Assimilated

Ask anyone what they think one of the greatest benefits of SL is and most would probably mention the freedom it allows us to express our individuality. Every one of us is unique in so many ways – character, appearance, personality… And being part of the virtual world allows us endless opportunites to explore and express that uniqueness, often to a far greater degree than we are afforded in the real world. It’s clear from simple casual observation that this is something that we really do embrace and make the most of, whether through our avatar’s appearance, the outfits we wear, the activities we undertake or the multitude of attachments, enhancements and personalisations that are available to us to make our inworld presence as unique as our real selves.

Most of us will expend a great deal of time and effort undertaking that process, and will go to sometimes extraordinary lengths to perfect and tune each individual aspect of our avatar in order to define what is uniquely ‘us’. This extends to the almost intangible, unconscious elements, which in RL tend to occur naturally without any thought, but inworld can require experimentation and honing until we are satisfied: This includes the way in which we express ourselves through facial expressions and movement – and for many of us these are very much the defining characteristics of how we present ourselves in the virtual world. How many of us can recognise our friends simply by virtue of their AO, or dances and movements that we’ve come to associate with them alone.

I am no different to others in this respect. Over the years, I’ve invested a great deal of effort into personalising my avatar, and in a way many of the nuances and ‘body language’ traits that have developed during that process are more a part of who I am, virtually, than the less permanent aspects of me; hair, dressing style and makeup. These latter items change frequently, but those other attributes are constants.

Having put so much work into personalising myself and developing something that can be interprested as being uniquely ‘me’, I can find myself struggling to glibly give up control of those essential unique elements for no worthwhile cause. It’s one of the reasons I’m pretty wary of ‘Experiences’ and inworld games and roleplay scenarios that demand I fit into a certain pattern of behaviour or appearance in order to participate. That isn’t to say that I’m completely at odds with such things – if it’s something that I particularly want to do, and I have the choice to join in, or otherwise, then I’m certainly not averse to making the decision to step out of my own character and into another temporarily – but the key point here is that it’s my choice to do so, and not a requirement that demands compliance.

You’ll understand from the above why I have particular issues when turning up at clubs – as I occasionally do – and find myself receiving, within a matter of minutes, what almost amounts to a demand to join the corporate dance HUD. This seems to be happening ever more frequently, and I find it somewhat baffling, and – not to put too fine a point on it – rather insulting to find myself the recipient of such a ‘request’. I’ll grant you that not all the dances that I might choose to accompany the music may be to everybody’s taste, or may not be the most up-to-date, mocap, bento brilliance that some may prefer, but they are the result of years of fine tuning, and whether others like them or not, they are as much a part of who I am as my AO. I feel weird and out of sorts being made to do a dance that isn’t part of my normal routine, and when I’m put under passive aggressive pressure to do so, I resent it.

I have nothing against dance HUDs – they certainly have their place, and I have one of my own. However, I’ve always held the view that one should ask to join, not receive an unsolicited and unwelcome demand to do so. Unless there’s a particular, compelling, reason to synchronise with everyone else on the dance floor, my opinion is that you should be allowed to dance as you damn well like, provided it’s appropriate and doesn’t interfere with others.

And that’s the other bizarre thing that I really can’t get my head around, because when I find myself in these situations, a brief glance around the dancefloor is sufficient to confirm that every other person is doing exactly the same dance – male, female, gender neutral, all performing the same moves, parrot fashion, whether or not they fit with their avatar. Some, indeed, look completely ridiculous: There’s something pitiful about watching a muscle-bound hulk doing the same effeminate dance routine as the nubile ladies around him, precisely timed and co-ordinated. It can sometimes feel as if you’ve wandered into some nightmarish, infernal line dance whose participants have sold their virtual souls and become assimilated into an unrelenting arcane ritual.

It makes me wonder why anyone would want to do this, especially when I see friends who I know are highly unique individuals meekly succumbing to being subsumed into the clutches of some sort of virtual Nestene Consciouness, no longer themselves but plasticised hive mind slaves of the Great HUD of Doom. No longer unique, no longer individuals, no longer the people I thought they were. And it’s just freakishly weird.

I know it just my opinion and it works for some, but in this case YKINMK, and I’ll remain uniquely me, if you don’t mind. Thank you very much!

s. x

You can go your own way
Go your own way
You can call it
Another lonely day
Lissie – Go Your Own Way

 

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