Carter, P J and Gibbs, R J (2013) Using horrific body and avatar creation as an extension of the Proteus effect. In: 2nd Global Conference: Body Horror – Contagion, Mutation, Transformation, Friday 1st November 2013 – Sunday 3rd November 2013, Athens, Greece.

Avatars, within the context of online interactions and video gaming, are representations of the user, selected and potentially created by the user. These can be full and realistic 3D representations of an individual for virtual environments (VE's) and games, 2D head shots for online forums or even fantastical and monstrous creations. Avatars can be accurate representations of the individual, aspirational or separate from their own physical characteristics.

Avatars are often functional but can have effects beyond the simple purpose of allowing a user to have an identifiable representation. The Proteus effect (Yee & Bailenson, 2007) suggests that the creation of an avatar with certain characteristics can change the behaviour and self-perceptions of the individual. In the literature this is often linked to positive impacts such as empowerment through gender selection, and increased self-confidence through the creation of a desired 3D body.
There is arguably less focus on the Proteus effect when reversed; when the characteristics of avatars and online bodies are used or shape behaviour negatively. Something the authors would tentatively label the Frankenstein's Monster effect. When avatars and online bodies are perceived to be horrific, and are treated as such, behaviour can be shaped to conform with these new expectations just as the horrific visage of the monster in Shelley's work led to its rejection, and ultimately the horrific acts it committed.

Using examples from online and 3D avatars we explore the modern Frankenstein's Monster, and consider how we can further research this area as an addition to the Proteus effect. We focus in particular on the creation of full 3D bodies in games such as 'The Sims' and how negative creations can lead to negative narratives within the game, as well as the creation of horrific or lewd monsters in the community based game 'Spore' as a form of online vandalism.

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