Monday, December 1, 2008

My mix'n match assignment: Alts in Second Life - necessary evil, fun diversion or an easy way to be dishonest

As I have mentioned in some previous posts, a few weeks ago I joined the mix'n match event, where SL bloggers were mixing subjects, writers and hosting blogs. The event was great and a big success across the SL blogosphere, and I was able to read many interesting entries by a lot of skilled people. Unfortunately I had little luck and my own entry was never published by the intended blog. The owner was taking a break in those days so I guess she overlooked it (I hope that the reason was not that my contribution was judged too bad :) )
So, since a coupe of weeks have passed by now and since I think it is a pity to forget the entry and the subject, I am publishing it here, in a slightly reviewed form and with a more recent picture than the one originally intended.

The subject of my post was suggested by
Joonie Jatho, whose blog unfortunately I can no longer point out because it appears to have been disabled

I hope you can enjoy reading it as I did writing it.

Alts in Second Life - necessary evil, fun diversion or an easy way to be dishonest ?

… or an easy way to inflate the number of active users ? :)

Think about it. How many among your friends or contacts do not have at least one alt ? And how often do they bring them online ? Alts are one of the options we have to explore different sides of ourself while we experience the different settings virtual world has to offer, and people are largely making use of this option. Sometimes an avie born as an alt is so successful in his/her/its experiences that develops as the principal identity, leaving the original one mostly neglected in some asset server. There is an army of alts out there and they surely inflate the official statistics. The numbers of unique users is probably much smaller than the published numbers.
But enough about official numbers.

The first time I met someone who identified himself as an alt he dropped from the sky outside my cottage. I had heard about alts but, until that moment, I had not given the concept much thought. I chatted with the guy for some minutes and then he gave it away. “It is because I have a girlfriend” he said. I have wondered many times what that sentence really meant: was he using an alternative identity in order to cheat on his girl ? Or was he just in need of time for himself ? That would make perfectly sense. I know that from time to time I am in the mood to get away from my main identity using an anonymous account without friends and contacts, so that I can explore and take picture without anybody interrupting me.

Despite the obvious easy opportunities for alts to be dishonest, they can't be considered evil. And they are not necessarily just fun. They are another option to enhance our experience and as such they can be used in many ways, including many legitimate ones. I am sure many SLebrities can't live and enjoy the world they have contributes to create without alts. How many times have you have checked the profile of some land owner or content creator and read “drop me a notecard. IMs are capped”. I often wonder how these people can enjoy their SL and work and create under the inevitable constant stream of incoming messages. An alt surely offers them the anonymity necessary to escape and enjoy to the beauties the world like any regular residents.

Alts can be and are used for testing features, like permissions of created content, or simply they can come handy when more than one avie is necessary and no friend is available.
Alts can be simply used to explore different sides of one's self: like having a steampunk life as the pilot of an airship and a fantasy one as a drum player in elfland. A friend of mine created a child avie because her therapist suggested it to get in touch to her inner child. Another with health problems comes online in her neko identity when she is in pain, because cats, she tells me, better tolerate pain.
And then, of course, there are the more questionable uses. I guess we all know stories of people with two different SL families (and maybe a RL family too), people asking for friends' help in one sim and investing money as someone else in another sim and people just having fun but playing with someone else's feelings. And that is the source of high drama that exceeds the borders of today's discussion.


Do I have alts? I do. They try to be nice guys and I try to make them behave :) I use them for exploration, photo-safaris and to extend the number of groups I can subscribe to. Sometimes I call them to man my ships or as extras for photo shots (as in the image above). They are usually shy and stay away from people and interact minimally with others, even if they try to be friendly when addressed.
I even created a female alt. She is a kind of Barbie doll. I created her one day I was frustrated by the lack of contents for male, so I had fun to have her go freebie hunting. (Second)Life is so much easier for a female avie!. I am rather proud of the look I have been able to give her, but playing a different gender is not for me. I was always scared like hell that somebody could talk to her and I was not able to behave as a female would. The feeling has always been of complete detachment. It is like pulling the string of a puppet, with very little identification. No, definitely not for me :)



AuroraSkye said...

That was a great article on Alts, Wild. I enjoyed reading it. I am so glad you finally posted it here when it didn't appear on the page it was originally intended to. I am glad I got to finally read it.


Anonymous said...

I find it difficult to be my alts... and Myra is certainly only there for business purposes, but the option to try to hide is sometimes very strong, and I do have an alt no-one knows, even if I have trouble being her. As far as Gender goes - well, for me, that resulted in the creation of another blog entirely. :)

Joonie said...

Wild...I just happened upon your blog and was so surprised to see this! And happy, too. Great job.

My new blog can be found here:

Thanks so much!

Wildstar Beaumont said...

you are welcome Joonie :)