Posts Tagged ‘romance in Second Life’

Final Posting for the Romantic Picnic Project.

January 17, 2008

I started the Romantic Picnic project to learn more about what works and what does not work in a virtual world like Second Life. I started out with an idea of making a SIM where someone could have a romantic picnic. This was based on:

  1. I had attended several classes where items used on picnics were being created.
  2. Several SIMs had areas for picnics.
  3. Picnics were seen as romantic and there was a population in Second Life looking for romance.

So with the help of the SIM 2.0 group I received a small parcel of land. I created walls around the SIM for privacy. A waterfall was added as the main focus. The SIM was near the edge of the Island so I added plants along the walls leading to the ocean. At the edge of the ocean I placed a picnic blanket with poses for a couple and added a fire pit at the edge of the beach. It was a simple design with several of the key items being purchased instead of being created from scratch. What is funny is that I never received any negative comments about the final design. I have gone there at different times only to have to leave my own SIM because others were using it and I did not want to interrupt their privacy. I had successfully created a place for couples to have a romantic picnic.

That part went as I expected. However, I learned very little from it. Where learning took place was in the Discussion groups that I either attended in Second Life or hosted at my SIM. Here is what I learned.

  1. Appearance matters as much in Second Life as it does in real life. I have found that in my professional life people commonly judge me by the clothing I wear and how I carry myself. Coming to work in cloths that look like you slept in them can tend to make people think less of you. Well, in Second Life the same holds true. I traveled in Second Life as a Furry. I had a human body with a cartoon animal head and a stripped tail. What I found from talking to people was that when I hosted a discussion people would see the furry newbie and leave. Because of my appearance people judged my discussion as having little value. I know this because several people who showed up and left told me why when I followed up and asked them later.
  2. Layout of the SIM matters. The design of my SIM was fine for a couple having a romantic picnic. It used a small space and provided privacy without being within a building. However, for holding discussions it did not meet expectations. Asking people to sit on the ground near a fire pit failed. It was another reason people did showed up and left discussions. If you attend discussions in Second Life you will generally find that special places are built that provide structured places to sit and maybe some type of display board or presentation screen. Asking people to sit at random around a fire did not live up to their expectations. Again this was confirmed by following up with people who left.
  3. Second Life is a chunky soap. What I mean by this is that people have many reasons for being there and many things that they do there. Getting attention can be very hard. You can post a discussion easy enough. However, getting people to show up is quit another thing. If you wish to host discussions it helps to attend other discussions and establish yourself as someone who is worth listening to. This is not always an easy task. Sometimes it is hard to get a word in. And you have to choose your words carefully in many instances when there are competing ideas. It is not uncommon for discussions to turn into debates and moderators to fight to maintain control of the discussion. As you build your reputation by attending discussions you also build your links to communities. The successful discussions have regulars and repeat attendees. They create their own community of people interested in the subjects that they offer for discussion. The concept of creating a community can’t be overstressed. This is the heart of Second Life.
  4. As I talked with people and walked the world of Second Life looking like a cartoon raccoon in clothing, I found people seeking solitude. Second Life offered the opportunity to create virtual areas of outstanding natural beauty. There are great beaches, tropical jungles, etc. I explored many of these seeking places for romantic picnics. I found romantic picnics happening with couples. I also found a lot of individuals who went to these places to be alone. People were coming to these places to unwind, meditate, deal with the stress of work, etc. Doing a little research I discovered that some people have a need for a certain amount of solitude. What I never expected was that it could be obtained in a computer screen. In my research I found where video games have be used to reduce stress by distracting one from the real world. I also found a lot of examples of images and pictures being used to help relieve stress. Due to the immersive nature of 3-D it makes sense that one can go beyond just mentally imaging a happy place. They can go there as an avatar. The avatar becomes an extension of them.
  5. I had the preconceived idea that a romantic place had to be private. Second Life quickly changed that idea. Some of the most romantic places to a lot of people where dance clubs. It was a combination of romantic music, dancing, and being seen. For some people being able to show themselves off was an important part of their concept of romance. When I started I never considered the value of being the center of attention. Thinking back I should have known better. I still remember sending my wife flowers at work when we were dating just because I knew it would make her the center of attention at work for that day and win me more points then if I just sent some flowers to her home.

So the romantic picnic experiment is now over. I have traded my furry avatar for what passed as popular in Second Life. My avatar IB WISE now looks like many of the other human avatars that I have seen attending discussions. Where I go from here I do not know. I believe that 3-D will be an important part of the future of the Internet in years to come. So I will continue to travel the world of Second Life learning as I travel.

For those of you who took the time to read my blogs, I would like to thank you. If you are ever in Second Life look for IB WISE.

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When it comes to romance, experience is what really matters.

November 2, 2007

Start with the ideal experience people would like to have, and design everything around producing that desired experience! This is the message in a nutshell from Peter Merholz of Adaptive Path. Check out his UK presentation on Slideshare. Peter presents a very good explanation of this concept. (Plus to Futurelab for letting me know about this excellent presentation.) Watch his presentation and then think of all the money the travel industry spends on romantic vacations. How many of these push location, then features in the vacation package. How few of them really focus on what really matters, the romantic experience! Think of all the money spent on romantic vacations, romantic foods, romantic items that you have spent over your lifetime. How many of them really delivered or helped deliver the romantic experience you really desired? If you follow Peter’s presentation you can see how much better these could have been if the desired romantic experience was really understood and everything else was designed around producing this experience. Many times people try to take what may already exist and package it as ROMANTIC because it sells. I blogged a while back about how people do not buy products but purchase the ability to do something. For example, this Thanksgiving my wife and I will go shopping and buy a Turkey, Dressing, Cranberries, etc. We will not be purchasing these items as themselves. We will be purchasing the ability to have the Thanksgiving experience that we desire. You can look at your romantic experience the same way. The romantic vacation site, the package of dinners, sites, etc, the items you will take along really only have meaning when you think of the romantic experience that they will enable you to obtain. For when you really think about it, it does not matter if it is romance in the real world or romance in a virtual world, it will be the experience that you will remember.

Second Life,where men are men and women are women, almost, maybe, I cann’t tell?

October 29, 2007

Second Life,where men are men and women are women, almost, maybe, I cann’t tell?

 

Second Life is a virtual world where one can be almost anything one desires. One selects an Avatar to represent them in this virtual world. The Avatar can be male, female, or totally non-human. Its pretty much up to your imagination and how much money you are willing to spend. The Avatar is an extension of you in the virtual world but no one knows who is behind the Avatar. Think of it as a giant costume ball. All you can see is the outside costume. People can only know who you are if you reveal yourself to them. In Second Life you never really know whom you are taking to unless they are willing to tell you who they are in Real Life. So what does this have to do with romance? Well an interesting thing is happening in Second Life. You have a number of men who are straight in the Real World assuming female Avatars in Second Life. Now lets drop the whole issue of dating or having virtual sex with someone who is the same sex as you are in the real world. Others have covered this pretty well in blogs past. What I find interesting from a romance angle is that several men I have talked to run around as super glamorous females because that is how they can get attention. Guys in virtual worlds are much like guys in the real world. They seem to be attracted to physical beauty. It does not matter that anyone can purchase beautiful Avatar for fewer than 50 US dollars. Men are hard wired to focus on visual appearance.

Well if you define romance, as relationships that make one feel better about themselves, then being able to command attention or become the center of attention is appealing. The virtual reality may not be real. But the recognition and attention most certainly are real. I travel the virtual world of Second Life as a raccoon looking character called IB WISE. I am what people in Second Life call a Furry. I stay this way because I am ignored many times and it makes it easier to observe behavior. I have seen a lot of people doing many things in Second Life just to get attention. The ones who act out and disrupt thing have even been given a name, “grifters”. In romance we want attention. Is it really that much different for the grifters or men using female avatars to get attention? How unromantic is it to be in a group of people and have no one notice you or pay attention to you. How romantic is it to be the center of attention at a grand ball or other function?

 Let me know what you think, leave a comment.

Will designers unlock the chemistry of romance?

October 24, 2007

Here is another take on the chemistry of romance. I am approaching the romantic picnic as an emotional experience. Location, food, accessories, etc. have emotional elements. I have also talked about research that shown different chemical changes related to romance. Do you realize that designers see dollar signs in your emotions? What science is increasingly showing is that the same places in the brain that register comfort and contentment also happen to light up when people are shown familiar products and brands.

Will romance be measured by chemicals like endorphins and Neuromarketing technologies like fMRI, EEG, and facial coding to gauge true emotional response? Is it possible that designers will use emotions and romance using these means to measure it? With companies going to 3D design and virtual environments such as Second Life it give one much to think about. Check out Futurelabs take on neuromarketing.