A Fleshy Encounter

Saturday, August 1, 2009 Saturday, August 01, 2009

Many avatars remain just that; virtual people who communicate with other virtuals. Some reveal clues about their atomic identity, while others remain entirely hidden behind an identity firewall.

Sometimes that firewall can be breached, if one takes a chance. I first did so at last year’s SLCC in Tampa, where I actually met many atomics. Strangely, it turns out many of them do not actually resemble their avatar’s appearance.

Taking that big step across the virtual to atomic void can be filled with emotion. Fear, anxiety, happiness and curiosity are only some of the feelings that occur. But it’s always exhilarating.

I recently had the opportunity to do it again. This time I happened to be in London, UK, where I took a chance and asked my long time friend, blogger and artist Vint Falken if she wished to get together. She agreed!

Then there was the usual awkward first moment, when you think you recognize the other atomic and approach them. After all the online time, the blog posts, tweeting and plurking, the comments back and forth and projects we’ve done, we were finally together.

She doesn’t look like her avatar, either.

After a wonderful dinner we landed in Trafalgar Square watching zany amateur performance art. Soon we ended up talking with a photographer, who seemed interested in us. And that’s when things got weird.

Photographer: “So what do you guys do?”

Vint and I looked at each other and chuckled. How could we possibly explain our strange and unknowable virtual life to someone who's never heard of virtual reality? We tried our best, and I think we managed to convey some sense of the magic we all experience in a world that can be anything.

Photographer: “And what are your names?”

More chuckling. I was in “avatar mode”, and had to explain that we don’t have real names, or something like that. And also that in fact this was the first time we had met in real life.

Photographer: “This is the first time you’ve met?”

Us: “Yes!”

Photographer: “I hope it works out for you both!”


Virtual worlds still have a very long way to go, it seems.


Valiant Westland said...

I can imagine why some people would be hesitant to meet virtual friends "in the flesh," especially if their virtual world persona of sex god/goddess, furry, etc. is vastly different from their physical form. Since my avatars body conformation, dress and mannerisms mimic my PW self, I don't share these reservations.

Last year I had the pleasure of meeting Bevan Whitfield, when she was visiting her sister in a nearby town. The ice-breaker for our meeting was my assisting her with upgrading her laptop.

We wound up spending a number of hours chatting about Virtual Worlds, politics, the economy, etc. It was great to meet Bevan in person. Our face-to-face meeting cemented a virtual friendship that persists to this day.

Although it looks like I wont be able to attend SLCC this year, I do look forward to meeting more VW friends in their physical person. In fact, anyone who lives or is traveling near (1-3 hours) Grand Rapids, MI, let me know. I'm always up for a good cup of coffee, glass of wine and conversation!

Unknown said...

It seems I can never attend a real world conference, whether or not related to virtual world not, without people who know of my VW activities suggesting I am being somehow hypocritical.

Just because VWs are special doesn't mean that RL conferences are unnecessary.

This doesn't seem to hard for people to figure out. My mom, for example, seems to think that talking on the phone every week is very special. But that doesn't reduce her desire to have me drive 6 hours ever once in a while to visit in person.

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