Wednesday, November 28, 2007

All dressed up and nowhere to go

Sometimes I feel kind of pointless in Second Life. I walk around and stare at things and photograph the prettiness, all the while listening to other people speak in community chats about this and that. I'm only really part of one, the Independent State of Caledon chat, but that one is enough. I've gotten to know people through the chatroom that runs at the bottom of my screen, and then when we meet avatar to avatar at gatherings, I can put faces to the Victorian-ish personalities.

It's funny to think about personality in Second Life. The game is deceptive, extremely deceptive. It has most of the trappings of reality (but none of the physical sensations), and therefore there's a surreal sense to it. You meet people and get to know two "thems," or even many thems. You get to know the person as they present themselves through their avatar, and then, slowly, get to know the details of their real lives as they share them with you. How real is real, I often wonder.

I've gotten to know people in Second Life well enough that a few have shared details of their online existence with me. I can never tell when someone is roleplaying or not. When a lady curtseys and discusses her garden, I go along with it, curtsey back and discuss mine. When a gentleman talks about his sick child, I realize that it's probably a RL remark, and respond sympathetically. I wonder about relationships in this space. Do you roleplay it entirely? Do you mingle roleplay with RL? Negotiating the layers must be complicated, to say the least.

The layers and layers of fiction and "reality" are sometimes confusing, especially for a Victorian avatar like myself. Someone invited me to become a debutante in my Victorian land. This means that my 34 year old, married, matronly RL self could've lived out the fantasy of a debutante ball, something meant for an unwed girl of sixteen or seventeen. After all, you are what you look like, and nobody's avatar looks much older than 25 unless you try really, really hard to make yourself look older. I thought about it. I did.

Yesterday I was in a gypsy kind of mood. I walked alone through Caledon Cartaigh and found a snowy pavilion under the moonlight. I stopped to stare around. This is something I do often in Second Life -- stop and stare and take a photo or two of someone else's tree or house or pink gorilla. This pavilion was painted with a snowy scene. Beyond the see-through walls, there was a "real" snowy scene with crystal trees and snow-covered pines. Layers of images, one "represented," one meant to be "real," but both ultimately represented.

Then I felt pointless and logged off to play in the real world, and by that I mean on the web.

My avatar froze her butt off!

***Horns: Illusions ram's horns from the designer's box of free stuff, (Carnivale, 208, 87, 33)
***Hair: Calico Creations Reba in Midnight, (Calico Kitty, 124, 70, 35)
***Skin: Blowpop Mellie2 - Cream (cranberry fizz/richbronze gloss) - Free group giveaway, (Fuzzy, 226, 168, 33)
***Necklace: Magika's Pearl Bead Necklace, (Gormthoog, 184, 55, 26)
***Sleeve and back tattoo: AITUI TATTOO Horioshi full upper body tattoo, (Aitui, 155, 191, 27)
***Shirt, gloves and stockings: ~silentsparrow~ from the Serendipity Dress Suite, (silent sparrow, 176, 138, 729)
***Skirt and belt: Cake Autumn in Paris outfit skirt and belt, (FNKY Cake 129, 76, 26)
***Shoes: Shiny Things Ruffled Boots in coffee, (Shiny Falls, 224, 148, 38)


Michael Smith said...

I really like your observations in this post. I want to respond more, but I have to run. I'll stop back later and leave more. In the meantime, look up "Michelle Republic" next time your in SL.


Diamanda Gustafson said...

I can talk about my own SL relationship. When I started it, my companion and I put down definite rules as to how separated SL and RL must be - I am RL taken, he is not. The fact that we are real people with real emotions is of course undeniable, and there has to be some fondness and trust for any connection between two people, even SL avatars to connect. Meanwhile, I enjoy the Victorian polish that my romance includes - does that make it RP? I don't think so, but it adds to being in a certain time and place.

There are not two SL relationships alike, I'd say, everything is down to the individuals that form it.

Michael Smith said...

Can the environment in Second Life be deceptive? You bet! Can I trust any avatars to be what they appear? No way! My wife and I enjoy Second Life together and those were the first two things we tried hard remember. Since anything and everything can be changed in an instant, nothing is truly as it appears. That's why I will not draw any conclusions by how an avatar looks - we can be whatever we want. Better to chat with them for awhile and see what comes out. Some turn out to be friendly, some not. Just like RL.

Do I RP in Second Life? Not conciously. Maybe to the extent that my avatar can dance and my real self can't. For the most part I try to make my avatar at least resemble the real me and I only say things that resemble what I might really say.

I enjoy the aspect of experiencing a fantasy world. My wife and I can dress up our avatars in our best formals and go dancing while the kids sleep in the next room. Kind of a virtual date.

You are right on about the difficulties in representing an avatar as being older than 25. The young, hottie supermodel seems to be a popular avatar type. Not many people want to have a 40-ish, graying guy for an avatar. I wish I could add gray to my avatars sideburns and temples without turning all my of my (sparse) hair gray.

Sorry if this seemed to ramble. The post just struck a chord that I've been chewing on in my mind for awhile now.

Mike (aka Michelle Republic)