From Media Technology and Culture Change

The word Avatar is derived from the Sanskrit word avatāra, meaning descent; in Hindu mythology an avatar is a human manifestation of a Celestial or Supreme being. In Hindu mythology the word refers to descending from the celestial realm to Earth but its usage in the gaming world is similarly different. An avatar, in the gaming world is the digital representation of a player of a video game. Just like a God was said to change his or her form to descend into the mortal realm, controllers are able to transcend their state of physical existence using an avatar to explore digitally created worlds. A player interacts with these digital worlds by controlling the actions of his or her avatar. Controller's avatars do not necessarily represent the self or a human being in a digital world. The appearance of an avatar depends heavily on the technology powering the world. The controller creates a bond with the avatar after investing time exploring the world and collecting items which may, in an objective driven world such as Enter The Matrix or World Of Warcraft, or may not in more open ended worlds such as Second Life and Facade eventually correspond to similarities in the controller. Different games offer wide varieties of options to customise the appearance of an avatar. Some games, like Second Life, allow the user a humanoid base with a wide range of customisations from hairdo to jawline options. Other games like World of Warcraft have different variations of characters from fantasy, myth and fiction. There are also with high restriction like in Enter the Matrix, where the controller is restricted to specific avatars with little detail variation. The advantage of the former is that it allows users to interact on a higher level with the game world because they are more personally attached to their avatars.