May 3rd, 2007 by Benjamin Duranske
Second Life Insider has a short piece up this morning on business attire in virtual worlds. That piece links to this Information Week Blog post by Mitch Wagner, which is the most interesting thing I’ve read recently on avatar customization.
The point of the SLI post is basically that people should make their avatars look however they want, and not view virtual worlds as requiring the same attire as real life. The author, ‘Akela Talamasca,’ writes, “I’m more interested in what people have to say than in how they look, and in fact find a lack of creativity in one’s avatar an indication of some aspect of one’s personality.”
I generally like that analysis, though I think it makes more sense about avatars that are being used for play. Regarding business wear, I think there’s a good argument for traditional business attire in traditional business settings — even in virtual worlds — that the SLI post overlooks.
My take: a lot of people who are new to doing business in virtual worlds are pretty freaked out by what they find. In my experience, it helps put them at ease if I log on looking the same way I’d look if I were to meet them in the real world.
Coincidentally, I’m writing this sitting in a coffee shop (in the real world) waiting to meet a couple of venture capital guys to talk about virtual worlds. They’re looking at a company with some tangential virtual world ties, and they want an introduction to the space.
In real life, I’m wearing a blue blazer, a pair of jeans, an open-neck light blue dress shirt, and black-frame glasses. And when I log on to Second Life to show them around, my avatar (‘Benjamin Noble’) will be wearing almost exactly the same thing. In fact, the only difference is that his shirt is white.
That is not by chance. I’m not sure if these guys have ever logged on to a virtual world before, but they may well not have. They are going to see avatars that appear to be theme-park mascots, leather-clad vampires, and underage strippers. I like my avatar to provide some perspective.
In other words, putting ‘Benjamin Noble’ in a traditional blue blazer and making him look like I do in real life gives business people I interact with something that they recognize, and it also sends the message that not everyone views this as Disneyland or Amsterdam’s red light district.
Yeah, it means my avatar doesn’t really express my creative side, but I can always create another one if I want to join a roleplaying community or do something where creativity is more important than business credibility. And I think there’s a certain amount of creativity involved in making my avatar as realistic as I can too.
(Now that I think about it, ‘Benjamin Noble’ is due for an upgrade. I’ve seen some fantastically photorealistic skins and really well sculpted shapes recently, and I want one that looks as much like the real-world me as possible. Besides, my mother saw my avatar’s picture on this blog at one point and said, shaking her head, “He doesn’t look like you, he has a rat face.” That causes a little concern. I mean, I have an avatar even a mother can’t love? But I digress.)
I think business attire has its place in virtual worlds, but I know some readers have really creative avatars and outfit them all sorts of ways, even for business meetings, so I’m making this a “Reader Roundtable” feature, and I’m specifically inviting everyone to comment.
What does your avatar look like for business, and why?
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