Even in video games when you begin to build your character you are faced with this option: do you want to play as a boy or a girl?
People choose their own gender or a different one, hewing more or less closely to real life. For the rest of us who aren’t ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ the question is more fraught. I tend to pick the gender that I think will have better options for making my character look how I want to look, sometimes that’s ‘boy’ and sometimes that’s ‘girl.’
I do think it’s interesting that even when we have limitless options of how to be, literally without any worldly limitations, we impose the limitations we already have into the virtual world.
Which is why I love the people who design mods for games like secondlife that are fully invested in virtualness, and abide only by the physical limitations of the internet. They create new kinds of skin, play as rabbits or orbs of light, and are completely impossible in the real world.
Most people, I’ve noticed, just try to make themselves look hot. On imgur I posed as a boy named Well with a chiseled jaw who lurked in the corners of all kinds of rooms trying to figure out what everyone was getting out of being there. Sure, it wasn’t just about looking hot, I also wanted to see how people would interact with me as a man, if they would believe it, which is not an option for me in real life. But I chose to be a hot man, and one that could exist IRL at that, no wings or horns or superpowers.
I’m interested in why some people choose avatars very close to their IRL selves, and why some people deviate as far as possible from who they are.
I could have been anything at all and I chose to be a hot man. Even though it’s not-me, that tells me something about myself and the world we live in.
In her research in visual chatrooms like these, then known as MUDS, Sherry Turkle discovered that a huge number of people who appear to be women in these games are actually men posing as women. The people who populate secondlife, imvu, etc. ultimately all turn out to be more men than anyone else. This was something that was also true for plays in Shakespearian times, so what’s new?
I wonder what I would’ve wanted to be if I could’ve chosen for myself, and wonder why when given that opportunity what comes out is never what I expect.