When I first approached creating an avatar for Second Life, my initial instincts - developed through several years of online experience - was to create a likeness of myself. In all of my previous online incarnations, I was always myself (on sites like Facebook), or simply used a pseudonym, but still expressed my own opinions, and shared experiences from my real life. Therefore, I built a digital “me” and began exploring.
However, once inside SL, I quickly realized I was thinking in restricted terms. Second Life is not our world. The interface is not simply a 3D environment for Facebook-style social networking, or general message board discussions. This also isn’t a straight game like World of Warcraft, where your character selection is limited to races, classes, and so forth. Second Life is intended to be an all purpose environment in its own, free from many of the limits of the internet tools that came before it. And since it isn’t our world, why should I be me in it? The real me can’t fly. The real me can’t create objects out of thin air. Why, then, should this avatar look like me?
My ultimate decision was to work intuitively, playing around with the controls until it “looked right.” I was free of pressure because I could change the way I looked at any time, so I wasn’t restricted to what I had created.
All in all, it was a rather unique experience, and it might hold some clues of what’s to come, when we reach the days of William Gibson’s Cyberspace or Neal Stephenson’s Metaverse.