Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Body Swapping

In Second Life, the only thing that you can't change about yourself is your user name.  Everything else is negotiable.  Switch your clothes, your size, your shape.  Go from Snow White pale to the darkest skin tone.  Change your gender...change your species.  Change your Display Name.

Some residents don't change very often at all.  I know some who don't even change their clothes for days or weeks at a time, or even longer.  Like Clark Kent, they wear the same blue suit all the time.  Others switch avatars five or six times while I'm having a conversation with them, like my friends Xymbers Slade or Zaphod Kotobide.

You can go further, and create an alt -- another Second Life account with a new user name.  Most long-term SL residents have at least one alt.  Some people who are dedicated roleplayers may have dozens of "characters".

But some residents take change to another level, one that (arguably) violates the Second Life Terms of Service.  They swap accounts.  For some period of time, they literally "become another person", using someone else's avatar, their inventory, and their Friends List.  There is at least one in world group you can join if you want to meet others who share this interest.

No, I'm not going to list that group name here.  You can find it in Search if you are really interested.  As for me, I am against this sort of extreme roleplaying, for several reasons.

  • It's against the Second Life Terms of Service. Here are a couple of relevant excerpts:
You are responsible for all activities conducted through your Account. In the event that fraud, illegality or other conduct that violates this Agreement is discovered or reported (whether by you or someone else) that is connected with your Account, we may suspend or terminate your Account

You are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of your password and are responsible for any harm resulting from your disclosure, or authorization of the disclosure of your password or from any person's use of your password to gain access to your Account or Account Name. ... Your disclosure of your password to any other person is at your own risk.

You may not assign ...your Account without the prior written consent of Linden Lab.
  • You risk your account by allowing another person access.  Yes, you can minimize the risk by using an alt with no funds in her account, and changing the password as soon as your swap period is over.  But every account has at least a Real Life email address contact associated with it.  Do you want to risk an anonymous stranger being only a support ticket away from that information?
  • You risk your account being permanently stolen.  What if the other person changes your account password, and deletes the account you know them as?  What are you going to do...Abuse Report them and explain to Linden Lab you compromised your own account?  Good luck with that.
  • You risk your account being Abuse Reported and suspended or banned.  If the person you swap with commits a serious violation with your account, YOU are the one who gets the penalty.  Worse, if the violation is bad enough, ALL your accounts could be banned from Second Life.
  • Your friends can be hurt.  At the very least, they may wonder why "you" are acting differently.  At worst, you could return to your account to find that you have left your partner for someone else, alienated your best friend, and been banned from your favorite club or group.
  • And of course, the same applies to the friends of the person you're swapping with.  You are deceiving them, pretending to be someone you are not.  Maybe you get a thrill out of that, but you can be sure they won't.
I'm not sure I have ever encountered someone who's swapped accounts with someone I know, but I have had similar experiences.  A couple of times, a friend has let someone else take their seat at the computer back there in Real Life and use my friend's avatar to talk with me.  This is a very unsettling experience.  One becomes used to thinking of avatars as distinct people.  To have one of those people suddenly become someone else while still looking like the friend I know is deeply disturbing, even when I know what is going on.

There's a limit to the amount of malleability we can accept in our world, and for me at least, "body swapping" (or perhaps more accurately, "account sharing") goes beyond it.

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