Human Avatar

The guy with the concerned look in his eyes is Josh, a 25-year-old free runner from South London who’s at the unintentionally hilarious centre of APB’s viral marketing campaign. Josh is the winner of a competition to take a normal human man and make him over with an APB style by reeling in the public and asking them to vote on his next gruellingly hideous body transformation. The campaign is about six episodes long and is pretty much as much a soliloquy to APB’s character creator as it is to random Internet polls.

Internet polls are a vital part of every healthy website. Without blind, anonymous voting systems we would have no place to gather in large, inebriated masses and violently express our emotions on webforms while in our pants. Typically these voting systems get overtaken by overzealous types which is why in any poll that pits Star Wars to Star Trek, SW usually leads by about 900:12. So naturally when Josh starts his transformation he looks like a gap-year Nathan Barley and when the voting ends he’s the human equivalent of a refrigerator magnet montage of random words. By episode six they’ve tattooed him with shoulder-wide baby angel wings, drilled a ring through his nose and dressed him up as some sort of member of Prodigy.

The aim of the Human Avatar project is to “blur the lines between real and virtual worlds with a real-time experiment in identity and transformation”, which seems to largely involve making Josh look like an unemployed that sucks down residue from the bottom of a rusty barrel. The clothes say “punk” but the look says “I sell my blood at the Red Cross in exchange for malt liquor.”

Viewers had been faced with hard-hitting poll questions ranging from ‘Nose ring or earring?’ to “clown suit?” and each video is tinged with Josh looking about as comfortable throwing a Molotov cocktail in APBville as a teddy boy in a Harlem riot. They hand him a gun in the finale but after half a dozen of these videos Josh has proved himself to be a lovely sort. Josh wouldn’t carry a gun, he’d be the kind of guy that would show up to a hundred-man march and just kick a door a couple of times to scuff it up, then throw some grapes at a wall.  Then maybe he’d work his way up to real brutality like spray painting a picture of a dog on the side of a video store and forgetting to pay his car insurance.

But I like Human Avatar, and here’s why. I like it because it’s the antidote, the cold bucket of water to all of APB’s extensive cock-measuring and pissing contests. I like it because for all the posturing involved in APB, the Mean Motherfucker self-image crumbles like a schoolgirl who dropped a pudding when it’s confronted with its own reflection.

Human Avatar unintentionally offers the kind of warts-and-all truth you don’t see too often on the Internet. It doesn’t lure you into a false sense of Tough Guy cool like APB. It does the opposite. Josh is the man behind the mask, the human half of the Internet chode. He is the evidence that underneath the hard shell of griefers is the soft human punch-line, the guy with a face that says: I’m not in a gang, I front an ironic rap band. I spin tracks with my cousin down in an industrial mill on Thursdays. He’s the kind of doltish, simple guy who sees Johnny Knoxville as the Mark Twain of our generation and and bases his tribal tattoos on Indian shit he saw scrawled on a bus shelter. The exact opposite of what fuels APB, essentially.

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