Thursday, September 13, 2012

Avatars, Characters, & Persona

It fairly amuses me of late to see my brother's first Second Life avatar, CC Columbo, hang out in-world more often. Why? Apparently, he's 17-years old again. In real life, he is a solid 49-years old, though he tells folks he's 50 now. He's also tipping 300 pounds plus in weight, has mutton chops for facial hair this week, and a mane a wee bit longer than my own nearly shoulder-length tresses. In other words, aside from wearing glasses and having reddish hair, he doesn't look like his avatar. Behavior-wise, though, he is very much like his avatar – kind, considerate, polite, deferential, giving, loving, funny, reasonably handsome, fiercely loyal, more than a bit lazy, creative, and smart as a whip. His persona is the same in either instance, its just that he has this teenaged elf character that he's playing.

Also amusing is his "old man" character which he assumes when his alternate (alt) avatar is in-world – a cranky yet otherwise similarly behaved explorer of the Steampunk lands in Second Life; a more weathered and far more slender version of his Real Life self. Take away some hair and add in more of the scholarly, former Real Life teacher of the Social Studies and geography past with perhaps a bit more wisdom but no loss in the sense of wonder or other traits that his teenaged rendition exhibits and you have essentially the same persona, but a far different character.

A fair difference, at first blush, but compare and contrast the real to the virtual. Elven teenager or crotchety old guy, each in-world being represents with near 100 percent faithfulness the man who after the death of our father in Real Life raised me and still cares for me to this day. Each representation is easily recognizable as the Real Life man by folks that have met him in both worlds. So why the two different characters?

Well, three different characters, really. He's also a hyena furry. Or more than three. He has a bigger fascination with different avatars than I do and can often be found in the Blake Sea as a turtle, as a dinosaur roaming a desert sim, or as ... really most anything. But again, why? To have him explain it is near impossible. He simply says "its fun" and leaves it at that. Perhaps that is all it really comes down to, but probably not. Consider the teenager. His daughter (my niece, natch) passed away when she was nearly three-years old (hence the tombstone he puts in all his builds, like in the third picture) and she would have been 17 this year. I'm darned sure she would have been every bit as cool as her father, too. But are you seeing what I'm seeing with that character?

CC (which is what I call him iRL, too, as it is far faster to finger-spell than his full name) will never, ever grow up and often says he forgets he's not a teenager (maybe that's how he got along so well with all his students), but every now and then – for about a year or so now – I've caught him feeling his age. He often harks back to things like the first Moon landing, which he watched live, or playing with other kids in the space capsules that were unceremoniously parked mostly unattended on the near-by Navy base because no one thought they'd have future value (at least one he's been inside is now in the Smithsonian). He's been known to stare in wonder at our iPad and mumbling "once I had a Trash-80 that ..." And when a streak of white hair appeared all-skunky-like in his forelocks about a fortnight ago he almost danced a jig. I think he's going to enjoy being an old duffer. Our father liked to play the part when he retired and our older brothers rather relish the role, too.

So I think about my own characters, alts or otherwise, in Second Life – the pixies Zyx and Zyx Flux, the girl from India, the birds alts, the Linden Doggie and other fun avatars, along all the personas I adopt when I become them. They are all me. I am all them.

Now, who are you?

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