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Height

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.

In Cube's oak

If I ever…

Ok, here is another of Strawberry Singh’s Monday memes, this one quite funny –or I think so–, short –it won’t take ages to answer, like the 20 questions meme of a few months ago–, and simple. This one is called “Have you ever”, and will bring some historical facts about respondents’ lives to the forefront. The interesting thing about this is that it gives a glimpse of what lies beyond the SL interface and people’s more mundane (a.k.a fashionable) doings. As  usual, the instructions are: copy the questions, answer them and then link to Berry’s blog to easily find other people’s musings. So here it goes:

  1. Have you ever owned a sim in Second Life? – No; I wish. If only they wouldn’t be so expensive, both to acquire and to maintain…
  2. Have you ever created content in Second Life? – Yes I have, but only for personal use. Building small houses is one of the things that attracted me to SL in the first place. Yet, I stopped doing so when I noticed other people were a lot better than me. Then I got lazy and now I  rarely build anything at all, other than complementary items. Now I probably don’t have the patience or the time (I don’t even know if the skills) to work with mesh, so I’m fossilized forever.
  3. Have you ever driven a vehicle in Second Life? – Oh yes, lots of times. There’s more vehicles in my inventory than there are clothes, and I’m no kidding. I’m not fond of cars, though. They are a hell to drive through Linden roads –I guess I must add motorcycles to that list too. But boats are, thankfully,  something entirely different.  There’s also a few planes, a helicopter (yes, I think only one), several steampunk machines, and who knows what else. The oldest transportation-related item in my inventory is a Ben-go stick, with creation date 2005.
  4. Have you ever gone sky diving in Second Life? – Yes, both purposefully and accidentally. I still have one of Cubey Terra’s launchpads and skydiving pods that I used to keep permanently rezzed in one of my parcels of yore. I should try and see if it still works…
  5. Have you ever played a sport in Second Life? – Played a sport? Well, I do sailing occasionally, and once participated in a few noobie sailing races. Do that count?
  6. Have you ever gone clubbing in Second Life? – Yes again, though not so often. A friend of mine once had a club, and she used to run at least a gig per week. I’m afraid those days are long gone, though.
  7. Have you ever fangirled/fanboyed someone in Second Life? – Nope. Have I missed something?
  8. Have you ever taken a picture of your avatar in water in Second Life? – Of course; who hasn’t? Besides, I always have a coastal plot, and then I’m a sailor, so there’s no escape to shooting in water.
  9. Have you ever taken a picture of a sunset in Second Life? – Again, of course! Sunsets are the best time of the day. Also, I always go for western parcels (preferably waterfront) just to have unobstructed sunset views all the time.
  10. Have you ever taken a nude picture of your avatar in Second Life? – Yes, for practical purposes. I once tried my “hands” at creating shapes and thus it was a quick way to compare them.
  11. Have you ever dated in Second Life? – Nope, RL “complications” are more than enough for me.
  12. Have you ever had or attended a wedding in Second Life? – Yes, a few of them that I remember. The last one was like six months ago.
  13. Have you ever drank, smoked or taken drugs in Second Life? – Nope. Since none of those activities has a direct effect on body, mind or soul, I see no point in doing it.
  14. Have you ever engaged in sexual activity in Second Life? – What kind of sexual activity exactly?
  15. Have you ever been to Bukkake Bliss in Second Life? – Is that a pastry shop? First time I’ve heard of it. Now I wonder of Berry’s secret life…
Hot Summer 2

Seventh

What do I do (sometimes) when I’m bored and “unable” to do something about it? I check Strawberry Singh’s weekly challenges, but not because they are boring too, but because at least I can spend some time pondering about the questions she and her voluntary contributors think may be of interest to the rest of the SL world. Like for example, the 20 Personal Questions posted on May 26. I went over some of them –and stopped halfway– the same day the meme hit the net, and then I quit. Hell, this is a long list! Today, my seventh rezday barely a day away, I think some of the inquiries provide the regressive temper moments like this call for. So let me torture you with words, shall I?

  1. When and how did you discover Second Life? – I discovered Second Life in the spring of 2006. Back then I was –such as now– freakishly bored of video games (do you see the pattern, don’t you?), so I went looking for something different. I was browsing the Game section of an online software review site, when I found a comment regarding Second Life. I searched for the program, read the description, decided to download the client, created an account (using a name I’ve already adopted  for other virtual ventures and a randomly available surname provided by the SL registration form), and that’s how the first version of my virtual self was born. I remember logging in for like 30 minutes and talking to other noobs in the rezzing area with no idea what to do next. Then I logged out because it was pretty late. I repeated the same steps the following day, and that was it. It would take me about a year to come back to SL, in the summer of 2007, when the second (and long-lasting) version of yours truly came into being (I had no choice but to create a new account because I forgot the full name and password of the first one). So now I’m seven years old, but I could have been eight already if amnesia hadn’t distracted me that long.
  2. Did you know about virtual worlds before or was this your first experience with them? – It depends on your definition of a virtual world. By 2007, I have had my share of entertainment with massively multiplayer online gaming, and if you esteem that closed realms like those can be classified as such (though not à la SL), then I qualify as a veteran. Other than that? Well, I was a fan of the SimCity franchise, but of course they lacked the interpersonal exchange open environments achieve.
  3. Has Second Life met your expectations? – I had no expectations of SL when I first “met” it. As I said, I was merely looking for some temporary distraction. If you consider that my first encounter didn’t last long, though, the answer might be discouraging. My second try was a different story, evidently.
  4. If you could teleport back to the first ten minutes of your avatar’s slife, what would you tell yourself? – Don’t waste your time crushing the rats and go to bed.
  5. How long did it take you to master avatar flying and driving vehicles inworld? – I think it didn’t take me too long, but I can’t be specific because I really don’t remember. My biggest “concern” was returning to my departing point, but that was promptly solved when I began to understand the SL map. In terms of vehicles, hovering crafts and air balloons were quite easy, and it only took me a really short while to maneuver a plane in a controlled manner. I found a lot more fun in sailing; it came quite naturally. Land vehicles, on the other hand… sighs. There’s no way to tame those beasts. My guess is their scripting so far hasn’t taken into account the realities of the SL world properly; they’re good on speed and looks, but steering left and right is like going berserk. In my experience, lag seems to affect them more than any other kind of transportation. Or maybe it’s me…
  6. Do you have a mystery alt? – Mystery alt? Like another me nobody knows? Nope, I don’t have such a life. I can’t even maintain a second public alt, I simply can’t. I tried that once, a long time ago, but I deleted it afterward. A couple of years later I gave it a second chance, and came up to the same conclusion. This other alt is still out there because I like its name. I guess I can’t split personalities so easily. Besides, if I’m just duplicating the same existence and doing the same things, then it’s not worth the effort anyway.
  7. Is your SL avatar a reflection of you, or someone you wished you could be? – I think it’s just me. Even in physical appearance… on a different skin.
  8. Is there an individual you met in SL that inspired you in your RL? How? – Yes, and that individual is me, somehow. It isn’t because I’m egocentric, but because SL has really push me to actually try a few things I’ve never done before in RL, even though I knew I liked them (that’s why I do them in SL to begin with). For example, gardening. I’ve never attempted that in RL because I didn’t have the means to, like owning land for such a deed. Nevertheless, at some point last year I questioned myself why I couldn’t try that for real, indoors, using pots, and so began my recent adventures in indoor gardening.
  9. Do you feel it is easier to create stronger bonds/relationships with people you meet inworld as opposed to the real world? – I think it’s just the same because relationships are driven by feelings and emotions, and those have their place inside each person, regardless of whether the “trigger” lies in RL or SL. Yet, on a very personal level I still judge real world bonds the strongest because of sensory immediacy. SL relationships are stronger than the classic pen-pals nobody seems to keep anymore, and those won the “friendship” status on their own accord. Time changes, and so do the way people interact, but people are people no matter where, when or what, so in the end, it’s all the same.
  10. Did you ever imagine or believe people could fall in love with someone they never met before Second Life? – Yes.  It isn’t something I look for myself, but it does work for other people. The sister of a good friend of mine once fell in love with a guy at the other side of the world through a chatting application. After some time, they met, confirmed they really loved each other and got married. A few years later and three beautiful kids in between, they’re still together and going strong. So I have no doubt the same can happen in SL.

Hot Summer 1

  1. How has your perspective of dating changed (or not) since you started playing Second Life? – My perspective of dating hasn’t changed in any way because of SL. I’ve never attempted and I’m not interested in dating anyone or having a partner inworld as to claim a change of perspective on virtual grounds. It hasn’t had any impact in the RL dimension either.
  2. How has your perspective of employment changed (or not) since you started playing Second Life? – Again, nothing has changed regarding this particular subject because of SL for the same reasons pointed out in the previous question.
  3. Name three things in both your lives that overlap each other significantly. – Erm… let’s see… hmm… My passion for black in fashion, my love for plants, and… and… the spirit of exploration.
  4. If you could live your life more immersively in a virtual world, would you? (Kind of like the Matrix) – Weren’t the guys in the Matrix fighting to escape from it? SL is a world with too many constrains and limited freedoms. It’s not even a democratic place. We are subjected to too many restrictions, the worse of which come from technology itself. It doesn’t sound like paradise to me. So I think I will answer with a No.
  5. How do you think behavior changes for people if they’re inworld vs in real world? – Anonymity is the keyword, and behind that apparent shield people tend to bring out what they not necessarily have the courage to do without that mask, either out of fear or cowardice (among other reasons). In SL, anonymity “empowers” people to do good deeds and not so good deeds. Probably the first thing all of us think of is the way some folks take pleasure in harassing other fellow residents, but consider those others that have established or are experimenting with other types of relationships that they don’t necessarily attempt in RL, like same-sex relations, which some believe are more common inworld than they are in RL settings. Personally I think that kind of experience let people learn a lot about themselves and those around them both inworld and in RL. And that’s good. For what I can tell there’s more openness and tolerance in SL than there’s outside, regardless of the sporadic griefer infestations throughout the grid from time to time.
  6. How has Second Life consumerism changed your perception of spending habits, the value of money, the need to be “bleeding edge” with fashion? – SL is but a learning platform. You can learn economics in here as you do in RL. I always care about my spending habits in RL, and I do the same in SL.
  7. Do you think virtual worlds like SL drive and redefine human interaction or do they narrow and limit it? – SL is another medium for human interaction. As such it definitely expands the human dimension. I think it’s too much to say SL redefines it, but certainly it doesn’t narrow it.
  8. If technology progressed tomorrow to allow you to send emotions to people the way you’d send text or voice messages, would it enrich your SL experience or infringe on it? – Hmm, sending emotions to someone else? What the hell does that mean? To be capable of sending certain stimulus to a receiver, and to cause him or her to feel or “translate” that signal into some meaning, and in doing so stir an emotional response at that end? Am I getting it right? If so, I think SL already has that capability of “sending” emotions to other people, the way a work of art expresses –and thus “sends”– an artist’s impression of an emotion to an interpreter. Or is it the other way around? Is it feelings what you would like to exchange? Anyway, I’m sure what we do in SL can stimulate and trigger emotions because SL, as a tool, is not what defines them. I may be wrong of course, I may have misunderstood the concept. But that wasn’t the question anyway… It will enrich my SL experience if I’m able to understand other people’s emotions (isn’t that empathy?), but it may infringe on it if that forces me to experience something I’m not interested in or that may hurt me. So it all depends on the generator’s purpose at sending emotions in the first place and what I decide to make of them.
  9. Name three skills you attribute to having learned or honed in second life alone. – It’s always three, eh? Is three a magic number? Ok, three skills I attribute to SL alone? How to TP travel maybe? I don’t know. I think there’s not a single thing I have learned in SL that haven’t received some input from outside sources at some point.
  10. If your grand kids googled your Second Life Avatar’s name, would they be intrigued, disgusted, proud or something else?
    I don’t know. They are entitled to believe or make out of that “discovery” whatever they decide to. I enjoy what I’m doing, and I don’t think I’m doing anything so extraordinary as  to tilt the balance in any specific way. They may even think what an ordinary life I had. Who knows…