"Every human being is interested in two kinds of worlds: the Primary, everyday world which he knows through his senses, and a Secondary world or worlds which he not only can create in his imagination, but which he cannot stop himself creating." W.H. Auden
If you haven't seen this yet, go check out this article full of snark and nastiness about Second Life at Kotaku, the popular gamers' site. It's rare that I'm ever happy with anything I read at Kotaku about issues I care about, and it's enough to know that SHamlet publishes there.
No surprise that when some asshole came across a machinima of a simulated water birth in SL, he freaked out at how alien it was -- eek, women doing something with their parts besides having uncommunicative porn sex with *him* lol.
Read my comments there in defense of roleplay.
Why does versimilitude bother some people so much? Is it the Uncanny Valley?
That could be it, but I think it's more about a puritanical prudishness -- funny in these cynical hedonistic game dudes who would be happy to look at porn and near-naked characters in their war games -- that has to do with the idea that if you simulate things on life, they can't be too much like real life or you have something wrong with you.
That is, it's okay to dress up like a warrior and give yourself some name like Argamak and slay a dragon, but it's not okay to put on a look with some booty in Second Life, or God forbid, re-enact a water birth with your virtual husband and virtual midwife.
I will come back to meditate on this further, but let me point out that another aspect of this is that this family role-playing stuff -- the really full-tilt version of it with the maternity clinics, the baby gear, etc. is often something that blacks and Hispanics play in SL, in my observation. Oh, there are whites and Asians, too. But mainly the networks and the stores and the groups are blacks and Hispanics. I have had some as tenants and I also see them all over when I'm exploring.
And I have to say that I think it's quite telling that these white boys at Kotaku -- and they *are* white boys there -- okay, maybe some Asians -- are being particularly nasty about these minority women. I don't think they are even fully aware of how they are doing that. They are thinking "Oh, that's Second Life, it's stupid and creepy" and not "oh, those are black people".
It reminds me of the time when I noticed that so many of the camping outfits with a store and a cafe and music were run by entrepreneurial black females, and I wondered if everyone who was so angrily denouncing those establishments could take the roof off Second Life, and take the masks off, and see the people they were denouncing, if they would have any compunction.
I think the reason for this is simple, that it would only be people who were more poor, who had less opportunities, who would put in the very long hours and persistence needed to run an SL club or mall or camping establishment. And I think that people who tend to come from broken families more, but who nevertheless very much value family and having kids and forming relationships are the ones who would role-play maternity scenes.
Are there that many people who have real babies -- or let's put it this way -- who have happy families -- who are going to come and role-play them on Second Life? I don't think so.
But I also think that is more than fine. I think it's creative and entrepreneurial and interesting. Instead of being a dysfunction or a marker for "loser-hood," I think it's great. Why is it okay to play hours and hours of war games killing people and destroying your soul with virtual hate, but playing hours and hours of having a loving family and having a baby has something wrong with it?