Friday, May 16, 2014

Any Colour you Like, So Long as it's White

So there I was at Oxbridge, enjoying the traditional sight of a new avatar going up to anyone even vaguely female and asking for a date.  (He gave me a chance to use the "my girlfriend's just TPed in" excuse, which is always fun... and receives a special Clueless Award for trying to chat up one lady with her very obvious husband standing right next to her.)

But, both Clueless Boy and the husband-and-wife - and several others who wandered through - were wearing unfamiliar, and rather sophisticated, avatars for new people....

The reason being, of course, new default avatars from our noble benefactors at the Lab.  So, it became necessary to take a squint at these and see what is what about them.

What we've got, you see, are mesh avatars.  The basic body is rendered invisible by a full-body alpha layer, and a mesh shape attached which acts exactly like your basic SL body.  It's rigged, so it can change to reflect alterations in your basic underlying shape... up to a point; you can't do anything fancy like changing the face, for instance.  And of course system clothing and other system-layer stuff like skins won't work on these things. 

What are they like?  Well, they vary.  Some of them have really good detailed skins, others are... less good.  They come with various bits of rigged mesh clothing, some of which is very good, as in "cannibalize it for other outfits" good.  (Tali and I both fell with glee on Kate Beckinsale's "Vampire Hunter Alison"'s leather trenchcoat.)  There are other components which are worth nicking - one (otherwise fairly naff) female form has a set of included shoe alphas which might work with a bunch of pumps I can't currently use because they're invisiprim based.

The design of the avis is quite interesting.  By and large, although some are traditional SL Barbie-dolls, there is a tendency towards more naturalistic sizes and shapes, which is rather gratifying (says the seven-foot blonde stick insect).  The male avatars are pretty good looking, and certainly better proportioned than your usual SL man-mountain with very short arms.  One thing I noticed, camming around them, was that the faces are, in places, a little bit asymmetrical.  This is good: real faces are a little bit asymmetrical.  On balance, we may expect a more interesting and (arguably) more attractive set of new people running around SL.

Oh, they'll all be white, of course.

Well, no, that's not strictly true - Tali found one vampire avi who is unmistakeably African male, apart from the fangs.  So that's one unambiguously non-Caucasian.  And some of the others might look vaguely Asian or Latino, in the right light... or might at least look as if they know someone who's Asian or Latino....

It is at this point that I heave a sigh, because this is an old, old rant, but it still needs to be ranted.  It would not hurt, dear people in the Lab, to be a little bit inclusive.  Just to the extent of offering options for non-Caucasians.  Just to the extent of admitting they exist.  One non-Caucasian avatar in the new batch.  One.  And even that one isn't fully human.

The excuse for this, apparently, is that the selection of new avatars is based on an analysis of what people actually go for when they're developing an initial look.  The problem with this, it seems to me, is that defaulting to the majority choices makes the alternatives invisible.  SL gets flooded with lookalikes, and the next batch of new people to come along adopt the same look, to fit in, and eventually we all look the same....

Assuming new people do come in, of course.  I have to wonder just how appealing SL looks, based on its available choices, to people of anything other than Caucasian origin.  My guess would be, not very

Seriously, LL.  Options.  Inclusive options.  From the outset.  There is no excuse for failing to do this.

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