Realistic vs Proportional vs SL

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I’ve had several very interesting discussions recently over the topic of ‘realistic’ and ‘proportional’ avatars.  Though I have not always agreed with everything that was said, I have enjoyed immensely participating in the discussions.  Having had a few days to digest all the information, my original attitude still stands.

There are people in SL who are advocating a change to what they call ‘realistic’ or ‘proportional’ avatars.  Many people use the terms interchangeably.  Because I was curious, because I love words, and because I don’t necessarily agree, I looked up the definitions.

According to, realistic is defined as ‘resembling or simulating real life.’  Proportional is defined as ‘being in or characterized by proportion.’  (Side note – it’s generally frowned upon to define a word using the word itself.)  Proportion is defined as ‘proper relation between things or parts‘ OR as ‘symmetry, harmony, or balance.’

The advocates of ‘realistic’ avatars in SL have a myriad of reasons behind their opinions.  Some believe that the default avatar was too big (and/or too disproportionate) to begin with, and thus began the problem.  Too-large avatars led to too-large buildings.  Some believe that the default SL camera presets are also partially to blame.  (If you are interested in a detailed discussion of how changing presets can affect your view/experience in SL, read Penny Patton’s post here.)  Other things said to skew your view of SL include the speed at which your avatar runs, and the plethora of too-large buildings (which means that you don’t notice that your avatar is overly large).

There are tons of ‘rulers’ available in SL to help you measure your height.  There is also the appearance editor.  Neither of which, apparently, work correctly.  (For an interesting read about proportional avatars, building to scale, the impact of these on the SL experience, read Penny Patton’s post here.)  According to one such ‘ruler,’ my avatar’s size is deemed ‘ogre-ish.’  Interesting.  (And a little insulting, truthfully.)

After listening to people discuss these issues (and reading everything I could find on the subject), I’m still not willing to change my avatar.  I like the way my avatar looks, and I’ve spent a goodly amount of time making her the way I want. Am I realistic?  Perhaps not, to some.  Am I proportional?  Again, perhaps not, to some.  I understand the benefits to having a more realistic-sized avatar – building smaller buildings means lower LI, more things, more people in one place – I get it.  But ‘realistic’ is not the be-all and end-all goal for my SL.

I can fly in SL.  Is that realistic?  I can instantly teleport from one location to another.  Is that realistic?  For me, a lot of the arguments for ‘realistic’ and ‘proportional’ avatars come down to people’s personal aesthetics.  Some people prefer to have realistically-sized avatars.  Great!  Awesome! Go for it!  Just don’t tell me that I have to as well.

My avatar is (I feel) proportional.  Does she match the ‘standard’ human proportions?  Probably not.  However, ‘standard’ in this respect means average.  And there are plenty of people in the ‘real’ world who would not be deemed ‘proportional’ by those figures.  Does that mean they are not realistic?  Standard sizes for NBA players, for example, are not the same as standard sizes for horse racing jockeys.  Does that make either subset of humanity ‘unrealistic?’

I heard other people (with ‘realistic’ avatars) complain about furniture that did not fit them (i.e., the poses did not work well with their avatar), about sims that would not admit them because they weren’t tall enough, and about ‘float dancing’ (because the animations place their avatar’s feet above the ground).  I have to admit, I’ve never really experienced any of these issues.  I’ve never had a piece of furniture ‘not work’ with my avatar (although I have had to slightly adjust some poses).  I’ve never been to a sim where my avatar’s appearance was an issue at all (with one exception).  And I’ve never had an issue with an animation not looking correct (and, as a dancer, I’ve used a LOT of animations!).

Out of curiosity, I visited a sim that requires ‘realistic’ avatars.  Normally, I wouldn’t have explored further.  As I said, I’ve spent a lot of time and effort on my avatar over the years, so changing something as significant as her shape is a big deal.  That said, there was a free avatar kit (realistically sized), along with clothing suited for the sim.  I donned both, and went exploring.  The sim was nice, but not someplace I’ll probably ever re-visit.  There are several reasons for that (including that most avatars there speak a different language than I do).  But the biggest one was that I just didn’t like being a ‘realistic’ avatar.  It felt – wrong.  It wasn’t a quick visit – I wandered around for probably a good couple of hours.  But the ‘real’ sized avatar did not ‘grow’ on me, as many claim.

For me, one of the great things about SL is that people can CHOOSE to be what they want.  If they want to be ‘realistic’ or ‘proportional,’ they can.  If they want to be as tall as an ogre, they can.  If they want to be a pixie, or a tiny, or a furry, or a Neko, or a dragon, or a robot – they CAN.  Isn’t that wonderful?  SL is a wondrous place, and part of that wonder is exploring places and meeting people that are different.  So I don’t think it’s ‘realistic’ for people to think that everyone should have a realistic and proportional avatar. (Just a side note – if everything is supposed to be ‘realistic,’ why isn’t anyone complaining about the lack of fat and/or ugly avatars?)

There are lots of things in SL that I find personally weird/creepy/un-aesthetically pleasing. I don’t understand the appeal of mesh breasts and mesh booties.  That doesn’t mean, however, that I automatically discount someone because they wear one or the other (or both).  I try (and I don’t always succeed, I freely admit) to judge people in SL by their words and actions, not by their looks.  One of the nicest people I’ve met in SL (and someone I think of as a true friend) is a dog.

In the end, everyone is in SL for different reasons.  Not better reasons, just different ones.  So you enjoy your SL (whatever that may look like) and I’ll enjoy mine.  Alrighty?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to search the events listings for ‘ogre party.’  😀

10 thoughts on “Realistic vs Proportional vs SL

  1. Never befriend dogs. They expect payment for everything in kibble and leave fleas everywhere.

    Not sure if you have noticed but most of the Moons gang are short in SL. My own human avi is 5’9 tall. My human female is a well rounded 5’8 (old Heartsick avatar?). Autumn, Ailsa, and Pru are all super short in SL terms. I have built modern Moons builds accordingly. Its some what enterteining when Winnie swings by looking like a giant.

    I do not dislike tall avatars. But I do wish there was more good furniture for RL normal proportion avatars. My legs stick through furniture all the time. Its why I liked the stools and fruit furniture from previous builds. Less obvious an avatar is small.

    1. So you’re saying I’m around for entertainment? 😛 As for furniture, I rarely sit anywhere, unless it’s at a dance show. I should do an experiment and see how the other half lives. 🙂

  2. I agree that SL is a place where we can each be what we want. Lower LI would mean we’d need more stuff to give sims and parcels a ‘full’ look so that would put the LI right back up. I find it much easier to cam, see, and move around with the larger avs, buildings, and stuff. I made my av the size she is cause I was tired of kissing my partner’s belly, at least now I come up to his chest. I will admit I do not like those avs with the extremely wide, flat hips and huge gap between the legs, but if that’s what others want to wear, it is their right cause if there is any place we should have freedom to be what we want, it’s SL.

    That acknowledged, my one gripe concerns head size compared to the rest. I see SO many male avs in SL with ginormous chests, bulging arms, necks the size of tree trunks… but tiny little pinheads. Realistically, necks are usually thinner than heads. And then the long torsos, thin legs and no butts… and I wonder, “Dude, have you ever cammed out and looked at your av’s proportions? Cause you look like an ant with that tiny head.” But if they want to look like that, it’s their right. I’d just never want to date their avatar *snorts*.

    1. I think it’s harder to make men look proportionally correct (having worked on a couple of male avis). Maybe men are so tall because they think ‘bigger is better.’ 😀

  3. I’m one of the frequent vocal proponents on proper proportions. Unlike Penny I am not a stickler about height. I care a LOT about my own avatar’s height and proportions, and I try to help those who desire anatomical proportions reach them – but don’t push it on anyone even though I speak about it all the time – someone else’s choice is their own.

    Proportion is all about the right “ratio” of arm to leg to torso to head. Things like the middle of your body is at crotch level, and your arms spread out – measure from finger-tip to finger-tip, is the same as your height. And that the head should be about 1/7th of your height. Your feet the same length as your forearm, and I think your hand the distance from mouth to top of forehead.
    – when you get whatever shape you have inside of that, it ends up looking more “human natural”, though it took me about a 1-2 weeks to get used to seeing the arms twice as long as they used to be, until I started to realize my new shape’s arms reached down as low as my real life arms did.

    Not everyone cares for this – and that’s fine. But many who DO care for it have struggled to great frustration trying to figure out those horrid shape dials and why they can’t get a simple dial to do what they want… 🙂
    – So my guides on this topic are written to try and make that easier, for those who want it.

    I DO admit to also having a blog or two about how I find not being proportional to be visually disorienting. But that’s my personal view – and I’ve long since decided I’m not going to get on anyone who doesn’t see it the way I do.

    I only make a stink when I start seeing people get biased against me for my choice of height or proportion.

    I think I know which sim your referred to as requiring “to-scale”, I won’t name them – if its where I think it is part of their theme involves one piece of anatomy being very much not to-scale… 🙂
    – BUT… that itself is one benefit of NOT scale, but proportion. Once you know your proportions, you can twist them to get an intentional effect.

    1. I think it’s one of those cases of ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’ 🙂 We all have our like and dislikes, but I found it a little disconcerting to learn that some people are so adamant about what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’ when it comes to avatars. I’ve read your blog posts about proportion, and I plan to test it out – but not on Kat! 😀

      1. Oh yes Kat, I know several people who get downright furious at those of us will larger avatars. I will say, at times I feel a different species when I am with a friend who has a smaller avatar. My original av was smaller, but like I said, I got tired of kissing his belly 😀

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