the limits of engagement

Isn’t living a second life through an avatar in itself a form of role playing?

This, and many other questions, are now rattling around in my head about the nature and limits of living through multiple avatars after suffering through a momentary identity crisis last night. I had been invited to attend a Press Preview of new Installations by Em Larsson, Scottius Polke, RAG Randt & Eliza Wierwight at Amase Levasseur’s new art sim, Originalia, and decided to go as Camille, one of my alts, in hopes of expanding her role in the virtual world and thus expand my own work there, and here.

I arrived at Scottius’s installation, “The Docks” (photo, above), early in the evening and within minutes found myself squirming in my blue suede boots and looking for the exit. What I hadn’t anticipated, for some reason, was running into friends who knew me as Chrome, yet who may also be familiar with Camille from my work. The awkward part was not knowing whether to inform them of something they may already know, or to act as if nothing was amiss and continue with what soon began to feel like a charade. I wasn’t quite sure how to handle it, to be honest, and after a few awkward moments, just backed away.

I should point out that over the past three years or so I have put thousands of miles on my alts, and yet there are only a few people in the metaverse who actually know me as more than one “person”. In public, I am always Chrome. My use of alts up until this moment has been almost entirely for the purpose of my art; they are the subject of my paintings, comic strips and photographs. Now, I’m expanding their roles and personas, to be documented here and on my new gallery site. I am pushing them out into the world, and now trying to find my way through the maze of emotions that seems to be an inherent part of this process.

My apologies to any friends who may have experienced that awkward moment with me last night. I considered for a moment IM’ing you to let you know that I was “really” Chrome, and for that matter, that I was really Mick… but I thought it might be too disruptive and the moment passed. I’m now thinking that each of my alts should have a title over their head, something like “100% Chrome Plated”. I’ll work on that. In the meanwhile, I’ll continue to try to improve the lives of my alts by giving them a social life, so if you run into one of them, just go with the flow. We’re all role playing anyway.

Aahh, what tangled webs we virtuals weave. :-)

About Camille Topaz

A good friend of Chrome's and a member of his art team. I appear in his comic strips, and often in his paintings. Once a member of the rock band Cherrybomb, now a proud member of Onyx and Topaz, an exotic Middle Eastern dance duo.
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12 Responses to the limits of engagement

  1. Karima says:

    Camille/Chrome/Mick etc etc..the beauty of Second Life is that (as I say in my poem-video “SoulEyes”)
    “There is no gender -prison, no age speed limit, no time’s far as I can surmise.” The question of gender identity gets to be a “problem” when others relate to you in your chosen SL gender not your true RL born there is always the possibility of friends feeling “duped’ or ‘tricked” when all you were doing was enlarging your artistic experience. In the short time I have had to know you, I know your level of integrity as a human being (in any gender:) and as a real friend… which is also hard to find as so many have complicated second agendas riding on friendship. The fact you have made this post public and transparent convinces me even more of your sound integrity as a man, and as an avatar. I look forward to many more adventures with you in any shape or form you choose to take..One of he most creative of your art projects,(and I know, because I see you pour so much love and talent), is in your avatars…male . female. whatever, they are all extensions of your shining soul and your creative expression..that I have learned to see so clearly through my soul eyes.

  2. Ahhh… to be honest, you seemed familiar, and I was thinking that I was rude for not being more engaging. As I noted elsewhere, I wasn’t ‘totally there’ that night since I’ve been travelling nonstop this month, and I felt like I should have been more present, so no worried.

    But this post brings up some serious issues on avatars and identity which I’ve been considering myself recently, and on which I’d love to have a further chat. Let’s do that. In whatever guise you choose. ;-)

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  4. Wol Euler says:

    A tricky issue indeed. Keeping avatars’ lives separate starts out feeling like an easy solution, but sooner or later the reasons why you like your friends will inevitably cause them to meet your alts. My solution FWIW has been to wear an “I’m Wol” grouptag.

    And if you and Rowan do have that discussion, please keep notes. I’d love to be a virtual fly on the phantom wall at that discussion.

  5. Chrome says:

    Thanks, Rowan… that helps clear it up a bit. You’re absolutely right about the issues involved; they can get complicated quickly and touch upon anything from role playing to relationships and everything in between. It ain’t just playin’ dress up. Love to have that conversation one of these days; I’ll wear my thinking cap. :)

  6. Chrome says:

    Good point, Wol. There is a certain freedom in anonymity, but it sure has its limitations. Since I’ve decided to broaden the scope of my alts’ lives, I may have to adopt something like your grouptag. Like everything in this life, we learn by doing. Live twice, learn twice.

    Will probably post on that conversation when it happens, so that might solve that fly on the wall thing. :)

    Thanks for commenting.

  7. Maeve Eiren says:

    Yes, there is a vast difference between trying to act and trying to be another persona. For me, in the sense of theatre, I must be that other persona in order to create and complete the illusion. Is it manipulative? You bet. Are you complicit by virtue of having bought ticket and willingly come? Yes. Nonetheless, I–the actor–am affecting your feelings both during and beyond “the show,” as the characters and their story follow you around. The difference is anonymity. I am not anonymous in First Life. When I walk on stage, I am accepted as my character while being known for who I am. What fascinates me, Mick, is that you are the least anonymous person I know roaming SL and yet you feel as though you’re misrepresenting yourself when you don one of your well-known guises. I guess I would think hard on whether the answer is to wear a tag. Imagine Jeremy Irons wearing a tag over his head as he does Beckett. OMG :) If you’re after creating illusion, be known, then just [don’t] be you. The SL audience has already elected to be on-board. Oh wait– hmm. My theatre is someone’s life? Wow. But isn’t that what good art does? I mean really GOOD art.

  8. Well all I can say is that I am overjoyed you took the time to visit, whatever shape, size or species you may appear as.

    And for the record, I am *not* an otter in RL.

    *gets smelling salts ready*

  9. Chrome says:

    Thanks for those heartfelt otter-worldly comments, Scottius; truly appreciated. But for the record, I’m left stunned and confused with the news that you are something otter than I perceive you to be. *clings to imaginary friend*

    Good point, Maeve; the distinction between acting in RL and ‘being’ in SL is significant, as it is between being known and being anonymous. What complicates it even further for me, though, is that I’m both a person living in SL and an artist working in there, and until now they’ve been two fairly distinct realms. Now it seems my entire virtual life has become my art; my liquid self having become several distinct characters who now want to live outside the bunker, beyond the studio lights. Of course I realize they are all me wandering in the imaginarium, but I’m convinced that a fluid sense of self with a good dose of ethics can lead to some interesting new horizons; that is why I want to explore it even further. Given all that, it appears that I may soon be the least anonymous crowd roaming Second Life. But that’s cool. :)

  10. Maeve Eiren says:

    I hear ya :)
    Read Luigi Pirandello’s “Six Characters in Search of an Author.” His characters upstage the real actors as he holds a looking-glass to theatre itself. Maybe then let’s talk?

  11. Chrome says:

    Have just added that book to my list of must reads…. a man way ahead of his time, and very pertinent to our discussion, it appears. Thanks, Maeve. It does seem there is a need for an ongoing discussion about this; several people have expressed a desire to talk about it. Sounds like we should call a summit meeting. Alts included. :)

  12. M.E. says:

    k… sounds like the sound of a plan. i’m going out to shop for a couch for you–one that seats five :>

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