In Norman Spinrad's novel Songs from the Stars (1980), the term avatar is used in a description of a computer generated virtual experience.
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The earliest use of the word avatar in a computer game was the 1979 PLATO role-playing game Avatar.
The use of the term avatar for the on-screen representation of the user was coined in 1985 by Richard Garriott for the computer game Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar.
Only if you were playing "yourself" Garriott felt, could you be judged based on your character's actions.
Because of its ethically-nuanced, story-driven approach, he took the Hindu word associated with a deity's manifestation on earth in physical form, and applied it to a player manifesting in the game world.
In this game, Garriott desired the player's character to be his earth self manifested into the virtual world.
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Fun games for boys and for girls, we even got some baby games to play. The word avatar originates in Hinduism, where it stands for the "descent" of a deity in a terrestrial form (deities in India are popularly thought to be formless and capable of manifesting themselves in any form).