Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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2/2/2007
02:12 PM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
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A Nation Of European-American Porn Stars And Village People

I've succumbed to the anonymity trend in Second Life, and got myself a second avatar for most of my future explorations. I'll keep using Ziggy Figaro when I'm in there representing InformationWeek, but most of the time I'll just use this other avatar, so I can do what I want, without having to worry about making my employers look bad.

I've succumbed to the anonymity trend in Second Life, and got myself a second avatar for most of my future explorations. I'll keep using Ziggy Figaro when I'm in there representing InformationWeek, but most of the time I'll just use this other avatar, so I can do what I want, without having to worry about making my employers look bad.

Yes, I'm staying in Second Life. I'm hooked. But I don't want everything I do in SL to be a reflection on InformationWeek, so that's why I got this other avatar. Because I don't want all my actions to be (as the marketing people say) associated with the brand.

Second Life lets you have multiple avatars in the world, but it's not easy. Each avatar is a separate account, with a separate log-in and password. In-world property that's owned by one avatar isn't owned by another. The folks at Second Life are going to have to fix that.

To get an additional avatar in SL, you log in as a new user. I was glad to do that, it gave me an opportunity to go through the login and orientation process again.

Yes, the orientation process for newcomers in Second Life is itself confusing. That's how challenging SL is. Maybe they'll come up with an orientation to the orientation.

I learned a couple of more things about how to change my appearance, and how to see the virtual world around me.

To examine objects, you can walk, or fly, your avatar up to and around them, but it's often easier and faster just to send your point of view flying over and around what you want to examine. Far as I can tell, the movement of this invisible camera is completely unrestricted. It would be handy to have a skill like that in real life, especially the part where you can fly your point of view through walls and spy undetected. High school would have been much more enjoyable if I could have done that.

As before, when I created my new account, the developers of Second Life gave me a choice of a half-dozen avatar appearances to start my life, half male, and half female. As before, most of the male avatars looked like models who'd appear in a TV commercial for an Xtreme energy drink, with wild, spiky hair and outrageous clothes. Ironically, this time, I did find one avatar who was nice and mainstream, looked like he stepped off he pages of a Lands' End catalog. Where was he when I was creating Ziggy Figaro?

But this time I wasn't going for the corporate mainstream look. Neither did I want to look like a crazy teenager. I picked an avatar who was dressed all in black, clean-shaven, with shaggy hair.

He looks like a male stripper.

Most of the male avatars in SL are muscular, wearing tight-fitting shirts that show off their defined abs, broad pectorals, and slim hips. The women tend to come from the Planet of the Giant Antigravity Breasts. You can get avatars that are animals, or dragons, but if you want one that looks like a contemporary human, you're going to likely either look like a porn star or a member of the Village People.

While I was getting my new avatar acquainted with the world of Second Life, one of those porn-star women walked by me. She looked like a blonde teenager in short-shorts, a halter top, pigtails, and a smile. I suddenly had the insight: The real person operating that avatar is a guy. A woman wouldn't make her avatar look like that.

But, truthfully, I don't know. Nobody knows. You don't know the gender or age of the person behind any avatar you encounter in SL.

Mainstream journalists love to giggle about that. It's one of the standard jokes you read in articles about Second Life -- middle-aged men role-playing as teen-aged girls! Ha ha! Note to my fellow journalists: In any sexual role-play environment, some of the men will opt to dress up as young women. Just get used to it. All this breathless giggling and blushing and eye-rolling looks stupid -- as a matter of fact, it makes you look like a bunch of teen-aged girls, or, more precisely, 12-year-old girls getting told the Facts of Life for the first time.

I'm not saying you have to approve of sex in Second Life. You may choose to disapprove of it, or even condemn it. But just be a grown-up about it, and stop the giggling. OK? OK.

I do intend to visit the fleshpots of Second Life (but, wait -- there's no flesh involved. Bit-pots? Pixel-pots?), but I'll do it as this new avatar, to keep from embarrassing my employer.

I'm not going to write much about the sex life of Second Life, for a few reasons, mainly that it's just not appropriate to InformationWeek. But if you are interested in learning about that part of Second Life, I recommend you start right here, with this series from The Register. It's pretty graphic, so if you're easily shocked, stay away.

Even if you're not hugely interested in learning about sex in virtual worlds, I recommend this article from the series, where the correspondent asks: How come everybody in Second Life is a white person?

Oh, they're not all white people, certainly -- there's some avatars who look like animals, others who look like dragons, or angels, or any variety of other fantastic creatures. But the human avatars are almost universally white (with at least one noteworthy Asian exception)

This is even more odd when you consider that many of the human beings playing SL are certainly nonwhite. Sure, any high-end geeky activity like SL is going to be much more popular among young white men, but there's certainly going to be significant numbers of nonwhites involved, too. Why are they invisible in Second Life?

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