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 Dictionary.com, realistic is defined as ‘.’ Proportional is defined as ‘ .’ (Side note – it’s generally frowned upon to define a word using the word itself.) Proportion is defined as ‘ ‘ OR as ‘ .’
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.’ 😀