Today’s topic on the Big Bad Blog Challenge is:  Is your avatar more or less your current biological age? Do you portray a younger avatar, or older? Why is this?

For me, the answer is …. it depends upon the situation.

As I mentioned, I role play a Jedi Knight in Second Life, at least some of the time. When my avatar is engaged in role play with the group, or on any of the many Star Wars sims, my avatar looks young. She plays a 29 year old human who is very active and fit …. and she looks it. In truth, her appearance is pretty close to what I looked like at 29. I’m slowly aging her as the years go by (about three times as fast as RL time since there are three SL days for every RL day), but it is a bit difficult to find an adequate 30-something skin. If anyone has suggestions, please do post them in the comments!!

But when Christien represents ME, she wears a middle-aged skin and shape. She has short blondish hair and could honestly stand to lose a few pounds.  She wears glasses.  And a lot of her clothes look pretty much like what you’ll find in my closet. In part, I do this because my professional colleagues know what I look like in RL – they often see me at conferences, and I prefer to present myself …. well, as myself.

Why the difference?  Because the same avatar is used for two different purposes.  Recently, I created several other avatars so that I could lend them out to students who couldn’t make their own — or for people who just wanted to play around with Second Life but didn’t want to go through the process of creating an account.  So, I could have different avatars for different purposes.  Problem is that Christien Suntzu is my main avatar for both contexts.  Back in the day, it was more difficult to create accounts, and so I conserved by using one for two very different purposes.

The rather different appearance helps me and others keep straight “who” Chris is at the moment.  Is she a role playing character, similar to my World of Warcraft avatars?  Then, she is dressed as a Jedi knight and looks in her late 20s.  Is she an educational researcher?  Then, she looks like a middle-aged woman and dresses either in a suit or in jeans and a sweater.

Might I branch out just to see what it feels like to be someone different?  Possibly.  I have those other accounts – some of those look like robots, are male, or are females of different races or even species. But I am not sure how much I’ll ever identify with them.  I have been playing computer games for a long time, and most of my characters did not look much like me.  In part because early games gave the player so few choices, I don’t tend to strongly identify with the avatar on the screen any more than I identify with a chess piece on a game board.

One reason I have enjoyed Second Life is the fact that I can make an extension of me that has some fidelity to the real thing — and that makes SL rather unique even today.  So, I enjoy “being” at the end of my 40s in the virtual world as a tribute to how far the technology – and the creativity of the residents – has come.