Tomi Kujanpää & Tony Manninen

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Communication between players in networked computer games is often inadequately implemented. The games do not exploit the full potential of using different forms of communication possibilities between players, and therefore result in problems in sending and receiving messages. This paper introduces a model that describes how visual aspects of non-verbal communication (NVC) in avatars could be systematically designed. The model can be used as a guideline in the design process of more communicative avatars. The study was conducted using a variety of research methods. The topic has been approached from both the constructive and theoretic-conceptual viewpoints. Nonverbal communication theories have been used as the framework to construct avatars for game environments and to form a model that supports the design of NVC elements into avatars. The primary result of the work is a model that describes how to design more communicative avatars. The model introduces the aspects required when considering the designing of the visual elements of NVC. As an empirical result, the avatars based on the model determine how different elements of NVC work, and how NVC could be used in the avatar context. The results can be applied for design and construction purposes, as well as for further research into the diverse areas of avatar design. The model describes three layers that can be used to guide the work of avatar designers and creators in supporting the visual elements of communication in computer game avatars. The model shows that designers and creators should search for the required elements of the NVC, vary these elements to form a rich set of ways to use them, and finally, personalise the avatars by selecting varied elements for separate avatars to support natural communication.