A conversation with Norah Vespers in-world yesterday made me realise something unobviously obvious. No, I don't care if that doesn't make a whole lot of sense right now - it will by the end of the post. I hope, anyway.
When I wrote about the effect SL could have on RL for my essay two years ago, I didn't realise that I had not taken into account a whole vague and difficult-to-fathom relationship between the two worlds and those of us that skip between them. This relationship, as I have said, is vague and difficult-to-fathom, and is based mainly on discontentment.
An awful lot of time and energy goes into the creation of an avatar, and in my experience, one of the most deterring things about SL to new users is the enormity of such a task. The controls for customising your avatar are not the most intuitive, and though it becomes incredibly simple once you have got the hang of it, I have no doubt that had I not received help from various mentors and friends along the way, I'd have given up trying to make Kitti look good, and would have left SL a long time ago. Your avatar, and the time and energy put into it, represents a kind of stake in the virtual world, especially early-on when you might not have a strong base of friends or a long list of sims you enjoy spending time in.
The problem with this - one amongst many, I'm sure - is that avatar customisation never really stops. I know I have had particularly bad influences in this department since I was effective brought up by fashion bloggers, but I think it's true across the board. Fairs selling new hair styles, new skins, new shapes, new clothes, new furniture in SL remain immensely popular to the point of stupidity, and there are Flickr streams and blogs and in-world groups designed with the specific purpose of informing fanbases when the latest items are going to be on sale. Clothing in the virtual world falls prey to fashion seasons just as it does in the real world - it is a perfectly replicated copy of the capitalist system. And why shouldn't it be? But what it represents is the continual desire to better ourselves physically even in the face of the expanded choices available to us in Second Life.
Like I said, unobviously obvious.
So were am I going with this? Here: our relationship and continual renewal of time and energy and thus our stake with/in SL is predicated on our continual discontentment. If we feel like we have seen and done everything, as if there is nothing about our avatars we can improve, what would we do? We'd probably log out. When we begin to feel the malaise written about in my blog post, 'Sick and Tired', the 'cure' is often a partial, if not total, revamp of our avatars.
|Told you Kitti was going to be barefoot forever...except when she's wearing roller skates...|
The cynicism of this is not lost on me, nor do I really think that the only reason anybody logs into SL is to buy new things to make their avatar prettier. That doesn't always mean buying new things - sometimes, finding things we had forgotten about in our inevitably extensive inventories can breathe life back into an avatar, too. For example, I'd completely forgotten about my roller skates from the Secret Store. And although I logged in yesterday with the expressed purpose of going to Glam Affair and buying the new 'Lucy' skin in the palest shade, then hung around in-world to decorate my largely-empty skybox, what I got the most enjoyment out of was finding that Norah had logged in and talking with her for a while. Then, when she logged out, I proceeded to roller skate around said skybox (which is shaped like a rectangular doughnut) as fast as I could make Kitti go until she spontaneously tripped up over nothing and went somersaulting through the air and into a wall. Hilarious.
Norah has since inadvertently suggested that my skybox could be used for a roller derby, and I reckon that could be really cool! Anybody want to join us? I'm deadly serious. IM me. But that's beside the point.
I suppose what I'm trying to say is that whilst I enjoy dressing Kitti and making her look good, that is only a portion of what I enjoy about SL. But it is still a portion.