I have a feeling that this might be a long post. I apologise in advance, and will do my best to break it up into digestible chunks. Stay with me here? I promise it's relevant...
SL offers three modes/method of propelling oneself into motion - walking, running, or flying. Most of the tutorial is meant to show you how to swap between the three (though swapping between them is the simple part), and then you are thrown into the SL realm and expected to not bump into things.
You cannot avoid bumping into things.
When I first began using SL, I felt a bit like I was beginning to walk again. It goes back to that idea in "The Matrix" when Neo turns to Morpheus and asks why his eyes hurt. He's never used them before, and now he's getting electric-light glare from the hacker's shiny head. You have unplugged your brain from one body and fastened it into another, only this time, you're not only relying upon your brain signals and your body muscles to make your legs move. You also have to factor in the middle man of computer keyboard, and Linden Lab's scripting skills. And Linden Lab's scripting skills mean that you waddle around like a duck, or like you've lost your horse, and you look as if you could topple over at any minute - and just when you've got the hang of it and believe that you've got the mouse-controlled camera and legs-controlled arrow keys working in symbiosis, a wall will appear where there wasn't one a minute ago and you'll be stuck like a spider in a bathtub.
Once you've learned to walk again, running is pretty easy. All you have to do is turn the "run" function on. I find it harder not to bump into things when I'm moving more quickly, so...maybe it isn't so easy...but what I mean to say is that you don't have to learn a complete new set of controls to operate it.
Now that leaves the one everyone gets excited about - flight. Humans are obsessed with flight. We're always looking up at the sky, our deities are in the sky, and the ambitious Americans took the eagle, a king of the skies, as their national mascot. The English flag is predicated on the cross of a man who conquered a dragon (though if the dragon could fly, I don't know why it didn't just fly away from George the tin-can). Maybe I'm getting away from the point. We have all longed to be able to join Peter Pan in the sky, and now here is a programme offering us a new body with the ability to fly - no impractical wings, no jet engines, no magic!
|Hovering in mid-air...not sure why I need to keep my arms out like that.|
|My laptop cannot cope with flying and high graphics, hence the grey-blue shapes. Sorry.|
In most sims (platforms/places), flying is not allowed. The screenshots above were taken in a sandbox, which is a place meant for building and such, so I had a pretty free reign with what I did there. But in structured sims such as cities, towns, amusement and leisure parks, it departs from a norm, a reality, that is trying desperately to instill itself in that virtual world. It isn't just that other avatars hit "/frown" if you swoop down on their picnic in the park or divebomb them on their walk down the Champs Elysee, either - the owners of the sims can choose to physically "turn off" the flight mode on their platform, and then no matter how many times you hit the "page up" key, your avatar will not take flight. Mankind has long dreamed of this power and, once given it, has banned it for unconventionality.
A round of applause for hypocrisy, ladies and gentlemen! Another for cutting your nose off to spite your face! And another, finally, for the fact that it isn't only the British who oppress themselves into muted formality. Once again, it would seem that the virtually limitless realm of the virtual is too limitless for us land-bound folks to be comfortable.
I've not seen many avatars running around SL either, and - as a small dig at the nature of gender in SL that will be referenced later in a dedicated blog post, if I remember to include it -, in my experience, you are far more lightly to see men run than women. I'm going to take a premature stab at the reason for this and say that it is to do with Animation Overrides.
The only way to get rid of the default duck-waddle walk is to buy and put on a little device called an Animation Override, or AO for short. You cannot see them in my screenshots (because I use the in-game screenie function which automatically hides such), but down the sides of my SL interface there are two sets of buttons that allow me to turn on the override for individual functions, as well as choose from about five different styles of movement. That is because my avatar is actually "wearing" (they are not visible on my body, they are just attached to it, if that makes sense) four different AO systems. You don't need four, but I kind of had them heaped on me by friends, and thus I cannot work out which one is overriding which animation exactly and I cannot seem to work it out by mixing and matching them. The only reason I know that they are doing anything is because I have been transformed from a unseated cowboy to a supermodel. I did not choose to walk like a supermodel - all five of the options were variations of supermodel, and whilst it is funny to walk like that, it is a generally accepted norm that I should. Thus, the SL realm has become my permanent catwalk.
I suppose the other testament to their overriding success is that when I am standing still, my avatar will put her hands on her arse (meant to be her hips, I think, but it's not exactly well-scripted), or shift her weight to one leg and put her hand on her collarbone or fan her face or whatever it is she is doing. She also messes with her hair in a way I would personally never do.
|Is this meant to be a flirtatious and girly pose? Fetch me a bucket.|
What none of my four AOs seem to do, however, is override my run animation, so I run exactly like I did when I joined SL, and that just does not fit into the canon of sexy that the override is meant to imbue. In the AOs I have seen on male avatars, the emphasis is more on manliness and strength, and so they run like they are going to save someone's life in "Baywatch" - and apparently that is just fine.
I don't suppose people run around that much in the real world, though...and that's why we're all in a flap about obesity and Global Warming...