I’ll get more into IMVU, VWW, GaiaOnline, There, POTCO, and other MMORPG/Virtual world places later.. but for now, here’s part 3 (centered mostly around Second Life)
Evolution of an avatar
Someone once noted that people normally go through certain phases in their Second Life experience, and having been there, I tend to agree.
The basic phases are:
2 – Sex
3 – Shopper
4 – Employee
5 – Gamer*
6 – Builder
7 – Land holder, business owner*
8 – Veteran/Hobo*
* The original list was shorter, and I added these later. This post goes into the first 4 phases..
Phase 1 : Newbie (aka n00b!)
These are people who are new, generally their first week or two in-world. Before the default avatars were improved upon, the noobs were easy to pick out of a crowd, because of their general newbish appearance. They sported a default avatar, lacked good prim hair or misplaced their worn attachments, their clothes, shape, and like a forgotten 3D character from some old lo-resolution video game, their skin and clothing textures were just too flat and simple looking. Most noobs haven’t discovered how to use any sort of Animation Overrides (aka AO), which means their avatar uses the simple built-in walking and standing animation movements, which tend to look very static, they lack smooth and realistic motion. Since noobs are new to virtual space, they often they lack common social ettiquite that established players have, have notable trouble walking (e.g., frequently bumping into walls or other people), their voice controls are poorly set so you either can’t hear them talking or they are loud to the point if distortion. When new users try looking at or seeing things that other people are pointing out, they tend to get lost. Finally, and through some fault of their newness, most noobs are basically annoying, which may be frustrating to ones asking for help or assistance.
There are other levels of newbie, for example many of the Linden employees have been around forever yet never seem bothered to change appearance as the graphics improved, hence, they appear as noobs locked in time, a walking object of virtual antiquity (to which many comedians use as a subject for new jokes).
Compounding this, a great deal of free (yet poorly created) clothing, furniture, and other scripted items (such as vehicles or weapons) are readily available for newbies to aquire, so, this propigates noob-ness as well the sheer amount of random vehicles, boxes, etc. left behind and littered across the grid by said noobs who haven’t yet learned how to put things away or clean up after themselves.
OMG! Is there a cure for noobs to evolve? Why yes, yes there is.
By learning how to develop your appearance, as well learning basic features and protocols of the metaverse, an avatar may groom and educate themselves, gaining some respect and virtual experience in the process.
One avenue towards this goal is the marketplace. Enter phase two, the shopaholic.
“Wait a minute, you said #3 was shopping?”
Yes, yes I did. What normally happens is, after venturing through several freebie areas and finding it either overwhelming or dissapointed in free newbie stuff, they quickly realise most things of any worth in SL come at a price. You will need linden dollars to get a decent AO, skin, hair, clothes, etc., as well those interested in virtual homes and land will need considerably more.
Some will embrace the money idea then and grab a few thousand linden, others will protest and insist on being 100% free even if they end up looking like a complete dork in-world.
During the process, as newbies find some confidence in improvements made to their appearance, they either knowingly or accidently discover the adult-oriented stores and places within SL, and decide to check it out to see what all the fuss is about pixel sex.
Phase 2 : Sex maniac
Both women and men find virtual sex in SL. Even if you chose to be a non-hunan furry animal (or perhaps, more so, hehe), eventually someone is going to want to have virtual sex with you!
Wired magazine did a feature on cybersex some time ago, and SL was mentioned as one of the places people go online to do it..
One may not immediately grasp the concepts, so I will be explicit and explain the basics as best as I can..
Cybersex has been around since before the Internet, it existed in Internet chat rooms and bulletin boards..
For those who don’t it possible, let me state for you the three basic forms if virtual sex, and how they relate to real-world stimulous.
1) Text. Think of hot steamy harlequin romance novels and sexy words read by women and men; This same style of stories you read in a book may be typed online by creative cyber-lovers over a public or private text chat. For some folks, whose creative visualization skills are engaged, that does the trick.
2) Audio. Most people have heard of (oops, pun, LOL) phonesex with another person. Anyone who became aroused listening to heavy breathing, moans, and other live (or pre-recorded) sounds of sex, or enjoys verbal descriptions of sexual acts spoken to them in either sensual or raunchy tones of voice, will also understand the appeal of virtual audio cyber-sex. SL has voice capibility, let your imagination run with that.
3) Visual. Real-world vouyers get off watching people having sex with themselves or others, and since way before the invention of webcams, people have been known to photograph sex, made movies, cartoons, even some computer animations or videogames can be termed as sexy or arousing.
In the same hand (ooh, another pun!) since SL has 3D computer animation capability, people can engage their virtual self with another consenting person and together have perfectly synchronized, animated pixel-sex.
With one aspect, or a combination of these elements, you are empowered to virtually (hehe) endless possibilities of cybersex!
Although USB interfacing vibrators and sex toys may exist, SL cybersex is generally solo or mutual masturbation; Any reasonably imaginative person can bridge the gap between virtual and real world stimulous, again I’ll let you explore those ideas further on your own; Many find this very erotic, while others shrug and exclaim they have no interest, or say they’ve found the virtual experience doesn’t really “do” anything for their lusty libido.
Just like real life, I’ve had good and bad cybersex. Generally speaking, behind the guise of an avatar using a psuedo-name and no given associations with your first (or real) life, SL cybersex is a safe experience– it is very likely that many folks prefer the anonymity and detatchment of cyber, when compared to a real-world singles bar experience;
There is that, and the convenience of being able to logout from SL or poof away elsewhere at a moments notice, say if things soured or for other reasons you felt like leaving– which in the real world, you may not be able to do easily– in a stranger’s company.
True that in real life and virtual life, your physical appearance may have a bit to do with your sexual desirability, so, people shop for new outfits, make themselves look better, as well become tan, fit, or surgically enhanced even.
Of course, Second Life is full of horny noobs who frequent sex clubs and randomly ask about anyone for cybersex in public areas, but that’s a topic likely not worth mentioning (unless you are a comedian and think it’s funny..) I could have included that in the first section, but, meh, who wants to hear about that? Anyway on to shopping..
Phase 3 – Shopaholic
In SL, changing your appearance is relatively easy to do, just buy a new shape or eyes or hairstyle, and wear it, like magic you have a new sexy look!
Want to change clothes? Wish your skintone or makeup looked different? Easy- just get a new one, and poof, you’re looking good! Tired of the same shoes or necklace or neko tail? Fine, yup, go get another one with this or that accessory and boom you’re it.
In fact, there are so many diverse places in-world to shop SL, you could spend months exploring and still not visit them all.
Some people love virtual shopping so much (especially women) that they spend most of thier time online just visiting stores and malls to enhance their already bulging and overflowing wardrobes.
Well, all thus stuff costs money, and you either use PayPal or some such thing and convert your real dollars to linden dollars, or just earn more lindens while you are in-world..
4 – Employment
You can earn Linden dollars by doing stuff like taking web surveys, sitting on camping chairs (which pay you more the longer you stay put), taking snapshots as an in-world photographer, dancing or doing various things at a virtual club, be a musician or DJ (you can stream media in-world and spin records or hold virtual concerts), you may provide customer service (or other various services hehe), teach classes, put your skills to work doing digital graphics, scripting, or 3D modeling, oh the list of ways to earn Lindens grows daily.
Though I’ve done a number of these things on SL to earn money, I wouldn’t say the average person could make significant income in-world to support their real-world existence, but doing the math, let’s say a decent caliber musician can make 5000 linden per one hour show, x 2 shows a week, x 4 weeks, that’s $160 a month.
If they worked their butt off and did 2 shows a day 5 days a week, that’s about $800 a month. That’s not a common scenerio, but it’s not unrealistic either.
Some musicians don’t play live, in fact they may be glorified karaoke singers who have pre-recorded a number of songs in advance and simply play them in a sequence with “live” breaks where they talk on the microphone between songs.
I know of girls that sell nude photos in SL; For a few thousand linden they give their customers a set of photos. In some cases it is the actual person behind the avatar, but in many cases it’s just a 3rd party re-selling photos of a professional model (much the same as picture-selling softcore websites). I am told that on a good day they could make 20,000 linden (or $80 US) for a few hours hustling their pics.
But, not everyone wants to go to all that trouble, some just buy lindens at whatever the going rate is, and there’s something to be said about instant gratification, buy what you want when you want.
[ this post will be continued in the second part, er, part 4 of the series! ]