I was channel-surfing last night looking for something to keep me company with dinner when I came across Gamer; a 2009 movie starring the delicious Gerard Butler.
From the Second Life point of view, there was something of interest here. The film is about two different games; Gerard Butler is a prisoner whose body is controlled by a teenager as he plays a very violent game, Slayers, in which real people actually get killed.
But Gerard's wife, played by Amber Valletta, is also part of a different game called Society; she's employed as an avatar who inhabits a world where gamers control avatars who dress in sexy costumes, go to big dance parties and have random sex with strangers. Hmm, does that sound familiar?
The part that's really of interest to Second Life residents is what I indicated in the title by "a cautionary tale". Amber is beautiful, lives in a funky apartment, and is extremely sexually available, as the movie makes clear.
But the guy who's controlling Amber's real-life body as an avatar is a real piece of work. He -- yes, he -- is built like Jabba the Hutt, lives in a dimly-lit basement suite, is apparently always naked, and seems to be covered in a light coating of salad oil. I wasn't paying close enough attention to be able to say conclusively, but I think I saw him eating mayonnaise out of the jar with his bare hands.
The movie is actually not very good, but I recommend it if only for one reason -- you need to have the image of this guy in your head the next time you're at a club and you get approached by a handsome stranger who has strangely poor social skills. Is it any wonder I have a hard time having casual pixel sex with strangers these days?
I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with being a person in real life who doesn't look like your avatar. I know it's hard to believe, but I am not actually spectacularly gorgeous, 7'8" and 280# of solid rippling muscle in real life. (I'm bigger and more handsome <wink>.) Second Life is designed to allow people to experience inhabiting a physical form that is different -- better, worse, impossible -- than their real-life body. That's quite a bit of what we're all here for. It's fun to pretend that you're a werewolf or the opposite sex or even just a guy who actually DOES go to the gym and buy expensive clothes. The average SL user is about 55 and the average av is about 25 -- you do the math. But there are people in SL who want to catfish you because they have big psychological problems and SL is cheaper than therapy. And you can get hurt by these people.
Every experienced SL resident knows that when you meet someone whose av looks like Gerard Butler but with really, really poor social interaction skills in talking with attractive people in whom they appear to be sexually interested, what's sometimes happening is that you are talking with someone who looks in real life like the naked guy in the picture. They play World of Warcraft to exercise their aggressive instincts and Second Life to approximate sex. Now, this is no problem if you are capable of suspending your disbelief and you don't care who's behind the av because you're not interested in making friends in SL, you just want to try out that new penis you just bought. That's fine, and valid, no problem. But if you want to get to know people and sometimes even get emotionally involved with them, which happens quite a bit, you have to remember that occasionally you're not talking to who you think you're talking to -- you're talking to Jabba.
So the rule of thumb is -- if the story behind the av sounds too good to be true, it pretty much always is bullshit. Sometimes it's harmless bullshit, like the guy at the bar who tells you his Jaguar is in the shop and he came in his Corolla instead. But sometimes it's actively pernicious bullshit by someone who wants to hurt you, for twisted reasons of their own. Buyer beware.