21 August 2008

Life Imitates Life

Ouch! Had a knock-down, drag out fight on Second Life that fortunately ended sort-of well last night.

Got invited to a friend's rez-day (birthday) party and things were going really well until the manager got bent out of shape and accused me of having an underage avie in the club.

I should point out at this point that I am one of those weird people in Second Life who has made an avie that is a proportional, normal sized human. Which may seem like an odd statement except when Linden Labs created the system, for some reason they set the default high on avatars to 2 meters, or roughly 6'3". Since there is about 50 centimers of give in either direction that means avatars can range from roughly 4'8" to 8'6" or so. Playing a little more with torso length and leg length and you can get that up to over 9 feet tall. Most of SL is probably at least 3 standard deviations from the mean in terms of avatar height versus normal human height. This, along with the default camera position, causes interesting problems with trying to build anything to scale.

Many people who come on to Second Life, perhaps feeling some odd insecurity about their height, I have no idea, like to crank the height of their avatars. This means that as a properly proportioned 5 foot tall avie, well ... let's just say I don't even have to bend over let alone get on my knees. (Don't get your hopes up, it is meant as a visual, not an offer.) I am actually interested in what makes people want to be giants though.

So, in the face of that, why be so small? Well, there are a fair number of us who really take pride in the fact that we have worked really hard to build an avatar this is humanly proportional and could pretty much walk into the real world as is and nobody would bat an eyelash, or look at them funny (except maybe to wonder why their hair looked all clumpy like that). Many of us have built avies that look very much like our real selves (not me, I confess, my avie looks like one of my college roomieswith a touch of Asian spin added, because, well, she's cuter than I am ... and at 40 she has not gotten any taller, or showed even a fraction of sag *grumble*).

Get me on a tirade and I'll say it's because we don't like looking like freaks. Though more to the point, most of the really tall female avies in the game look sort of like Mattel had decided to do an Amazon line of Barbies. Not a characture of woman-hood I have any interest in subjecting myself too. My avie is 5 feet tall, a B-cup, and I am proud of her. And as with many people in such a position, I don't go changing the appearance of my avatar on a whim.

Anyway, I get an IM from the manager of the club telling me that there are no child avies in the club. And I say that is just fine because I am not a child avie.

Usually at this point the manager says "oh, okay, sorry to bother you then," but not this person. She insists I am clearly too short to be an adult avie and I have to grow a few inches or leave. Well, first off, I am not entirely clear how this is different from being told I have to lose some weight, or change my skin color, or leave. Anyone can not only look at me and tell it is a mature avie, but if it became some big legal issue they could even request that Linden Labs review my entire inventory. I don't even have any child avatar shapes or skins in it.

So I did the expedient thing, which is I moved the discussion over from IM to general chat. Where a.) I quickly found that she was also harassing my best SL friend, who is also short, b.) I got reprimanded by the manager for making the discussion public, when, in fact, the (successful) intent was to get the support of all my friends at the party, who will all attest to the fact that I do not play child avies (it's all about having witnesses), and c.) was reminded how many of my friends are drama queens (sorry, you all, but it's true). I didn't even have time to apologize for creating a row before the birthday girls and the person who had organized the party had teleported out and were sending us all invites to come over to a different club.

Then, apparently, a few people flooded the owner of the previous club with complaints about the manager. Who apparently got fired. Not for hassling me, mind you, but for calling the owner an idiot for disagreeing with her on this. I go off easily when I'm annoyed and even I know better than that.

In the meantime we had a wonderful party somewhere else.

Which may seem like a happy ending, but I do feel a little guilty. I really didn't want to be vindictive and get someone fired. I just wanted them to acknowledge that height does not determine age in the game, any more than how much weight we have on our hips, how big our breasts are, or even our skin color. (Of course, that might explain why people are so long lived in so many Asian cultures ... they never get tall enough to get old.) SL is a virtual world where people get to be who they want. If people want to be normal height they should be allowed, and not have to style themselves to be a freak of nature just to fit in.

I find it kind of disturbing that so many people want to be giant Barbie dolls, but I don't go around forcing them to change just because they are not what I expect avatars to be. Playing by the rules and having someone still tell you that you are not allowed to be who you are is downright insulting.

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