Wednesday, April 12, 2006

are you kidding me? part deux

wow, the post on computer sex games generated a lot of comments. Only one here on the blog, but quite a few more via email or IM. Apparently I'm not the only geek that finds human nature and the intersection of technology and sexuality to be interesting, though that is no surprise really. For decades people have been fascinated by this topic, though typically in a more sex-cyborg to human equation (see Cherry 2000 - Pamela Gidley, Blade Runner - Darryl Hannah's Pris, or AI - Jude Law's Gigolo Joe) than the current technology-facilitating-human-to-human sexual interaction trend.

One reader sent me this link, which is a fascinating article about virtual prostitutes in Second Life (SL), an oft-cited MMO used for college-level coursework in the design of digital spaces, in art and architecture, and in media studies and sociology. SL has over 148,000 citizens.

In the article there is a quote from a guy who has paid real money for online tricks in SL which I think reflects my confusion from my prior post:
"Walking around in a virtual world matters. The girl you meet might take you to a sleazy motel or a scary dungeon, or maybe she'll show you someplace you haven't been before--stuff you won't get on the phone. Nonetheless, language is cardinal; complex computer interfaces often become obstacles to satisfying cybersex."

This last statement makes total sense to me. Netsex has a long text based tradition that started in bbs chat sessions in the early 90's - I know because I was on ISCA bbs a lot and eventually had to put "NO NETSEX" in my profile to keep the creeps away. but interaction was all txt based. Unless you were a killer ascii artist there were no graphics to go along with the conversation besides old school emoticons.

In many ways this is the book vs. movie argument. Some people prefer books to tv/movies because there is a lot left up to the reader's imagination - in movies you have to live within someone else's reality and run the risk of disappointment in their interpretation of the authors work. Ever see a movie after reading a book and think "that was *so* the wrong actor for that character"?

So its the GUI component (yeah, I prefer books) and the fact that people are plunking down $$$ for the games discussed in my prior post that I don't understand. The idea that you would buy a game purely for anonymous online sex (not even a complex virtual world like Second Life) and that would be a worthwhile investment over a free technology like IM or chat rooms just doesn't compute. But Second Life is created to be a robust virtual reality, where people can mingle and share ideas, exchange goods, etc. As such, it has a thriving economy. And like any society the world over, the oldest-profession has a place in this virtual world with brothels, pimps, and prostitutes running businesses that derive real life profit from their services - some SL brothels are estimated to earn $47K (in REAL money) a month. Ah, capitalism. This seems like a viable business model based on proven sociological models of cross-cultural human interaction.


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