The mobile mambo

It’s a peculiar thing, but it seems to me that the vast majority of people are completely unable to remain stationary when taking a mobile phone call whilst on their feet. It’s an affliction that the male of the species seems more prone to, but not exclusively, and those of both sexes- myself included – are sufferers.

Apparently, the human body is not designed to remain still whilst upright and on the phone and feels an overwhelming need to pursue some sort of movement, no matter how aimless or random it might be. The result is a kind of repetitive mechanical dance, which usually involves rocking back and forth, from foot to foot, walking in a tight circle, and the occasional twirl for artistic effect. The moves themselves are executed unconsciously and cease the moment the call is over. It can be quite a sight in a crowded place to see a group of people, unaware of what is going on around them, all following their own private choreography, turning wherever they happen to be into a sort of ad hoc dance floor.

One you’ve noticed it, this strange automatic movement becomes compelling viewing, and the more you watch, the more you get the feeling that you’ve seen all this somewhere before. Then it hits you – you’re observing the bizarre phenomenon of RL animation override!

Yes indeed, that same rhythmic pattern of movement shares an undeniable similarity to the AOs that we employ inworld to make our moments fluid and natural, something that by and large, they manage to do pretty successfully. Getting one’s first proper AO is something of a rite of virtual passage: losing the duck waddle of noobyhood is like taking the stabilisers off your first bike – you suddenly feel all grown up, even though you still have quite a way to go. Of course, not all AOs are equal, and finding the correct balance between animated and realistic can be tricky, especially – and somewhat perversely – when it comes to the difficult art of standing still… Because standing still just looks plain odd.

Most of us will spend far less time worrying about how we look when we’re walking, running or flying than we ever will over how we look when we’re at rest. We tend to pick an AO for the quality of the sits and stands rather than how it expresses our more energetic movements, and we’re far more interested in the subtle nuances that make us seem human when we’re at a standstill than when we’re in motion. It’s the subtle shifting of weight, the breathing, the way our body moves when not under the control of a guiding force – all of these things are important attributes of what goes into making an avatar seem alive and human.

I have a number of AOs and regularly employ perhaps two or three of them in my everyday SLife. As with so many things inworld, I find it surprising just how much others associate those movements with me – just as I tend to associate specific AO movements with friends and associates, and I do notice when they change too. It’s the finer details that matter to me though, and I’m happy with my standing movement – which cycles through a number of different routines randomly, although never the one I want when I’m taking a screenshot! Even so, I’m always on the lookout for something that is more uniquely ‘me’, and I live in hope of finding myself the perfect AO. Maybe one day I will.

However, SL isn’t always about being yourself, and it does no harm to think outside the box sometimes. Many years ago, my previous avatar was given an AO by a kindly stranger, an AO that certainly didn’t reflect my character and, if I’m honest and I saw somebody else using it, I’d probably want to slap them and tell them to stand still – even so, I loved it. Somehow I lost it, and I’ve never been able to find anything quite like it since; and every time I think of it, it’s with a pang of sorrow. It was one of those model poses type AOs, the sort that had me pirouetting about, admiring and inspecting myself, and and basically loving the camera like some sort of SL supermodel… Highly pretentious, rather smug, and altogether awesome! Maybe one day I’ll find it again, who knows?

Until then, I suppose I’ll have to keep watching the antics of those around me in the hope of spotting something that’ll fit the bill, and maybe I should keep an eye on those unwitting dancers in RL on their mobiles, just in case I can steal some ideas from them too?

s. x

Let’s sway
while color lights up your face
Let’s sway
sway through the crowd to an empty space
David Bowie – Let’s Dance

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