16 October, 2006

Tips in my G-string made my livin'...

I recently embarked on a survey of community content sites and how they handle feedback. Y'see, where I work they want to be seen to be reactive to feedback but don't want to actually staff those feedback areas properly - hence a pretense that they believe in the worth of user-generated content. Which they don't.

During my explorations, I stumbled across a BBC news item about a virtual world called Second Life. Yeah yeah, so everyone else knew about it *yonks* ago, but the same goes for bum-joy and gin so leave me alone.

It's a world built mainly by its residents where you can be almost anything you want to be, except a serial killer or... actually, no, you can be one of those too I think. But most people opt for architect, musician, DJ or fashion designer. You can reshape your virtual self (or avatar) to whatever you want, so I went for a giant bald-headed bouncer with shoulders out to here and a nice round bum. Except everyone else has gone for the Belsen survivor look so I just look fat. Not that different from real life after all. Ah, sod 'em, I'm so big I can just step on them.

I've been there nearly a month now, using the dance pads in night clubs to earn a few meagre virtual dollars (or Lindens) so that I can buy my avatar a suit or other fashion accessories and then customise them in Photoshop. But last night, I went to their 'Land of Doctor Who' and nearly dropped my guts in shock. Two guys have each been working on building avatar designs that they then sell on to other people, and they just happen to have recreated a scene from Doctor Who's 'Doomsday' with a bunch of cybermen on one side shooting the crap out of the Cult of Skaro. It was hilarious. The Dalek owner has imported choice lines of dialogue from Dalek Sec ('This is not war - this is pest control') while the cybermen kept going on about their upgrades.

I know why this place is initially quite attractive - after all, I don't really have a proper life to start with anyway, and a lot of the pursuits I've been indulging in have been about escaping 'now'. But it's also a generally chilled place to be. Because there's a visible representation of the people there it feels just a little more natural than a standard, faceless chatroom. Plus there's lots of fun to be gained from designing and creating things, or just being nice to complete strangers without feeling shy or nervous.

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