 when Cameron scrambles back up onto his high horse and takes a poke at Eastenders fans…that may be something worth watching.

  11. MrCuddleswick says:

    Soaps are a really good point. I often see people who seemingly put more into that reality than their own.

    I still think that Cameron has a fair argument. He might well be singling out gamers over telly addicts, but the crux of his point is still valid, even if he’s not aiming it broadly enough.

  12. Kat says:

    I think what is happening in our lives will naturally tilt the balance of the whole real/game world thing. We’ve touched upon it briefly in private Cuddles and I do agree many of us use gaming as an escape and that is completely fine. Our “real” lives don’t suffer in any extreme way. I’m sure you can find people who have lost partners through online/game activities ie Second Life or pretty much ditched their jobs to play an MMO etc. These are extremes but I do acknowledge your point that it’s easier to get lost in an online life when the internet is there 24/7.

    Most are like us though so I get weary of the same old comments aimed at gamers. Maybe you’re more balanced than you think? We get on with our jobs, spend time offline with family/friends. I’ll speak for myself but when I’m online it’s half for games but half social. I don’t consider it just escapism or distraction but winding down, being with other people and having some fun! Plenty of times I’ve gone to play a game but ended up chatting about my day. We don’t escape into a different life. I’m still Libi and you’re still Cuddles. Er, I mean Kat and Simon ^_^ As lovely as our avatars are we’re not immersed in an imaginery world. I may be online but I’m not hiding behind a fictional character I’ve created, I’m me :)

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