A few days ago, blogger Daniel Voyager posted an important notice from Rodvik Linden’s (LL CEO) profile. It said that Linden Lab is working on system changes to restore last names as part of each avatar’s name. Big Yay! And for me, this is further proof that CEO Rodvik gets Second Life. It’s also proof there are people who work for LL who don’t get it (meaning those who thought it made sense to get rid of last names). And this leads me directly into the next and most important ingredient in Second Life’s “secret sauce.”
The first thing a person does when they come to SL is select their name. They also select a basic avatar including sex. And while Residents quickly learn that their avatar can be changed substantially, that first step they is a defining moment for most of us. Yes, I acknowledge that there are some people who come to SL who just don’t care about the name or avatar they select. But this article is about SL’s “secret sauce” and I believe avatar names are part of that recipe.
I’m going to use myself as an example to make my point. When I chose my avatar name I basically didn’t have a gaming or chatroom background. However, I was concerned that I’d be stuck with the name I choose, so I wanted something I wouldn’t regret. I didn’t want to get trapped in a stereotype and I wated something kinda cute and something kinda different. At the time, I thought I invented a new name, “Yordie”, and I was pleased with my great accomplishment (/me giggles).
Then, when I found the last name “Sands” available, the two names clicked. I liked how they looked and sounded together. So in April of 2007, I created a name and selected a skinny girl avatar in an dreary violet colored top and even more dreary jeans. And I became Yordie Sands.
Over time I improved Yordie’s appearance. And she got to know my way around the grid, enjoy the life and the music. She found friends and even fouund romance. Sound familiar?
More and more, I came to identify with my avatar. I came to like her. I came to care about her, even her reputation. I went on amazing adventures and even more amazing misadventures.
What happened next wasn’t obvious to me at the time, but I began to feel as though I was my avatar. And my avatar was different than I am in real life. So you could say I became a different person, with a different sense of identity. Even now I find that surprising to admit.
And by the way, I have many friends who feel, to greater or lesser degrees, a connection with their avatars also.
It seems obvious to me that our SL identity starts with our name, then each choice we make for her or him begins to create our identity. We make choices for our shape and skin and hair and eyes. We chose the kind of people we want as friends. And we fill in our character with all the places we explore and all the experiences we create. I believe it’s the most important of all the ingredients in the “secret sauce” — our identity.
Ingredient #2: The Second Life secret sauce begins with a good base made with the Identity of each avatar.
I know some will scoff at my notion that our avatars become a new identity, but I know it’s true for many. I believe the secret sauce is created more by the people who create a second life identity and live their fantasies. And here’s one last secret: many people who are living their second life fantasy don’t realize it (more on this in the future).
On the other hand, I have plenty of friends who create their avatar and have no sense of identification with it. Instead, they see the avatar almost as a barrier to seeing the “real” you (more on this in the future also). Others just want to build or script or write stories about those of us who do have second identities. Yes, there are exceptions but I believe Second Life is created by peeps with second identities and second lives.