The adventures continued in Second Life as I was now grounded on exploring more issues relating to gender after a failed attempt to see a significant change in interaction based on ethnicity. Recently, an upgraded version of Second Life was launched known as viewer two which served as an alternate interface to explore SL. Personally, I loved the new interface which made my experience more enjoyable based on a user friendly interface with all the necessary quick tabs available with a simple click of the mouse. As SL has continued to improve along with my SL social skills, I was able to further my research on gender swapping in SL.
The results were astounding! Firstly, playing as a female avatar I was subject to the same series of inappropriate advances but enjoyed several perks such as numerous freebies from other avatars. In comparison to my male avatar who was able to gather a respectable amount of SL friends it was nothing compared to my female avatar that had almost 20 more friends. The sheer volume of interaction was higher in almost every setting. I ran a one week analysis of entering the same venue each day of the week once with each avatar. On average my female avatar was able to attract 3.4 friends per day versus that of my male avatar’s 0.5 per day. It appears that I am much better at being a friendly female in second life than being a friendly male!
As I continued to venture deeper and deeper into SL, I came to notice a fair number of very intense online relationships. Just like in real life you can get live with your partner, marry them and all those other fun things that people do in relationships. Coincidently these relationships had me questioning some very basic notions of real world relationships. In our society there is obviously a very large emphasis physical appearance. However, in SL one’s avatar is most likely not a mirror image of the user. Often certain parts of their body are exaggerated or even completed re-invented. What is to be noted is that in SL no one needs to worry about what they actually look like. You can play first thing in the morning before you have showered or even brushed your teeth. There is no need for make-up, fancy hair products, fashionable clothes or shoes. Nick Yee a research scientist at Stanford outlines four main reasons why online relationships are unique. “First, people have greater anonymity online. Second, the importance of physical appearance is greatly reduced. Third, the internet transcends problems of physical space and wide dispersion. And, finally, users have greater control over the time and pace of their interactions.” (Nick Yee . The Demographics, Motivations, and Derived Experiences of Users of Massively Multi-User Online Graphical Environments. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, Volume 15, Number 3 (June 2006), pp. 309-329, http://0 ejournals.ebsco.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/direct.asp?ArticleID=410CABE55745A359824A). The four elements presented by Yee present a unique perspective on online relationships. Users are in this sense forced to learn about someone else from the inside out. Without worrisome physical appearance user becomes friends and on several occasions more than friends. Users spend more time articulating themselves and expressing emotions due to the construct of online relationships. In a world the endorses shows like MTV’s Next (a television show allowing a participant to go on a date where at any point they can say, “next” removing their current date to be replaced by another one of 5 in the ‘next bus’. On several occasions the word next is said upon the first glance of the next date.) how important is it to transcend the emphasis on physical appearance. Thus, it poses the question of whether online relationships (if both users are being honest) are healthier than physical relationships based on the increased communication and removal of physical appearance.
Unfortunately, I do not know the answer to this question and I do not know how it could be answered. Over time as online communities continue to grow I am sure that studies will emerge to test the above theory. In conclusion, Second Life has introduced me to a whole new world of virtual entertainment. Personally, I did not particularly enjoy playing Second Life mainly because it did not feel like a game. The lack of a main concrete goal, failure to level up your character, defeat monsters, gain equipment and armour and personalize your skills made SL feel like it was more of a social networking tool as opposed to a game. As someone who has played a fair amount of online games especially in my younger days, I was just not used to the lack of what I believe to be essential game characteristics. However, as I got thinking of this I wondered what the differences in gender might be when taking a look at a typical game that I might play. I will address this question in the section below.
All in all, SL was an interesting social experiment relating to gender and identity. I have learned that physical ethnicity really does not have much of a hold over relationships when compared to gender. Female avatars also experience overall better treatment from users and from my research tend to have many more friends. Apparently in the online world it is much better to be a woman than a man!
As usual I have attached a youtube clip below which pertains to my questions regarding some of the games I have played online before.
This is the trailer to the sequel of a game I used to play. The trailer properly depicts the classes/races you can play within the game. There are several interesting things to note. First the human and what appears to be this intense beast thing are both narrated with male voices to reinforce their masculinity and brute strength. The apparently female classes all have a strong link to wisdom over strength. As well there are also links to nature for both the mage type and archer type characters. What does this say about the gender roles within Guild Wars 2? In addition to this, what does this online game reveal about how gender applies to not only character roles in game but gender roles in society? Does this mean that men are controllers of pure brute force where as women are wise but physically weak? Are women more spiritual or environmental due to their link to magic and the environment seen in the trailer?
Thank you for your interest and as always I am more than happy to answer any questions you have and am looking forward to your comments and thoughts!