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Mesh body (…snatchers)

I wasn’t going to reply to Strawberry Singh’s most recent meme about avatar stats in SL, but something about other people’s numbers had me thinking. She has run this post for five years now –if I’m not mistaken– to survey how the average avatar shape has changed over time, lately addressing the advent of mesh technology in SL. First it was about how people adjusted their basic avatar shapes to mesh clothing, and now she’s asking again to know how shapes have changed with regards to mesh bodies.

In SL, males of all preferences are the “biggest” minority; I even think there are more furries and petites than there are men. So as per usual, there aren’t many male bodies in SL to choose from (nor of anything else in general). And me, I have to confess I’m not well versed in this field either, because I’m usually better informed about trees and small abodes than I am of men’s fashion trends. Yet, I bought the recent The Mesh Project body, as I thought that, for my regular looks, it was the only non-Mr. Atlas option in the market that could suit me well. It’s far from perfect of course, and it’s still in beta. There’s at least an alternative, but that other one suffers terribly in the butt area (I’m not mentioning the store’s name, since this observation is clearly personal). The rest are the muscular type I’m not even interested in demo-ing.

Of all things in SL, the basic male avie shape has always been in my “worst” list: it’s full of bumpiness everywhere, and the only way to conceal all that grotesquerie has been to push male heights to the seven foot scale, simply because the tallest you go, the smoother the shape turns out. Yet, mesh bodies are changing that reality since they allow for a smooth frame at any size –theoretically. So after reading Berry’s post and people’s comments on Plurk, my question (still) is: Why do male avatars insist on giant sizes?

As is apparent from Berry’s own male counterpart and people’s exchange, tall avies are preferred by most. Basically, it seems, they don’t want to feel short next to their titanic friends. And yes, that perspective dominates everywhere. When I’m out and about, mainly during SL events, it feels like if I had to gaze up all the time to look at people’s faces. That doesn’t bother me at all, though. Knowing I’m the same height as my RL avie at six feet tall makes me feel normal.

So, if in the “old days” it was necessary –almost mandatory– for male avatars to be so tall in order to wear a viable shape, why do we need to keep huge proportions now that mesh bodies have softened all the bumpiness? I mean, if now even the most narcissistic of us can opt to adjust our bodily stats to more natural digits, why are we still suffering from Gulliver’s syndrome? The immediate answer is: Because not everybody uses mesh bodies… yet: they are indisputably optional. Besides, stylistic mesh bodies aren’t something Linden Lab provide as a basis for all residents. They have left that to third party designers. That being the case, there’s another answer to the question: Because mesh bodies are expensive. From the male perspective, with so few options out there, not all of us are in a position to spend 5000L for the top choice available right now. Even if you were a premium member and purposefully cut spendings down to 0L, the weekly allowance will require waiting almost five months to save enough gold to buy it (doable, anyway, but who wants to wait that long?). That lot of money is, for the most part, a luxury only hardcore Slifers are willing to part with.

I’m actually of the opinion that it should/must have been Linden Labs responsibility to deliver a better avatar to SL, but since they resorted to introduce so and so mesh avatars in their starter packs, that somehow tells me they won’t do anything else to change the basic avatar at all. If they didn’t do it in the last 10 years, I think we shouldn’t expect anything else to come in the near future (even less now that they have made public they are working on SL’s next generation).

So basically, male mesh bodies aren’t that common yet, since apparently there is no real demand for them right now, either because we males don’t constitute an important portion of the fashion market –hence, not prone to generate significant profits– and because right now there aren’t enough options to match the thing (especially skins) so as to justify the steep investment. More probably, only the “glamorous” crowd (yours truly being equally guilty) is buying them merely for the aesthetic improvement they represent over the basic SL avatar.

Mesh bodies or not, I don’t see why we have to be seven feet tall if we aren’t role playing hobbits and elves of Middle Earth, or mountain trolls and house elves at Hogwarts regularly. Mesh clothes in general require wearing an alpha layer that mostly –if not entirely– hide the hideous body parts of SL avatars from view… unless you go naked or practically nude depending on the purpose. In any case, as in RL, there’s Photoshop to cover up those blemishes, Hollywood style.

Here are my answers to Monday’s meme.

1. Do you currently own a mesh body? If so, do you wear it all the time or just once in a while? If not, skip to the fourth question.

Yes, I currently own two mesh bodies. One is The Mesh Project’s male body (as I mentioned before), that I use occasionally, taking into account that I’m not frequently down to my underwear –or much less– in public. So far I have only used it for one outfit, worn during February and March, because I thought I needed better hands (not the full body itself). I only change outfits a few times a year, so my fashion demands are ordinary and low, yet I’ve been “at war” with the basic male avatar since forever, so when The Mesh Project introduced their new eye-candy I tried the free version first and shortly after went for the Deluxe package (for the alpha hud, which is a must, from my point of view). I only see myself –mostly– using the hands and feet for special occasions, as in the previous case. My original plan was to wear it all the time as an actual substitute to the SL basic body, but I’ve found not all clothes fit in that well –especially the upper back area, right where the shoulders meet the neck: it tends to protrude through the fabric as old sculpt prims used to do. Under that circumstance, it still needs adjustments, either on the body itself or the alpha mask, before I turn it on permanently. The body is still in beta, so I expect when the full product finally arrives (and I hope it’s soon, though I haven’t received a single update yet), all those shortcomings will disappear. The other mesh body in my inventory is Loki Avatar’s Bigbro. I presume I will wear it even less often than the adult one because I’m not planning a return to boyhood anytime soon. I actually got it out of curiosity (and because it is free), mainly to see how the SL adult avatar adjusts to a child’s frame.

2. What is your preferred mesh body available on the market right now?

As I said before, there are like two (maybe three) mesh bodies targeting the normal male, and of those only The Mesh Project’s beta body appeal to me because it looks less beefy than the other choices. I know there are a few additional options, but they tend to be the muscular type.

3. Have you changed your shape since you started wearing the body?

Yes, I have done some small adjustments to my regular shape so it looked proportionately better. I didn’t mind that: SL basic avatar is so ugly that any change means nothing to me.

4. How do you feel about mesh bodies in general?

As long as they look more natural than SL’s default avatar, I’m up for them. Mesh heads are a big exception right now, though. For me, all people using The Mesh Project’s heads resemble expressionless look-alike clones, and I prefer to be a little bit unique. It’s not that the basic avatar head is any better –add to that the fact that we almost use the same skins anyway–, but at least the SL sliders allow more control of facial features. Mesh heads right now are too rigid and lifeless. And those terrifying eye sockets… No, thank you.

5. What is one thing you would request from designers when it comes to mesh bodies?

Sorry, I can’t ask for just one thing. I’m looking forward to more controls. That will allow wearers to personalize our looks to the “fullest” potential. Also, I would like more coordination between mesh body creators and the whole fashion designer camp (tattoos, clothes, skins, shoes, whatever), so the bodies fit different makers better than they do now. Compatibility is a word I need to bring to the forefront, with emphasis. I would love to be able to buy skins from whatever store I want, and not having to pick from an exclusive and reduced range because I bought this mesh body instead of that one. Ideally, I would have liked to see LL coming up with a better mesh solution, so we wouldn’t have to worry about third party issues, but hell I know that’s asking for too much.

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