July 8, 2013
As I said I need and actually want to wrap up the “Part Ones” I did. The first has to be the second part of “An interesting journey“, the article how I came to (be) my current avatar.
At first I was fascinated with the beauty of my new avatar. But when I experimented with some clothes, especially those that exposed some cleavage the color of the skin seemed a bit off, actually even weak, pale like when one is ill. Having an immersive feedback with my avatar, that made me feel a bit sick. Than there was another difference. Around the knees and in a few other places, the skin was darker skinned, yet another experience I could not compare to my actually pretty light RL skin. I often loathed the fact that I inherited my fathers light an blotted with birthmarks skin instead of my mothers dark and smooth one that was pretty similar to the skin of my earlier, Caucasian avatar. That actually told me that the differences in skin color are a bit more diverse than different shades of brown. It never occurred to me when I met people with a typical Northeastasian bodytype. Actually I often wondered, why racists often used a full rainbow of colors to describe people. OK, black was obvious, but even that was either blackface or more of a more or less dark brown. But American-Indians red, Eastasians yellow?
I needed to learn more. What I found out is, that there are four factors that make the skin tone. First and foremost there are two types of melanin, orange and black. That throw a light bulb over my head, lit. I often wondered why even the darkest Caucasians (like my mother) still “only” head very dark brown hair, appearing black but not really black like that you pretty much see pretty much on every other person. Another factor is blood flow. So my RL skin had two factors that made it more orange. The melanin and the blood flow. But when you’re sick the blood flow on the surface is often reduced, hence the negative connotation of the word pale. Yet for the skin of my new avatar it was the other way around, the mild orange of the skin completely came from a healthy blood flow, but the black melanin didn’t add to it, so it had the same tone as my own skin as it looks when I’m sick or at least have a strong hangover.
That had several effects. First of all, It was a lot less of a problem now I did now the why. Another was that I developed an eye for the skin tone differences, now even unable to unsee it. And a third that it is really ridiculous speaking of Noncaucasians as colored. The Caucasians are the ones with the most diversity and that orange melanin, that maybe only stronger in some American Indian people (thus they are called red). As it is no either or you see more black melanin in southern Italian descends, Spanish people had a bit more. So Italians look a bit more gray to the “brown” Spanish people.
After I overcame this initial uneasiness, this new avatar more and more became my favorite. The interesting thing is, why I felt sexy with the other avatar, that was a highly idealized version of me, with this new one I felt beautiful instead. And I actually preferred this feeling. Plus I could look in the mirror in RL again without instantly feeling self conscious seeing myself without all that idealization.
Yet making it my main avatar came with a complete different concern. Would I offend people with actual Northeastasian RL-bodys? Belonging to the “body-clas”s that collects the least racism but provides somewhat the most it might offend some people, even seeing it as yellowfacing. But I found it not to be the case. It was funny how I came to not only identify with this new look, but also started to use it as an actual identity in real life, up to using this side of me as face of my game development. I tried to make the connection to my flesh identity obvious though. Now Why did I do this? First and for most for the Halo-Effect. This is, we pretend all kinds of positive traits to beautiful people, and especially with women the opposite is also true, and an obese women over 40 would do no good, obviously regarding to gaming, which has that youthful vibe to it. And as I said earlier this avatar was very helpful as it is beautiful, but not so much distracting by the sexy. And than, in the US, a big market, Asians got this special positive prejudice about being more intelligent or Japanese being nerdy (it helps a great deal that some of the most beloved games where made in Japan). On the other hand people often assume at first, that I’m actually from Japan which was one of the reasons why I wanted a more generic looking avatar. That can be a bit awkward when I’m not and don’t even know that much about the culture, e.g. when there are racial issues, like with the recent discussion about yellow facing in Cloud Atlas or when I’m in a virtual space full of actual Japanese people, like it happened recently. But as I said, people don’t really seem to mind and I think much more about it than necessary.
Yet still its not that immersive an experience for me, and if I stayed away from Second Life for longer times (often months), I actually have to reconnect a bit. Oh, and by the way, while it really works that I now can wear pretty much anything, I ended up still preferring earthly colors like in the picture above, as I do in RL.
March 13, 2012
… or how I changed my Avatar and learned a lot.
I already wrote a lot about my “Avatar-Journey” on my About page. But this got a new turn, and one that gave me a lot of experience.
Sometime before Christmas I was on a shopping trip with an inworld friend, who is very conscious about realistic avatar design, immersion but on the other hand is male (not transgendered or transsexual) and has a female Avatar. Normally I did not waste much thought on it, but as I’m pretty interested in neurological, psychological and anthropological things it didn’t compete exactly with what I learned about mirror neurons, gender differences and a few other things, so I asked if, when immersion was so important for him, how he could live with an avatar of the other end of the sexual spectrum… I know it gave me the creeps when I tried to use a male avatar as funny cosplay (Doctor Who) or to try out some hunt gifts that were really exclusively made for male human avatars (lets see how that looks, oh nice, but…. uhm… PANIC).
He said how he started SL primarily for role playing and the idea was, to keep a bit of a distance from the character, and than stayed that way for other activities, too, and learned to get quite some fun out of it. E.G. as male he never had a big interest in fashion, now with a female avatar, he found a new hobby in it, that would never be possible like that in RL.
This was right in the aftermath of a shared shopping tour (I’m by the way not the worlds greatest customer for inworld shopping) and I got some very nice and natural red hair. We than started to show us some of our precious dresses and I recognized that the red hair now does no longer match some of my favorite clothes and from that on I theorized, that light skins combined with the black hair of typical asians , like many Japanese people are, really could wear anything. It was a small step from here to the idea of: “How would it be, to play a bit with an (Northeast-)Asian avatar?
That idea sticked and I took a look around. I found a free avatar, which was more south east asian, which I did not really like, but than I found Dr. Life who has a great collection of primarily Japanese skins (there is some typically Japanese make-up permanently done into it, so it could not be used for other east asian cultures) and I really fallen in love with the flagship one which has a price tag of more than 2000 L$. A bit much for just toying around, especially when considered, that I’d need matching hair too (there is a great collection at Dr. Life)
But hey, you only live once, and so I bought it and made my own shape, with the same body measurements that my other one and face that’s a little bit more generic eastasian than the one of the shape that came (nomod) with the skin, which had a stunningly beautiful face but with very typical Japanese features and a body that was as bit anorexic as it was unnatural.
This is how it turned out: