May 5th, 2009


They may be AVIs but Real People pilot them!

I have been on the Internet virtually from when it was "born". I have seen a lot of things come and go and a lot of people come and go as well. Through it all, there is still one thing that I see all the time - and Second Life is no exception - that has and still does bother me.

What is it? Well, it's the way a lot of people treat it as somehow "not real".

You can't touch your mind, but you know it's real. What makes you think another person's mind isn't real when they're interacting with you on the 'net?

Second Life is rife with those who treat it as some big video game. I don't believe that's what the Lindens intended, nor is it the true reality either. We don't leave ourselves behind when we descend into virtual reality.

Second Life is the next generation in networking, folks. Instead of interfacing simply through text, we can now create a three-dimensional body to interact with others. Some choose to fashion the avatar, or AVI, to look as they do in real life; others, like me, prefer to express our imaginations and create a person that we could never be in real life (my avatar is a Faecat who is also a Vampire).

Now I don't have anything against roleplaying; I've done it for over a decade myself. It takes on a whole new dimension when carried here to Second Life. At the same time, there is something I never forget:

There are real people behind those three-dimensional avatars, whether they look like regular human beings or your cat next door.

A recent conversation I had with a friend of mine underscored this point. Her avatar is in love with another person's avatar. In real life, she just got married. When I asked her if her new husband knew about her relationship on Second Life, she replied with something about him liking his comics better.

I know the other person, while having created a female human avi that is perhaps more attractive than she is in real life, is playing herself, for the most part.

What does that do for the relationship? Is it fake? Not entirely. There is no way you can completely cut or detach your feelings from the relationships you develop in Second Life.

Another conversation I had recently involved my roleplay partner and the person that used to be the avi's fiance. I was permitted to see an exchange that they had saved; in it, the girl refers to Second Life as "a video game" when she said she wouldn't let "people in a video game" piss her off.

Now, if it's such a game, then why did this girl run a bona fide con game with my roleplayer and his avi? I guess it's not a video game when you can scam people out of enough "funny money" to sell for real dollars, now is it?

No, it was a "video game" to her when it came to her responsibility for how her actions affected others. How convenient!

And I think that's the key: There are too many people in the world who haven't learned how to take responsibility for themselves at all. In concrete life, however, there are usually safeguards in place that will prevent you from doing things that cause real, definable harm to others (yes, people still do it, but we do have law enforcement and courts to deal with the worst cases). It's lots, lots harder to mistreat someone when you're face-to-face with them, especially if your modus operandi is to con them or use them as a doormat. Those that do it in the concrete world have no conscience; those that do it in the virtual world are sad sack passive-aggressives.

It's not hard at all to extrapolate that these same people suck up their attitudes and act subservient to the authorities above them, only to come home, turn on the Mac or PC, log into Second Life, and proceed to vomit all over those they think are "video people" and not real people. It's also not hard to imagine them logging in to conduct their various love affairs, even marriages, and considering the entire thing to be a fantasy instead of an emotionally-bonding relationship. While some of it is pure roleplay (and usually understood as such between the players), a lot of it is not.

Time to wake up and take responsibility for yourselves. You feel, you are affected by the ups and downs of your character, avi, or person in Second Life - why is it so hard for you to remember that the others you interact with also feel, think, and are affected?

Common courtesy and consideration doesn't stop before you hit the keyboard. It should follow you into virtual reality as well.