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Avatars Need Personal Space Too 127

Nicola Jones writes to alert us to a study showing that avatars need their personal space. Avatars in the virtual reality of Second Life act like real people in this way: boy avatars stand further apart than female ones, and characters tend to avert their gaze from each others' eyes when standing close together. This result holds whether the avatar is being played by a man or a woman. From the article: "The authors say this means that these online gaming environments are a goldmine of social data as well as a potential experimental research platform." Obviously not all behaviours translate from the real world to the virtual one, notes UIUC computer game researcher Dmitri Williams: "There is no research on what translates and what doesn't.... People's willingness to take risks in online worlds is radically different. Death is not permanent online."
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Avatars Need Personal Space Too

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  • by Jeian ( 409916 ) on Monday September 11, 2006 @05:34PM (#16084688)
    The authors say this means that these online gaming environments are a goldmine of social data

    Uh huh. I've had a lot less people ask me "R U 4 SECKS CHAT???" in real life.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 11, 2006 @05:36PM (#16084711)
      Uh huh. I've had a lot less people ask me "R U 4 SECKS CHAT???" in real life.

      You don't hang out in the right bars.
    • by eepok ( 545733 )
      Try being a female at a club, bar, or any other alcohol-related social scene. It's called "pick up lines" and getting "hit on".

      The spelling/iteration isn't too far off, either. ;)
    • Avatars in the virtual reality of Second Life act like real people in this way: boy avatars stand further apart than female ones, and characters tend to avert their gaze from each others' eyes when standing close together.

      Yeah, when I'm in 30-second warm up in Wolf:ET and I'm lying on top of my teammate knifing him in the thigh, I try to avert my gaze.

      I wouldn't want to act too gay, you know.
  • by User 956 ( 568564 ) on Monday September 11, 2006 @05:34PM (#16084696) Homepage
    Avatars in the virtual reality of Second Life act like real people in this way

    Avatars act like real people in almost every way. They're extremely materialistic, cliquish, and superficial. "Playing" a game like Second Life is like hanging around with a bunch of thriteen-year-olds. The only difference is the conversation is less intelligent.
    • by UbuntuDupe ( 970646 ) on Monday September 11, 2006 @05:51PM (#16084834) Journal
      Looks like you didn't get as much as you could have out of Second Life. Try the following strategies:

      1) Script a device so it acts like a listening bug and plant it in people's houses. (Make sure to have it spawn a copy of itself every 10 hours so it doesn't get deleted!) Confront them when they talk smack about you, and blame any third parties in the room for ratting.

      2) Name a device after someone nearby and have it make offensive remarks. By default, objects have green text when they speak, while humans have white text, so be sure to have it preface its statements "Hey, check this out guys, I can make my text green!"

      3) Arrange to store your money with someone else before you get your "allowance" so it will think you're poor and given you more Linden Dollars.

      If you just did some of those things, I'm sure you'd have more fun.
      • by Lordfly ( 590616 )
        Er.

        1) is against the ToS, and would have you banned (in theory).

        2) Only a moron would fall for that, seriously... Then again....

        3) That, uh, doesn't work. :) Unless you'd like to give it to me...
      • by mikael ( 484 )
        Does the game have a "virtual parrot"? That would be interesting....
        • Anyone can script a parrot, easily. I'm currently working on a dynamic 3D radar which collects all avatar info in a 100m radius...
      • I love how the parent post is nothing but stuff 13 year olds would try in real life like snooping in on what the girls are saying and scamming dad for more allowance. What a perfect justification of the grandparent's criticism.
    • Materialistic, what do you mean by that?

      I mean, oh my god, have you seen the dresses at Dazzle, delish! And the gowns at Rebel Hope and Simone are to die for. Simone has a new gown called Salome that has matching Shiny Things "Lady" slingbacks available. Tres Chic!

      Actually the materialism is part of the fun, at least for me.

  • Wow.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) *

    Nearly as original as putting up a DikuMUD, today.

    what?!?!? that waifish female elfen thief is really a 57 year old cost accountant named Roger? I think I'll be sick first, then kill his ass!

  • by AdamTrace ( 255409 ) on Monday September 11, 2006 @05:35PM (#16084704)
    First of all, the granularity for moving around seems to be about 1 meter. Getting into just the right position (conversational position, you perverts! :) can be somewhat difficult. Same with facing angle... it seems to be about 10 degrees.

    Trying to draw any sort of conclusions about subtle nuances of communcation seems, frankly, rediculous.

    Adman
    • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) *

      rediculous

      As opposed to bluediculous or greendiculous..

      Seriously, you think there's no problem with people getting the wrong idea or trying to pervert things in a highly pixelated environment where they once got on just dandy with nothing but text?

    • by lawpoop ( 604919 )
      Then how would you explain the discrepancy between the distance of male-male and male-female pairs? Why would pepople take such pains, either consciously or unconsciously, in such a grainy environment?
      • Then how would you explain the discrepancy between the distance of male-male and male-female pairs? Why would pepople take such pains, either consciously or unconsciously, in such a grainy environment?

        Wouldn't it be fun if it's the game doing it?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      And, it's 3rd person. In every 3rd person game I've seen, if you can see the guy on the screen, that's good enough. Actually pointing your avatar at someone else's avatar is very rarely done.

      In a first-person game, you'd see this more often. People would actually look at the person they were talking to out of habit rather than standing so they were looking out at the wall or what not.

      Since I'm a nerd, that's part of the reason I've been trying to get developers to make first-person MMO's. I think it w
      • SL is different than other online games, the players tend to react in more realistic ways. I've seen players turn towards other avatars that they're talking to. I've done it myself, not just in Second Life but in EQOA and FFXI too.

        As for first person MMO, SL FFXI and EQOA have first person modes.

    • Not to mention that it's entirely possible there is a variability in 3rd-party avatar locations.

      Play 2 accounts on 2 separate computers, and it's possible that while YOU think you are standing only 3' fromthat avatar, they see you as being 6+ feet away.

      Common in all but a few MMOGs (WW2OL being one of the few where 3rd party and 1st person representations are tracked to a high resolution, IMO).

      So this 'data' is valueless unless the researchers are ALWAYS looking at the first person data.
  • Anonymity (Score:3, Funny)

    by IflyRC ( 956454 ) on Monday September 11, 2006 @05:38PM (#16084732)
    I think avatars actually act differently than the controller (player) would in a similar real world social situation.

    With the internet things like chat rooms or online games shield the person from most of the social or psychological repurcussions for certain behavior. 30 year olds act like 15 year olds. Accountability goes out the window. The moral boundaries are also changed. How many people do you know that would cheat in an online game but would not cheat on an exam?
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I recently started using Second Life. I haven't noticed myself behaving differently in social situations. In fact, the first thing I did in SL was find a quite corner, sit down and start playing with the building tools and scripting language. I'm as socially inept in SL as I am in RL. Pure geek.

      I have noticed myself throwing myself off roofs for kicks though... which is not something I'd even consider in real life -- but you said "real world social situations".

      • Look for "New Citizens Incorporated" in Kuula. Great place to build, hang out, and generally chill. Look out for Locke Traveler - that's me. The sandbox is good and the classes are better. Just pretend it's not lagging as much as it is. XD
    • by raehl ( 609729 )
      30 year olds act like 15 year olds

      Sounds just like the real world to me.
    • I disagree with your conclusion that someone would cheat in an online game but not in the real world. I've been giving a lot of thought to cheating in MMORPGs lately, and have been observing behavior in Eve-Online, which is my favorite online entertainment.

      I've tried to talk to players who have either "ganked" or scammed other players and I've found that even outside their role-playing they feel comfortable with unethical behavior. I've spoken to about 20 players involved in what I would consider online c
  • by Tarlus ( 1000874 ) on Monday September 11, 2006 @05:39PM (#16084740)
    Why do they call it "Second Life" if it's for MMO people who don't even have a primary life?
    • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) *

      Why do they call it "Second Life" if it's for MMO people who don't even have a primary life?

      Because they can get the kind of life they want in, oh a few days or less online, where they can try for years to get the kind of life they want IRL and still end up where they started, if not worse off?

      660,000 people online. Says something about dissatisfaction with that status quo, perhaps.

      • by IflyRC ( 956454 )
        660,000 people online. Says something about dissatisfaction with that status quo, perhaps.

        It also could mean that some of these individuals have self esteem issues, be physically challenged, or might just be lazy in the real world. If you tell me I can be a rock star in a game in a few hours or weeks great! Tell me to that to be a rock star in the real world that I have to have talent (talent is for sake of argument - we all know you don't REALLY need talent ie. Ashley Simpson), work a day job/play clubs
        • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) *

          I don't think it says much about people being unhappy in their real world First Life, I think it is a means for some people to live out a fantasy life for fun.

          Right, where in real life they're not necessarily accepted into any group or don't have a lot of friends.

          Online: Hi, I'm Bobasaurus. Hi Bobasaurus, how's it going? Great, can I hang with you? Sure. etc.

          • by arose ( 644256 )
            This also works about the same offline, but the people it works with just aren't the ones a shy geek would like to spend much time with.
      • by jandrese ( 485 )
        I'd take that 660,000 figure with a grain of salt. Lindon Labs (the SL developers) are pretty loose with what they consider a "user". While it's not hard to find people online (there's a giant worldmap that shows where everybody is in the world), it doesn't take long to realize that even the people who are "online" are often AFK and just sitting in camping chairs. I seriously doubt they've ever had 660,000 online at once too, I think that's a count of the registered (and it's free to register!) accounts.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by ABoerma ( 941672 )
      Isn't WoW a primary life?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Frogbert ( 589961 )
      Because it's at least four times better then Half-Life.
  • "People's willingness to take risks in online worlds is radically different. Death is not permanent online."

    All right, chums, I'm back, let's do this. LEEEEEROY mnmJENNNNNKINNNNS!
    • Wiki reference [wikipedia.org] and Video mirror [youtube.com] :)
    • by dnoyeb ( 547705 )
      I have to disagree totally. Risk taking is very much in line with the real world. It all depends on what is at stake. People in eve-online dont go around shooting people willy-nilly. You can loose a lot of stuff which translates into real world time which translates into real world money if you are not careful.
    • by mikael ( 484 )
      On the nethack discussion groups, players would bitch and complain about the fact that unknown potions could prove to be fatal if consumed in the game, yet they would not drink from an unlabelled bottle in the real world.
  • Death is not permanent online.

    Need to read your copy of Neuromancer again, fuck with the wrong black ice, and death online is infact, permanent.

    Oh, wait I guess I'm about 20 years ahead of reality.

    • Or watch Lain.... *shudders from confuion*
    • by Tackhead ( 54550 )
      > > Death is not permanent online.
      >
      > Need to read your copy of Neuromancer again, fuck with the wrong black ice, and death online is infact, permanent.
      >
      > Oh, wait I guess I'm about 20 years ahead of reality.

      And wouldn't it be great if it was...

      Any doubts on the size of the market for software capable of killing a fucktard over TCP/IP can be resolved by spending 20 minutes in any MMORPG. 10 if the MMORPG is SWG and you're talking about Jedi.

    • by Molochi ( 555357 )
      Such is the penalty only for noob hackers using "trusted" hardware. It is easy to snip the 120v lead that fries your brain when the black ice says "boo."
  • >...Death is not permanent online."

    No proof it's permanent offline either. Could be we have much longer respawn time. Or that "afterlife" thing... might be available for a small price... your immortal soul!
    • Screw that. I'm not giving up my soul until I can respawn with a sniper rifle.
    • true. we very well could respawn. but the save system is broken: you have to start over at the beginning with a new character every time, and you don't get to keep the benefits of your previous run, other than the fact that you may have made a mark on the world.

      or, alternately, maybe we die several times in everyday life... but the 'player' saves every so often. to the character, reloading the last save would be imperceptible, so thats why we don't remember getting hit at the intersection on our way to work
  • Second Life (Score:3, Insightful)

    by celardore ( 844933 ) on Monday September 11, 2006 @05:42PM (#16084772)
    I tried out Second Life for the first time today, and was sorely dissapointed. I'd read the BBC News [bbc.co.uk] article about it so I thought I'd see what the fuss was about.

    It was really laggy, maybe my housemate was killing my bandwidth with downloading again. That made it pretty much unplayable, but the fact it crashed no less than ten times (something my computer never does) in about 30 minutes turned me right off it.

    What I did observe though was a lot of confused characters running around and telling each other to "get lost" and then LOLing heartily. Reminded me of school in some small way.
    • You need some serious hardware and graphics to drive it - I couldn't get it to a playable level on less than an X2 processor and fast nvidia card.
    • Unfortunately, Second Life requires a LOT of processing power, video memory, and bandwidth. Also, the initial Help Islands aren't always the best place to get an impression - after them, the wheat generally gets filtered from the chaff. Like the real world, there are a lot of places you wouldn't wanna spend time in, and there are some truly great places that everyone loves.
      *shrugs* Second Life isn't for everyone. You really have to get a feeling for it.
    • I play around on SL a few hours a month, maybe. Let me tell you - the hardware requirements are -obscene-, and to get it to run without lag is impossible, even on a fat pipe. If you tweak the settings, you can make things a bit more tolerable - unless you're in a "Welcome area", which is where I bet you landed. Those places are the default starting point once you get off the 'newbie island'. They're festering lag pits full of AOL-style chatter (OMG NO RLY? ME 2!!!)

      If you want to see more of SL, I recomm
      • A fat pipe does help....somewhat. The newest clients are much better lagwise than 1.11 and earlier.

        I have graphical settings turned up (being a fashionista in the game) so it's always slow for me. I can speed it up some by running it at 800x600 rather than the full window size.

        I'm on a laptop too, 2.2 GHz Mobile Celeron, i852/855 integrated graphics, 512MB RAM. The newer clients seem to handle themselves better, I can actually run a web browser or notepad with 1.12 and not crash.

        My homepoint is in a Wel
  • From what I've read, an avatar in Second Life can be anything from a walking flowerpot to a polka-dotted dragon. I really don't see how avatar interaction can be used to glean any useful information.
  • by Aelcyx ( 123258 ) on Monday September 11, 2006 @05:50PM (#16084829)
    It would be cool if your character could get a job in this game. Unfortunately, the game is retarded. They need a way to buy guns in the game so you can mug people.

    Or better yet, just make GTA into a MMORPG.
    • It would be cool if your character could get a job in this game.

      Next time check out the classifieds [secondlife.com] before you speak.

      They need a way to buy guns in the game so you can mug people.

      There are places in the community that you can do this. It is a full on world with sex, guns, money, power, and plenty of stupidity. Its fun. As far as hardware. Seems to run fine on my P4E 3.0Ghtz ATI 9800Pro 1Gig ram

    • by jejones ( 115979 )
      I take it that you haven't actually tried Second Life, or didn't ever click Edit>Search and select Classifieds, and then under categories, select "Employment."
    • GTA already ahs an MMORPG. Its called "L.A."

      Comment aside, I'd have to agree and say that you should play the game before badmouthing it, since the game does have jobs, and not everything needs to have guns to be cool.

      Swords work just as affectively.
    • by Aelcyx ( 123258 )
      I did try it and maybe I joined too early because no one knew anything about jobs or whatnot. I think they wanted me to pay real money to play or something. I'm too cheap for that.

      And I already live in the "Real GTA".
      • and again, you miss the mark completely. I have a free account, I create content which I sell and support myself in game through this, renting 6 shop locations plus support a serious shopping habit (Daryth's dragons are expensive) and I always have dollars to spare in my account.. which I can translate to real money in my pocket whenever I want.
  • People's willingness to take risks in online worlds is radically different. Death is not permanent online."

    And neither is herpes so go and get all the free love you want online.

    Oh wait. I guess virtual worlds are still more "virtual" than they are worldly.

    Is it really a "risk" if the consquences aren't real?
    • Exactly. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by raehl ( 609729 ) <raehl311@y a h o o . com> on Monday September 11, 2006 @06:12PM (#16084977) Homepage
      People's willingess to take risks online is about the same as their willingness to take risks elsewhere. It's just that risks online tend to be small.

      Th risk of pissing off someone you 'met' 30 seconds ago is much lower than pissing off someone you work with every day. On the same token, there are plenty of people who have very bad behavior when interacting in 'the real world' with people they don't expect to see again - just hang around the customer service dept. of any retail establishment for a bit.
  • The Actual Paper (Score:5, Interesting)

    by j1m+5n0w ( 749199 ) on Monday September 11, 2006 @06:04PM (#16084917) Homepage Journal

    Nick Yee, Jeremy N Bailenson, Mark Urbanek, Francis Chang, Dan Merget, The Unbearable Likeness of Being Digital: The Persistence of Nonverbal Social Norms in Online Virtual Environments [nickyee.com].

    (Given that the whole article is about a particular paper, they should have given a proper citation, or at least told us what the title of the paper was.)

    My summary of their findings: on average, female characters stand closer to female characters than male characters stand to male characters. Distance between male-female pairs has larger variability than distance between same-gender pairs. This is the same as what happens in real life.

    • I'm certain that I've seen this study pop up before, perhaps even at Slashdot.

      I think the study reeks of bullshit anyway. There isn't even any eye contact in games.
    • by dnnrly ( 120163 )
      It's worth pointing out that another conclusion of this paper is that not only does avatar behaviour match that of people in the real world, but the correlation is strong enough that further study should be carried out as to whether using online world should be used to study a wider range of human behaviour. For example, they suggest that it might be possible to study the affects of having a male become pregnant or study economics using online monetary systems.
  • UIUC computer game researcher Dmitri Williams
    Is "computer game research" part of the English Lit department?
  • and, when they die in the Sims 2, I prefer to keep them at a retirement home, so they won't wake up the old folks too much (they live upstairs, the bottom floor is for cars and aspiration rewards).
    • when they die in the Sims 2, I prefer to keep them at a retirement home

      They came out with a Sims 2:New Orleans expansion?

      • Not really. It's just when they're too old, I burn up all their aspiration points and shuffle them off to a retirement home - note that this fries out Permanent Platinum, but since I don't intend them to live long, it's ok by me.
  • What was the author of this smoking ? I want some :) The avatars' physical behaviors, in-game body language and motions are umm PROGRAMMED. Players DO NOT have control of things like head movements and innate motions. The avatars behave just like the people and sex they were modeled after. While I don't dispute the wealth of sociological information available, I hardly think that pre-programmed body langauge gives insightful clues into human nature other than that of the designers, and judging by the propor
    • by f-matic ( 643215 )
      According to the actual article [nickyee.com] referred to by the Nature summary (but to which they decided apparently not to include a link), the researchers measured the IPD by dint of users actually pressing keys to control the character. It wasn't calculated by actual distance in pixels, but rather the players' intentions as measurable by keyboard controls.
    • Actually, you can direct your avatar's head movement- after a short delay it follows your cursor, so if you mouseover something your avatar looks at it. If you then leave your mouse in one place, eventually your avatar will go back into the 'randomly looking around' animation. It took me a while to work that one out. Supposedly, Linden Labs is planning to allow people to move individual body parts (like a hand to point or wave) at some point.
      • by Nurgled ( 63197 )

        I seem to remember also that if you alt+click somewhere, as you would to go into "zoom the camera about" mode, it fixes your avatar's gaze on that point, regardless of what you do with the mouse, until you move or click somewhere else.

  • by kinglink ( 195330 ) on Monday September 11, 2006 @06:26PM (#16085076)
    Tell that to my sims. Swimming to their death.. peeing themselves to their death. Killing themselves when fixing a light bulb.

    Not only is Death permanent but it's humiliating.
  • Culture (Score:4, Interesting)

    by venicebeach ( 702856 ) on Monday September 11, 2006 @06:43PM (#16085197) Homepage Journal
    i wonder if the distance also varies with the player's cultural background. For example, I noticed traveling in India that the expected amount of personal distance was much less than in America. Haven't read the article, so maybe they talk about this.
  • Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Monday September 11, 2006 @07:07PM (#16085327)
    Did you see that?

    See what?

    That avatar looked at me...

    C'mon man...avatars can't 'look' at anybody...

    No, man...I'm serious as a heart-attack. I swear. That big red she-male avatar over there by the elevator looked right at me!

    Listen. Avatars here are on display...that's all. They have no host and no history files so they can't do ANYTHING - get it?

    Ok, whatever you say, but I'm telling you, that 'no-host, no-history' cross-breed stared at me as we floated by.
  • "Death is not permanent online." but it jacks up 10 minutes of your life when you have to take the spirit rez... If i recall most player modles dont have collision detection. Its more to fun to stand inside that green haired preist...
  • Seriously, I can't believe this is being given any attention whatsoever. Anyone discussing this with a critical eye is wasting their time, and is probably mentally retarded.
  • It even runs on Linux. Linux-Alpha [secondlife.com] 32bit Intel that is.
  • Risks online? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pluther ( 647209 ) <pluther@uLIONsa.net minus cat> on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @01:04AM (#16086701) Homepage
    People's willingness to take risks in online worlds is radically different.

    This is true. I almost never try to infiltrate galactic death machines in real life without proper protective gear and never rely on finding all the ammo I need laying around in containers in empty rooms.

  • Aversion of Eyes?! (Score:3, Informative)

    by weasel5i2 ( 994250 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @02:16AM (#16086896) Homepage
    Article: Male avatars (whether created by a man or a woman) stood further apart than female avatars, for instance, and were more likely to avert their gaze. And when an avatar gets within a few metres of another, the user reduces eye contact by moving their character to face slightly to the right or the left of the other 'person'.

    Now, as a semi-regular presence in Second Life, I must say that the statements above are not necessarily true. The SL avatar's gaze follows the UI mouse pointer, and considering that the average user spends a lot of time in the UI navigating through inventory/item edit/whatnot, I think it can be said that a good portion of an avatar's gaze direction is a side-effect of the real user's actions at the time. Even if they are "moving their character to face slightly to the right or the left of the other 'person'.", their eyes don't remain fixed on one location. It's just as easy to have [the virtual-world equivalent appearance of] eye-contact with the other individual(s) as if you're facing them directly.. It's all about what you're doing with the mouse at the time.

    $0.02

    --Weasel
  • Isn't /. and the rest of the web tired of the relentless PR 'news releases' and 'studies' that Second Life is constantly sending to every web news site.

    Second Life is trying to make up for a poor 'gaming' experience by somehow convincing everyone that it's newsworthy to have virtual cybersex and pay for virtual items. That was old news in the 90s.

According to the latest official figures, 43% of all statistics are totally worthless.

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