Robbie Cooper (b.1969) is a British artist working in photography, video, and explorable 3D. His work focuses on the similarities and differences between how people present themselves in reality, and their online personas.
His 2003-2007 project “Alter Ego” was inspired by a photo shoot with a corporate CEO who revealed that he used Everquest to meet his children every evening without attracting the ire of his estranged wife. He spent the next three years travelling the world, and photographing avid male and female users of online simulations and role-playing games alongside their polygon-and-pixel gamer identities.
The blurbs that accompany them are well worth reading. Very funny, but also culturally revealing.
Name: Andreas Fischer
Location: Vienna, Austria
Game played: City Of Heroes
“I am married to a beautiful girl and the father of two sons. Family is very important in my life, and my wife and I play City Of Heroes together. We have a lot of fun…
My character, Zero Cold, was the leader of a group called Justice Corp, or JC, proudly fighting for justice in the world. Zero Cold was their mentor, their friend, and their father-figure. But that was a long time ago. Now, a year and a half later, Zero Cold has left JC and is in a new group, Team Xtreme. The team is a provocative supergroup – with a few comedians. We’re here to have fun rather than fight for justice in that American style. Team Xtreme. Fell the Xtreme!”
Name: Young Ki-Jang
Location: Seoul, South Korea
Game played: Lineage II
“In the real world, you have to conform to the expectations of your parents, teachers, and peers. What matters the most is how much money you have, which schools you went to, and who your parents are. Where you start determines where you end up. In Lineage it’s different. You create your own avatar – it’s not already chosen for you. The path forward is up to you. Play well, and you will get ahead. It’s not like the real world, where things are set for you.”
Name: Jason Rowe
Location: Crosby, Texas
Game played: Star Wars Galaxies
“In the real world, people can be uncomfortable around me before they get to know me and realise that, apart from my outer appearance, I’m just like them. Online you get to know the person behind the keyboard before you know the physical person. The Internet eliminates how you look in real life, so you get to know a person by their mind and personality. In 2002 at the UO Fan Faire in Austin, I noticed that people were intrigued by me, but they acted just like I was one of them. They treated as an equal, like I wasn’t even the way that I am – not disabled, not in a wheelchair, you know. We were all just gamers.”
See more of Alter Ego and Robbie Cooper’s other work here. The Alter Ego work has also been complied in a book.