November 04, 2009

SeconLife: the beginning

Writing about web page http://secondlife.com/

Let’s talk about my first personal experience of SecondLife.

The first step is to register for your SecondLife account and download the softwae required.

Your first choice is about your name. What a challenge ! We, who have always considered our name as something we did not choose, which was given to us without our being asked if we liked it or not, have now the restricted freedom to choose our name in game. I say « restricted freedom » because you only have the choice between the names available : if the name you want to choose il already used by another player, you will have to change it.

So you choose your first name and then, you are given a list of family names available. But in fact, what is interesting here, is to realise how and why you choose this particular name instead of another one. I think it depends on what your in game intentions are and it depends on what « personality » (as far as I can talk about « personality » for a non-real character) you want to give your avatar : would you like it to be a fool, choose a funny name ; would you like it to be a scholar, choose a « serious » name ; would you like to be anything, you will choose a name which fits with it/his/her personality.

Then, you have to select the general appearance of you avatar. Even if you know that you will be able to change it once your are in game, it already raises the question of how you want it to look like, generally speaking : first, a male or a female, then, a young or an old person, then, the general style, etc. The questions of « How will my avatar be like once I am in game ? », « What will be the first impression he will give to the other player ? », « How will this first impression affect my relations to other players ? » are already at stake here, in the very beginning of your avatar creation.

Ok, I have done it. My avatar will be a young white man, whose name is Stevy MacBain. The website tells me that I have received an email the link of which I have to follow in order to complete my registration and validate my account. I go to check my emails, open the SecondLife one and… Oh, what a surprise ! It as adressed to « Stevy MacBain » ! This was my first very strong feeling : I have been sent an email on my REAL box, adressed to my FICTIONAL avatar. Here is the first time when you start to think about your melting with your avatar : is it representing yourself or not ? Who will be running and chatting with people : you or your avatar ? And this is a very interesting question because it shows that you have CREATED a new identity. Be it close to your own or not, you have created a new entry, a new reference in the World Wide Web, or at least in a MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game). But we will talk about this aspect later on.

And here we go. I launch the game, enter my Identification and my password, and I enter SecondLife world. The first thing I decide to do (and the last one I will speak about in this short essay) is to « edit my appearance ». I have to admit that I have been very surprised of how precise was the editor of your body. There is different tabs (body, head, hair, mouth, eyes…) and each of them contains many different options. You can accurately define, the size, shape and everything of the different part of your face. What I found interesting in editing « my own » appearance is that it points out some small details I had never thought about before : I had never thought about the height of my mouth or te precise shape of my eyebrows ! And once again, it raises an interesting question (according to the fact that the player wants to edit a « beautiful » body) : if I create an avatar which is beautiful according to me, will the other players like it ? In other words : Is my conception of beauty the same as the others ? And if not, should I create an avatar which pleases me or the others ? These first questions about appearance show how important it has become in our societies. We know people will judge us on our appearance. And how do you cope with this ? Do you matter ? Do not you care ? What could be the impact of a horrible appearance in game ? How people would react ? And finally, because this is one of the aim of this work, what can we learn about the real world, from the virtual world ?

There are many other aspects of the game we will discuss in next essays.


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