Saturday, September 3, 2011

The How and Why of Emotes

/me gasps in horror! I just realized…I’ve spoken here several times about the importance of emoting, but we’ve never really talked about what emoting is, or how to do it. So let’s talk about emotes.

You have several ways to express yourself in Second Life. There are animations…which might be ones in a pose ball, or a piece of menu-driven furniture, or even just something you drag out of your inventory and play. And there are the animations in your Animation Overrider (AO). The problem with animations is that there may not be one handy to express exactly what you want to convey.

But of course, there are the built-in facial animations, too. You can activate these manually with various “emoting” gadgets, or even trigger them based on your text chat with a gadget like Auto Emote. However, these are limited too, and because of the way SL works, the person you’re talking to might not be looking at your face anyway.

There are Gestures. Once again, though, the gesture to convey exactly the meaning or emotion you want may not be available, and the time it takes to scroll through a long list of gestures and pick one may be too long. Besides, most of the Gestures I’ve seen are good for jokes or for annoying people in a crowded club, but not for expressing one’s feelings.

If animations, facial expressions, and Gestures are not enough to express yourself, what can a poor avatar do? Ta-da! Chat emotes to the rescue!

Chat emotes are used many places on the internet, and began back when all internet communication was ONLY in text. There are several categories of them in fairly general use. People may tell you “THE” way to emote…but really, any style that gets your meaning across will be fine.

Emoticons. Almost everyone knows about emoticons. They are the combinations of punctuation marks that can “stand in” for the facial expressions that text can’t convey. Like :) (smile) :)) (bigger smile) :D (big grin or laughter). Or :/ (wry grimace) :((frown) and many others. Typists in the USA tend to use “sideways” emoticons, while Japanese typists use a more horizontal style of expression, like <O.o> or simply O.o (a surprised or skeptically raised eyebrow) or ^oo^ (cat staring at you attentively). Here’s a link to a list of many more emoticons

Abbreviations. Acronyms like LOL (Laughing Out Loud) or OMG! (Oh my god!) are ways to insert an indication of the way one intends one’s text to be taken. They’re fine, but don’t overuse them please. I have met many people who use lol as a sort of verbal pause in text…every sentence begins or ends with a lol.  Here's a list of common chat acronyms:

Asterisked Emotes. You can separate short emotes from the “spoken” part of your text with asterisks. As in, “*gasp!* Linden Lab just announced new benefits for Premium members!

/me Emotes. Normally, your chat appears like this…Lindal Kidd: Let’s go out for ice cream. Your name, a colon, and what it is that you said. But, if you type “/me” before your text, the colon does not appear, and you can make the text line describe an action or an emotion instead of speech. If I type “/me thinks about a double hot fudge sundae and grins”, the chat window will look like this…Lindal Kidd thinks about a double hot fudge sundae and grins Some viewers will even show an emote in italics to distinguish it further from spoken chat.

Most viewers now offer a shortcut that you can use in place of “/me”. If you set it up in your Preferences, you can type a colon instead. : thinks about a double hot fudge sundae and grins. Make sure there is no space between the colon and the next character you type. You can even use the possessive case…:’s head lifts and she inhales the rich scent of hot fudge becomes Lindal Kidd’s head lifts and she inhales the rich scent of hot fudge.

You should mix spoken chat and emotes. Here’s an example…

Lindal Kidd: Let’s go sailing. I have a new boat!
Cindi Wyler: Cool! How does it handle sim crossings?
Lindal Kidd shrugs
Lindal Kidd: I don’t know, I haven’t tried it out yet
Cindi Wyler laughs!
Cindi Wyler: Well, rez it and we’ll find out.
Lindal Kidd nods.

You can combine an emote with spoken text, either by separating the emote with asterisks, as I noted earlier, or by putting the spoken text in quotes, like this…

Lindal Kidd looks about in puzzlement. “Now where is the boat rezzing area in this marina?”

The emote triggers, /me or :, work in local chat, and in IMs too.

Practice your emoting! Skillfully done, emoting can convey an enormous amount of meaning that simple typed “spoken text” cannot. Emoting is used in everyday interaction in Second Life, but it’s even more important in many sorts of formal roleplaying. After all, roleplaying is a sort of collective storytelling – so it’s more fun for everyone if everybody is a good “story writer”. Depending on your roleplay group, you may run into additional rules or conventions, such as the use of local chat for “in character” communication and IM for “out of character” remarks. Or they may use the convention of putting ((out of character remarks in double parentheses)).
And of course, chat emotes are used in the much more intimate, one-on-one of on line romance and cyber-sex. Are you aroused by a well-written love scene in a book? Well, that’s exactly what you are setting out to do with your cyber-sex partner…and he is trying to do the same for you.

Some people just don’t communicate easily or well with the written word. For them, we have Voice. That’s fine, if that is the way you communicate best.
/me grins, waves, and saunters off. “See you all next time!”

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