M is for Myg

Live your god damned dream

What the hell is “real” in Second Life?

Posted by myg

Why do so many SL stores have information desks and cash registers that are almost always abandoned? I get the idea of trying to make the store feel like a “real” store. But then that’s the problem. If they’re trying to emulate the vibe of a “real” store, and there’s never anybody working there, then you feel like the store isn’t really open. And I don’t think that’s the feeling retailers want their shoppers to have, is it?

It makes me think about the trend of realism in Second Life, and about how silly it sort of is – at least from my perspective. For example, James/Hamlet Au had two pieces in New World Notes yesterday that talked about how “real” Second Life is or maybe could or perhaps should be. In one, he showed a lovely photo of a pregnant woman (or female av, at least) and her partner, and quoted the photographer as saying the inspiration is partly “to show how much SL can be real.”

SL can be real, but doesn’t it have it’s very own reality? And that reality doesn’t actually include things like pregnant women, which is reality borrowed from the world of skin and bones. New avies don’t pop out of female avies’ nether regions in SL. That’s a “make believe” playing house moment in SL, not a “real” moment. A real moment is when an asshole orbits you off your own property for fun, or when you bust a gut laughing at something Romana says while Alex is playing kick ass tuneage over the stream. At least, to me that’s SL “reality.” Pregnancy is not.

In the other, he asked “Would you give your avatar a more realistic shape?”  I for one have to say, “Hell no!” In fact, I should probably have a less realistic shape. Trust me people, my shape is a little too realistic these days in RL. I think that the trend of representing oneself as realistically as possible in SL is a bit lacking in imagination, to be honest. It seems to ignore vast opportunities for creativity and vision in the creation of our digital selves. (Sophrosyne Stenvaag delivers a helpful smackdown on this topic at her blog.) And by the way, I appreciate Hamlet’s posts – I’m not arguing with them. They were pretty thought provoking.

Now, I understand that some folks want to have plus-sized avatars, perhaps because they are working to towards through (sorry, the typo was making me insane. edited 8/11/08) their own feelings of acceptance about being overweight in real life, and/or maybe they are pushing an agenda to get others to drop their prejudice against people who are overweight. That’s cool, really. There’s a purpose there and it’s a damned good one.

But for me, the opportunity to create a digital self (and multiple digital selves, as I have more than one, and some are far less realistic than I normally am) in any form my imagination conjures, is the actual reality of Second Life. And I consider it one of the most important features Second Life has to offer.

You are you every day. Don’t you want a chance to be someone, well, different? In some way?

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9 Comments so far

  1. Kitty Lalonde August 8th, 2008 9:57 am

    I totally agree, I pretty much hate the way I look in RL on a daily basis, why the hell do I want to reduce myself to the same level of low self esteem in a virtual world?

    Great post and nice to see you back Myg!

  2. Xaxoqual August 8th, 2008 10:14 am

    Its an interesting discussion, this one.

    There is an irony with the whole realistic/idealistic thing in sl, really, because well..a lot of times the ‘idealistic’ body is as unimaginative as the realistic one – mostly because its a shared idealism without individuality.

    Mabye just looking like your meatself is bland, but..whatever helps embodiment I think. To each their own. I mean, there are multidimensions to everything – since a lot of it is also what you do. And..if you allow yourself to be changed (for example, the idea of one’s body ‘downloaded’ into SL and then venturing, changing, kind of like that series of vids.

    For me anyways, I just think that the plus size look is nice, realism or no – and that an ideal self need not be perfect – especially when the ‘perfect’ thin body is the assumed norm. And I also think that given people’s responses to some of my friends who have larger avas – its often more based on a fear of the negative stigmas of being obese than an aspiraton to be something greater.

  3. myg August 8th, 2008 7:46 pm

    good points. I don’t know that we have to base our ideal on whatever cultural ideal is out there though. I wasn’t assuming that, though my main av is tall and thin and that’s arguably pretty standard female cultural idealism. I meant you should take advantage of the medium SL is, and have your av reflect whatever you need or want, and not be constricted by being true to your RL self – unless you’ve got a specific purpose for doing so.

  4. dandellion Kimban August 9th, 2008 10:13 am

    The only way to look real and be honest in SL is to live your god damned dream. Anyting else, including recreating the meatspace is fake.

  5. Sophrosyne Stenvaag August 9th, 2008 1:04 pm

    Myg! Great post and great comments. I love Xax’s, and dande unsurprisingly really hit it, beautifully and concisely.

    It’s not *what* you do, but why. If you want a sales counter because “RL stores have them,” that’s stupid and thoughtless. If you want taxation and advertising and corporate push media because that’s how things should be, dammit, that’s stupid and thoughtless. If you want to be pregnant because it’s “real,” that’s stupid and thoughtless.

    If you want to be pregnant in SL to get a sense of the experience, or if you want to be a different gender, species, profession, in order to give it a try, or because it represents what you truly are – fantastic!

    SL is a world without need, a world with only desire. Desire can be addiction, can be the product of bad memes, can be stupid and petty. Or desire can be true, empowering, creative.

    It’s all here somewhere…

  6. Mikalis Karas August 10th, 2008 11:00 am

    I have never understood the desire to be pregnant in sl or even the desire to marry. I come to sl to experience and to meet people from varying backgrounds and places. Someone I know was pregnant recently because she “loved the father” and after he left had “the baby.” Well the “baby” is in inventory and the father is back after an absence with the person now being with another guy. Well, drama abounds and there is my answer, people love drama, they are drawn to it.

  7. dandellion Kimban August 10th, 2008 3:46 pm

    This one provoked me to give my two cents on virtual pregnancy. And yes Mikalis, drama is kind of second life’s essence.

  8. myg August 10th, 2008 5:44 pm

    Yeah, well sometimes people do get a little confused between role play and what’s real. At least their emotions do.

  9. Xaxoqual August 10th, 2008 5:49 pm

    Exactly, Soph. I the whole point is to be who you are – ironically even if you play someone else you are still you (because you are exercising your property of playing others) – and that trueness will shine through. The great thing about SL, as I said, is that its big enough to hold all these viewpoints – realism, fantasy, futurism, perversion, chastity – sometimes with muckups, but its all there!

    As for the pregnancy thing – its all what you make of it. Some of it is adding meaning to a relationship – some of it is reflecting reality (embodiment). sometimes its for roleplay, sometimes its sexual…its enough that the person wants to and enjoys doing it, I think.

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