Avatars in Second Life

From Sl Wiki

Avatar is the term for a virtual body used to represent you, the Second Life user. Although an ancient word, it derives its SL meaning from Neal Stephenson's cyberpunk sci-fi classic, Snow Crash(1992) - a book that inspired many developers to build virtual worlds, and that also gave us the term "Metaverse", often taken to refer to the (still distant!) 3D internet.

On registering for Second Life you will need to select a name for your in-world persona, your avatar. Unless you are a company prepared to pay unnecessarily large sums of money for a tailored surname, you will be presented with a list of currently available surnames from which you must select one. You are free to choose your own forename.

As a new resident, on entering Second Life you will be taken through a set of tutorials to teach you the basics, such as how to move (and fly!), select items, chat and so on. Part of the entry process is the selection and basic modification of your avatar. Second Life supplies a number of basic avatars (male, female and... errm... rabbit!) for you to choose from. You are then shown how to modify this basic avatar. Within certain limits, you can change most of your avatar's features: hair, skin, eyes, headshape, torso shape, arms, legs... the list is lengthy. You can also change clothing to some extent.

You are free to edit your appearance any time in-world.

As you travel around Second Life you will find plenty of free stuff: clothing, furniture and fittings, vehicles... even entire houses. Any clothing you acquire can be used in place of the basic clothes supplied with your avatar. If you really want the full "Pimp My Avatar" experience you can buy elaborate clothing, wigs (the basic Second Life hair is just that: basic), jewellery and other accessories and tattoos. Then to round it all off, a finely-detailed skin on which to drape all of this finery. The effect can be stunning, but then, as so many other people are walking around in such finery, the effect wears off over time.

  • I will write more about the "beautiful people" in SL later


It is common for people to have several alternative (additional) accounts - alts. These need not be the same gender, or indeed, species... In fact alts can be pretty much anything: anime characters; dragons (oddly popular choice); inanimate objects - anything at all really. "40ft Felix The Cat, anyone?"

However, you do not need to set up alt accounts to achieve this. Your basic avatar is capable of donning as many different avatar body forms as you wish. You might choose your alt to suit your mood, the company or community you are in, or just to ring the changes.

One lesson to take away from this - don't assume the avatar you are chatting to (or eyeing up) bears any resemblance to his or her Real Life self. But then, in all likelihood, neither does your avatar!

A key difference between the alt account and the use of alt avatar forms is that, in the latter case, your identity remains the same - regardless of how you look. You still have the same friends, groups, property etc. Therefore, if your aim is to lead multiple separate "lives" in Second Life, for whatever reason (and the author has heard several!), then you will need to set up atl accounts.

Unique Users vs Active Accounts

In a recent study, it was claimed that 20% of residents in Second Life were actually alt accounts, and that many people have multiple accounts. This would indicate that roughly 1 in 4 people using Second Life have alt accounts. Prior to Second Life hitting the 1million resident mark in Q3/2006, creation of alt accounts had been free, and it is often asserted that most people had multiple alt accounts. In a bid to rein in this proliferation of alts, Linden Labs introduced a fee of $9.95 for the creation of alt accounts, together with a firm set of warnings that they had the technology to detect fraudulent creation of accounts (the jury is out as to whether they do or not).

In figures released to January, 2007, Linden Labs have stated there 1.95Million unique residents (based on payment information and/or email address) using 3.1Million registrations. Given that many people have multiple email addresses, the actual number of unique residents will be lower than this.

The number of premium account residents (and therefore able to own land) stood at 57.7K at the end of January, 2007.

Finally - if you really like your SL Avatar, you can get it made into a Real Life model by fabjectory

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