Scary New Worlds
A few years ago, I jumped into the virtual world known as Second Life. I created an avatar that was much thinner, much prettier and decidedly more exotic than I am (she looked a lot more like Angelina Jolie than she did me), and I gave her a cool name. The fact that I don’t remember what it was should tell you where this is heading.
When I finished the creation stage — voila! — there was Margelina (we’ll call her, in retrospect), tall and beautiful, and standing completely naked in this weird, other-wordly place that was rather dark and just a little menacing. I tried to make her move. I tried to make her interact. I tried, at the very least, to get some clothes on her. But it was a no-go. No matter what I did, she just stood there with her back to me. She would occasionally wriggle or turn slightly from side to side. And, once, she did a quick, complete revolution that was so creepy I expected her head to start spinning independently of her body and spew pea soup. I got her walking, but she hit a wall and, well, that was that.
Slowly I began to realize that Margelina, in all her nubile glory, was not alone in her new world. The Almighty Creation Process in Second Life doesn’t birth its new beings into a warm and cozy bullpen where they can safely ramp up their virtual socialization skills. No, it plops them into downtown SL — at least it did with Margelina — where other avatars eventually discover them. In our case, those others weren’t so nice to the new, naked stranger in town. They bumped into her (she couldn’t figure out how to move out of their way), they yelled at her, and one, I think, flipped her the virtual bird.