Freedom of gender choice is an interesting aspect of virtual worlds and video games as a whole. One of my good friends who I often play cooperative video games with nearly always chooses a female character when we play together. Why he does I’ve never really known, and it’s never really bothered me. When asked by others why he chose a particular female game character he usually responds with “Because she’s such a badass.”, which is a good enough answer for me really. But even with this example, it becomes apparent that just because people are able to switch genders, doesn’t mean that many will, and doesn’t mean that the majority of people don’t play as the gender that they actually are in real life. As pointed out in “Sex Lives of Second Life”, theses assumption come from a perspective of technological determinism, asserting that because a technology gives people the ability to do something, people will use the technology mainly to do that thing. More nuanced views on technology propose that it’s society that decides the ways that people use technology.
The “Sex Lives of Second Life” paper illustrates this well by addressing the point that virtual worlds like Second Life may not be the gender fluid havens they are sometimes touted to be. Turns out a lot of people simply play as their own gender. On top of that a lot of ugly habits and derogatory acts against women have seeped their way into places like Second Life. Although I wasn’t aware of this phenomenon, it’s hardly surprising. It’s the same way that racial undertones and outright racist comments have made themselves prevalent in online culture as well as virtual worlds.
What was slightly surprising to me was the sexual culture in Second Life. I didn’t know there was one until this semester and now I find that it is Rampant. Xcite software is such a strange concept to me. With a simple 0 percent to Orgasm meter, it seems like a gross over simplification of sexual relations. And while I can get past that, the ability to simply click and choose what point on the meter to be at whenever makes the whole thing trivial in my eyes, basically amounting to an instant orgasm button. I can only assume that when using this Excite software or sexual pose balls that users are masturbating, otherwise I’m not sure what pleasure they could derive from the experience. But I’m not even really sure about that. Maybe people do it for some other kind of pleasure.