May 23, 2011

Are immersionists an endangered species?

Sometimes I use the store-alt to "get away", and go exploring without the burden of a very full contact list. The store alt is a female avatar with a beautiful green skin - without being a pixie or a faery or another mythological creature. Immersionist that I am, when using the store-alt for exploring, it is easy to slip into the character, to be her, to feel like her.

Yesterday I explored a sim from the Showcase, when a 5 day old "Resident" account approached me.

Newb: Your skin is green.
Me: Well spotted.
Newb: I have to ask, why did you make your skin green?
Me: I was born that way.
Newb: rofl. You have a dryad avatar then. Or an Ent avatar?
Me: I am a human. Born with green skin. Don't tell me you have never seen a green skinned human before?
Newb: lololol

This person has probably never heard about immersionists and augmentists before. he was cracking up, thinking I was some kind of nutcase. But the conversation left me baffled. For me, it is natural to BE one with the avatar. When I take the green Lady out, I AM the green Lady. For him, it's like a clothing layer. Today I use the Dryad avatar, tomorrow the robot avatar, and for the weekend I take a bodybuilder.

I wonder hwo had the nicer experience? The green girl, walking wide eyed through a beautiful, futuristic and enchanted landscape? Or the guy who tries out this funny video game where you can meet nutters from all over.

Of course I am biased. For me, SL is about the immersion. SL is a magical country, and enchanted realm. I know it is not for many others. It's a game with lame graphics and no specific goal. Is there a right, or a wrong?

It makes me wonder if immersionists are an endangered species. In my early SL days I barely heard questions for one's age or location. These days it seems one of the first questions new contacts ask. The ASL-question defines you in the real world. Why do we need this RL anchor in a virtual environment? What benefit do I have from knowing that the person I am speaking with is 38 and from New Hampshire, when I am far more fascinated with the detailed mechanics of her android shape.

Are these the ramblings of an outdated oldbie? Or are we losing the magic?


Anonymous said...

Yes we are an endangered species. And yes SL is losing its magic. When I'm asked the ASL-question, I always reply: "I'm four years old, I'm an avatar, and I live here" :-)

Ivanova Shostakovich said...

My question for someone who asks me "ASL?" would be "Why are you here?" There's got to be better places to ask questions like that.

I do think Immersionists are few and far between. The only exception I have found is in the sailing crowd. You have to be an immersionist to be able to put up with sim crossings.

VĂ©ronique said...

You're assuming the noob was a him, eh? :)

I'm hardly in SL any more, and when I am it's more in augmentalist mode (to perform a remote service) than immersionist, but my heart is always with immersion. SL is a land of the imagination, and I hated whenever I sullied that with RL. You might be an endangered species, but you're still the species I like best.

Nissa Nightfire said...

when did you write this and why didn't you send me an alert?!? Very nice to see a post, and great to see GC again :)

Call me a crazy optimist... but I'm not quite ready to say that SL has lost its magic. I do think it has grown extremely diverse, and some of the SL culture that so many of us shared isn't always shared by new people... or isn't shared right away. And so much depends on which community you end up hanging with. As you know -- I was part of your community for some time -- and as a community we shared a certain culture and way of looking at our world. Right now, I belong to a different community ... it has a very different culture and those folks negotiate their SL very differently than you do. Is it worse, or less magical?? I'm not so sure. I can tell you I love my community... just as I loved yours when I was there... and I wouldn't trade my friendships -- past, present, or future -- for anything. And the mere fact that a virtual place can help bring people together who you might never meet in RL, and who become your family... sometimes for the long haul... That's pretty magical to me.

Anonymous said...

One thing to have in mind is that you spoke to a 5 days old avie. He's still young and well... nobody (well, almost) gets rezzed with the immersion in mind.

Immersion is a skill and way of life that's associated with it is a part of culture.

I agree with you, "immersionists" (I actually forgot the term I used for that) are endangered species, even more so as Facebook way of thinking is dominating the web more and more. But as with any culture, it can be saved. It just takes a bit of effort.

Dale Innis said...

I dunno, I don't think we're particularly endangered. (Of course I'm a perpetual optimist!)

I think there are more immersionists around in SL now than ever. However there are also even more more random newborns who don't get it! So in proportion it feels like the A/S/L crowd is taking over, especially if you go to places pushed at newborns (e.g. Showcase destinations).

It's okay, though. :) That same person that was lololol'ing at you that day may be sitting on the beach sipping a pina coloda as a ringtailed monkey a month from now, telling newborns that he's six weeks old...

Riven Homewood said...

I agree with the comment "almost nobody comes into SL intending to be an immersionist." I can in to experience answering library reference questions while seeing the person who asked. Thought maybe I might spend a couple of hours a week here.

I was so unhappy when I couldn't get my real first name! But looking back, if I'd been Jean instead of Riven, my entire SL experience would have been very different. I probably would still be doing reference on Info Island one day a week. :)

I have about 6 alts, most of whom I almost never play. But they each have their own personality, and have had them pretty much since they were created. I didn't set out to make them that person. In fact, I created detailed backstories for a couple of them, but that isn't who they are now. When I use one of them, I am no longer Riven, I become that person instead. With some of them, it's very easy to find that person inside me. With at least one, he is so alien to me that he's very difficult to play.

Yak said...

Well I sure must also be an outdated oldbie. I agree with every word you say Peter...
The good thing is that SL can give total immersion, but when logging out is not active in ones RL.
Unlike the SL-combined-with Facebook, Twitter, or Plurk experience, that waters down the inworld persona with the oh so realistic RL identity, the pure SL immersion gives so much more freedom in fantasy. Why the heck go through getting a whole new body and character, to water it down with RL again?

Apmel said...

Why does immersion have to be sulled by an RL-connection? I came to SL as publisher of RL books and thought I could make my book company known but ended up making my avatar known as an enfant terrible among swedes in SL.

My blog is the oldest swedish blog about SL and I have developed five different personalities (two female) in world and they LIVE there for sure:)