Recently I read an article that talked about the new craze of having your own avatar on the Internet. An avatar is a virtual representation of yourself, it is a character that you can design, sometimes even with a specific tone of voice. The idea (if I’ve gotten my head around it properly) is that you have a physical self that can interact with others together in a virtual world. What a paradox! Physical beings visiting a virtual space are creating physical identities so that we can relate to one another. Does this happen on other planets? One has to wonder.
There are meant to be several new sites that have sprung into existence based around the avatar concept. Yahoo.com supposedly has a form of instant messenger where instead of seeing just words on the screen, you can see and hear from a virtual apparition. There’s also www.there.com and the place I visited, www.habbohotel.com. At Habbo Hotel I became a member, designed my character (avatar), who only looked a little like me, bringing the question to mind of how close to reality do people want their identities to be? Should we be actual representations of ourselves, or should we all be super-cool with green Mohawk haircuts?
Inside Habbo Hotel I was told that I could wander around different rooms, talk to other ‘habbos’, play games together, build a room for people to visit, and collect currency –I still don’t know what for…It is deemed to be a virtual hangout, a place to meet your friends, meet new friends, send messages and have fun. I didn’t spend long on the site but I did have a go at talking to some other people. I don’t know if I’m too old (30) but it seemed many of the conversations were of a younger generation’s dialect. I also got the impression, although I may be paranoid, that many of the people already knew each other and weren’t that interested in helping a newbie figure things out, or even talk to me. I think I’ll have to spend more time there to make my real opinion but I did get the strange feeling in my heart that I used to get at school when the ‘cool’ kids didn’t want me to hang around with them. There were a lot of people hanging out at the swimming pool though. Someone is definitely getting into this new way of connecting.
Generation after generation human beings change and evolve, so I don’t want to discount any of the modern era’s inventions for human interaction. Young kids now have virtual pets like at www.neopets.com, whereas I used to have a cat. Is there anything wrong with that? Adolescents meet online to have fun, when I used to meet at the local pizzeria or video game arcade. Human minds and their inherent activities are reaching new levels of awareness and understanding. So enter the new world of interaction and entertainment. Avatars turn chat rooms into a tangible reality.
It’s strange that this new world is even called a hotel. Hotels are places one goes to rarely. They are places where all the rooms look the same. At the Habbo Hotel you can design your room to be a disco. (I saw a sample room where a DJ was playing music to a room full of characters all dancing and boogying down.) People go there, I assume, all the time to hang out with their friends. I can see some real pluses for this technology when your friends live on the other side of the city, or if you want to meet and talk to others on the other side of the world.
Go check Habbo Hotel out, and if you’re my age or older get your kids to. I wonder if you think it’s safe. Could there be strangers lurking dressed up as teenage girls? That’s my paranoid mind again. I think it is great for being able to talk and have fun with other human beings, especially friends you already know. My advice however is to be careful with what you say, especially with personal information. In a world of masks and mirrors, I am more prone to invest in a webcam or videoblog, where we can see the real people behind the messages. Still, I didn’t play any of the games so I could be missing out on a whole dimension of the site that connects with the minds of the people.
By Jesse S. Somer
Jesse S. Somer’s ‘Habbo’ wears a purple shirt and has a big hat pulled down over his face. Could this be my true identity?
Jesse S. Somer is a creative writer working at M6.Net: ‘The web-hosting company for humans.’ M6.Net is working hard to help humanity experience the power and freedom to develop their own part of the Internet, to share their information and connect with anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Summary: Avatars are giving people a physical presence in the virtual world of the Internet. People can create characters that look and sound like themselves, although they don’t have to, and then relate to others in a giant hotel full of games. You can create your own space and chat with people from all over the world. You can even dance together!