Time warped

pages_B099_ThankYou_0_0That thing about dog years being different to human years has never made a lot of sense to me. The principle I understand, but I never really understood why it should ever be particularly important that we should be able to calculate an equivalent human age to a dog’s age. Surely, I reasoned, a year is a year however you measure it and why on earth should it be so difficult to say that a dog in its twelfth year is old for its species, without going through all that rigmarole of working out it equates to sixty odd years as a person?

Barking mad, I say.

I’ve said it before: time is a bit weird. Actually, at this particular point in time I haven’t said it before – well, I have, but you haven’t read it yet; but by the time you read this, you will have, (all will become clear in the course of time). As I mentioned in the future, which will be the past when you read this, time is not as constant as we like to think it is – in fact, it’s all over the place and has no idea what it’s doing. Never more true than in SL.

timemachine_001If we take the fairly universal idea, (well universal for us – I can’t speak for other universes), that a day is somewhere around the length of time that the sun takes to traverse the sky then we’re in for a few surprises inworld. We’re used to the concept that the length of a day in the real world will change according to latitude, time of year and how long we oversleep when the alarm doesn’t go off, but once we get inside SL, even that simple logic breaks down.

To begin with, the standard night and day tend to be a lot shorter in SL than elsewhere and they’re nowhere near equal. The SL forums explain it far better than I ever could:

Traditionally, “Days” are 3 hours long, and “Nights” are 1 hour long. There are 6 full cycles in 24 hours, thus assuring that no matter what time zone you live in in RL, you will not be always logging in in SL’s night.

That’s fine as it stands, but if you’re the sort that tends to become oblivious to all else when logged in, it can be rather confusing trying to relate real time to virtual time, especially since SL adheres to SLT which – based on the premise above – means that although it might be the middle of the night according to SLT, it could just as easily be mid afternoon in the day/night cycle, and breakfast time in the real world. If that’s not going to screw with your body clock, then you’re made of sterner stuff than me.

delayedIt does however explain a conundrum that’s baffled me for a while: some years ago, before moving to my current inworld home, i lived in a rented apartment with a lovely balcony where I used to sit and chat. It always puzzled me that during those long discussions I’d get to see two stunning sunrises, but only ever one sunset – now, after all this time, I finally understand… at least, I think I do.

So let’s return to our doggie friends – or at least to that confounded calculation – because it does, convolutedly I admit, lead to the question ‘how should we measure our avatar’s age?’ Convention tells us our avatar is the age stated in our profile: That is, real world days and years based on the length of real time since we first logged in, but is that the correct method of calculation? If I stay true to my argument that dog’s lives should be measured according to the physical laws of the world in which they live and not by some contrived method of equivalence, then surely we should measure avatar age according to the physical laws of the virtual world? By that reckoning, six days will have passed for every 24 real world hours – making our avatars six times older than we imagine them to be. No wonder we’re always buying new skins, the old ones are wearing out before our eyes!

Now, you may think that this is all a bit silly, and it probably is, but it’s no sillier than many things in SL, especially when the sobering thought hits us that when we’re logged out, our avatars are having six times more fun than we are… sucks, doesn’t it?

s. x

Woke up, fell out of bed,
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup,
And looking up I noticed I was late.
The Beatles – A Day In The Life

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