Way back in my first days of sl, whilst still in my early noobhood, i made a decision that has coloured my sl experience ever since. It never struck me at the time as a particularly momentous course of action and it wasn’t something i agonised over or felt particularly concerned about, however the repercussions have been – at times – extremely interesting.
It came during that rite of passage that every sl resident goes through sooner or later: Linden Lab call it, ‘customizing your avatar’, which feels terribly mechanical to me – i much prefer to refer to it as ‘personalising your appearance’.
The memory of opening up that appearance menu and fooling around with all those sliders is still fresh in my mind, and i spent quite some time tweaking and fiddling to come up with a look that ‘felt’ like and suited me – that was the one and only time i made any adjustments and i’ve stuck with my original choices ever since. Although my hair is quite likely to change daily and there are a range of skins i’ll use, according to my mood, my shape is sacrosanct and never varies.
The big choice that i made at the time was to be different to almost all the avatars i came across in my daily travels – i wanted to be ‘normal’ height – for some reason, the thought of being an eight foot tall Amazon simply didn’t sit comfortably with my world view… i was 5’9″ in rl, so to hell with convention; i was going to be 5’9″ in sl too! Even today, i still find myself surprised at the consequences that simple choice has had.
From the standpoint of ‘physiology’ alone, height has an enormous impact on overall body shape – a short avatar with limbs, boobs, bum, hands and feet that are not in proportion with overall height looks horribly wrong – but, start altering all those other bits and pieces to bring them into line and you’e causing yourself all sorts of problems when it comes to finding clothes to fit. Unlike tinies or petites, normal-sized avatars just aren’t catered for in sl… my SLife seems to have been one long search for belts that don’t hang around my waist like hula-hoops and boots without a cavernous maw surrounding my matchstick legs; as for mesh clothing that doesn’t hang off me like it’s being repelled from my body… forget it!
There are other issues too – having a conversation at eye-level with somebody’s crotch is never a pleasant experience, neither is turning away from the screen for a moment, only to turn back and find your chim has you dancing away with your face buried in your neighbour’s gentleman’s area! Speaking of dancing… short people have to get used to the fact that couples’ dances will have them being whirled around at hip height, like a rag doll, by their dance partner, poseballs will invariably place you somewhere in mid-air and every time you sit down will see you sink beneath the cushions of the sofa – handy for finding stray loose change, but not so good for maintaining any semblance of dignity.
Perhaps the most annoying aspect of being short comes with content creation. Buildings in sl are designed – mainly by giants – for giants, and that’s something that the enthusiastic, but short, builder has to constantly bear in mind. Buildings, ceilings, doorways and windows all have to be far, far bigger than you could possibly imagine. A room that seems cavernous to me, with lofty ceilings, may way have the standard size avatar inadvertently nosing about the floor above… and staircases are a complete nightmare! Even when you make extra allowance for taller avatars – which makes a room to a short avatar seem like a concert hall – it’s usually wise to add a bit more height, just to be on the safe side. it’s a process i find terribly wearing – even more so because i’ve chosen to set my camera angle somewhat lower than the sl norm, making the average build assume skyscraper proportions. There is one glimmer of light on the horizon, with the growth of mesh buildings, bigger is not necessarily better and the bigger the structure, the bigger the Land Impact… so who’s gonna be laughing then, eh?
You’d think with all the inconvenience, i’d accept that sl is geared towards the tall and generously proportioned, swallow my pride and grow an extra couple of feet, (no… not additional walking appendages!); friends have even said to me, “I wish you were taller” – but the simple fact is, inconvenient or not, i like being short – and that’s the way it’s staying!
My body is a cage
We take what we’re given
Peter Gabriel – My Body Is A Cage