Friday, June 5, 2009

A Second-Rate Second Life: IV. Tunnel Vision

"May I Bite You and Take You Away to Vampireland, Never to be Seen Again?"
Written 5 June, 2009

A Second-Rate Second Life

IV: Tunnel Vision

Awhile back I wrote about people maturing in Second Life, finding place. It’s a natural process, and one followed by most of us. I’m all in favor of it.

But sometimes, without really thinking about it, people shut themselves off.

Not long ago, at Gurl6, I was having a good time eavesdropping, listening to two female newbies work on their appearance while shopping for their free (courtesy of Six Kennedy) hair. They were befriended by a vampire who straightaway began to coach them about the stereotypes of avatar decoration. You know: “See that slider? You can make your breasts bigger by moving it to the right.” “You need an AO. It will make you sexy.” “Here’s a thermonuclear-powered face light.” “You need some Moody Stilettos and some bling.”

Before long she had bitten them and led them off to vampireland.

Now I’m not saying Second Life vampires have less than fulfilling second lives or are in any way inferior or bad—but I’m sure these recruited women—for that’s what they were—were from their first day immersed in vampire culture and lore. I’ve no idea how their second lives turned out, but I imagine them with vampire skin, vampire clothes, vampire hair, vampire friends, and vampire lovers (and maybe even making [perish the thought!] vampire prim babies). I see them lying about drinking blood and talking about whatever it is vampires talk about it. I’m utterly unable to see them partaking of the rest of the rich feast of Second Life. I don’t see them having friends who aren’t vampires or doing things vampires typically don’t do (like having a bunny rabbit shoulder pet, perhaps, or a garden filled with bright pretty flowers, or going to a country-western concert).

In truth I don’t know what became of those two women—but it really doesn’t matter, because I’m making a point. Some of us become so involved in our own little projects and our own little corners of this virtual world that we blunt ourselves. We develop tunnel vision.

Many and perhaps most of us wind up in one of the various cultures in Second Life—for instance, GOR and other role playing communities—or we find community as furries, tinies, dragons and goths, or as part of virtual communities like Caledon and other virtual estates like d’Alliez or Fairchang. Or we use Second Life exclusively for sexual gratification, or to get virtual face time with remote lovers.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these things, and in fact it’s healthy to explore and become part of something larger than oneself—but I suspect that for too many of us our particular microcultures comprise virtually our entire virtual lives. Our friends, the places we visit, our appearance—everything— is keyed to one tiny corner of Second Life, and we rarely venture out into the larger virtual space.

I can’t say I’m not guilty of that myself. Sweetie and I both spent a great deal of—and perhaps too much— time on our sims Whimsy and Whimsy Kaboom. But we DO attempt to expand our lives. We go to concerts, art shows, museums, and special events. We shop. We visit friends. We browse the internet and pick the profiles of avatars we meet to find beautiful and exciting places to visit. Even so, and as rich as our lives are, we sometimes feel we’re missing out on something.

And indeed we are. There is SO VERY MUCH to do in Second Life that an army of a thousand alts couldn’t possibly do and see it all.

I think reaching out beyond our levels of comfort is important. We should be open to making friends who aren’t vampires, or aren’t Gorean, or furry. We should leave our property and explore the world. We should experiment with our looks, attend cultural events, develop alternate interests and tastes. Doing so will make us more rounded and more interesting and open new possibilities for our virtual futures.


Here’s are a couple of question for my readers: do you know or have you met someone whose interests and activities in Second Life became so focused that you became concerned for them? Did this affect your relationship in any way?

Your comments are appreciated.

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