So, you’ve been unfortunate enough to be caught in a cloud of exotic radiation, released when your neighbourhood atomic reator went into meltdown. To your surprise and, it must be said, a certain degree of pleasure, you now find that you’ve developed super powers, the like of which have only ever been seen in movies. The fact that you can now bend steel bars as if they were toothpicks and fry bacon with your eyes at fifty paces is more than enough compensation for the downside that your skin is now a pleasant shade of pea-green and you glow in the dark.
However, as I endeavoured to show yesterday, possessing super powers may not be as great as it’s cracked up to be, and we have SL to prove it. So, let’s take a further look into the strange world of superhuman abilities and discover just how much of a bummer they can really be…
The ability to fly
Now here’s something we’ve always imagined would be awesome ever since reading Peter Pan as a child. Who wouldn’t want to be able to take to the skies like a bird and enjoy the freedom of flight? Why bother with the boring old ways of getting around, like walking, when we can forget the constraints of the ground entirely and experience what it’s like to be a cloud?
Except, we know from SL that flying isn’t quite all it’s cracked up to be. The first problem is one of navigation – whilst it’s a fairly straightforward matter at a fairly low altitude, we then run (fly?) the risk of colliding with buildings, getting stuck in trees and embedding ourselves into the nearest wall. The simple solution is obviously to gain height, but with greater altitude comes more restricted vision, and any perception of direction goes right out of the window. Even pulling up that mini-map is no guarantee that we’re flying in the right direction to get to our destination – distances on the map bear absolutely no relation to where you actually are… before you know it, you’ve overshot by several sims, turned back, got lost and, when you lose altitude to try and regain your bearings: Bang! straight into the side of a mountain!
As if flying wasn’t difficult enough, landing is an order of magnitude worse. Ranging from ungainly to suicidal, if there’s one thing that SL teaches us about flight, it’s that once we’re up there, we’re better off staying there, because when we have to come back down to earth, it’s going to hurt… a lot. If there’s another thing SL teaches us, it’s that it’s insanely easy to send oneself plummeting earthwards just through a moment’s inattention – in a real world context, that’s not a chance I’m willing to take!
Seriously? Have alpha layers taught you nothing about the sheer futility of attempting to carry off invisibility?
This wouldn’t appear on my own list of ‘must have’ super powers, unless it was of the ‘eat whatever you want and maintain a perfect figure’ variety, but there are some for whom the ability to turn themselves into a dwarf, dragon or dog holds a peculiar allure. All I can say is, be careful where you do it – even in enlightened SL, there are places from which you can expect a lifetime ban, simply from appearing to exhibit remotely non-human characteristics. The real world is nowhere near as enlightened as SL, and should you choose to render yourself as a feline, tiny or orc then you can expect to either be hunted down and destroyed as a freak of nature, stuck in a cage and subjected to a lifetime of scientific study, or simply laughed at. Even worse, you may find yourself paraded constantly around endless cosplay and comic conventions – from which there is no escape… ever – you have been warned.
Even if you choose to use your shape shifting powers merely to tweak your human experience, I’d hold back if I were you. If there’s one thing SL has taught us, it’s that people cannot be trusted with designing their own bodies. If pouting, bandy-legged, saddle-bagged bimbos is your thing, or balloon-breasted Amazons, guys with massive shoulders and titchy heads and impossibly tall giants is your idea of a well-proportioned body, then you probably need another dose of radiation! Try that in the real world, and they’ll be rounding you up in the name of human decency.
Not strictly a superpower, but a really cool trick if you can carry it off. However, proceed with caution if you fancy trying your hand at instantaneous travel in the real world: Generally, appearing from nowhere, perched upon a complete stranger’s head is rarely a great way to get off to a good start, neither is suddenly appearing in the middle of a friend’s bathroom/bedroom/business meeting simply because that’s where you last saw them isn’t always a good idea, particularly if you’re naked/dressed as Vlad the Impaler/the ‘other woman’.
In a world where instant teleportation is possible, you have no excuse for being late for work, other than the real one – ‘travel delays’ just won’t wash, and anyone can summon you anywhere at a moment’s notice. It wouldn’t work for me, and it won’t work for you either.
Finally, possibly the most desirable of them all. If there’s one thing that SL is extraordinarily good at, it’s maintaining that illusion that we need never age. Though the days since we rezzed may tick inexorably away, we have infinite capacity to remain as fresh-faced, doe-eyed and innocent as we choose to be. Even if we don’t want an avatar that looks like it’s never experienced the rigours of life, SL still gives us the illusion of youth: to outward appearances we may appear to be an old fogey, but inworld we can still be down wiv da kidz, dance the night away with the in-crowd and back flip down the high street with more energy and enthusiasm than we ever had in RL.
So, what are the negatives here, if we really did have this power in RL?
Can’t think of any, can you? And if SL is anything to go by, I say bring it on! Point me to the reactor core… I’m ready for my dose of Cherenkov!
Tonight make it magnificent
Make me tonight
Blondie – Atomic