Building a life together from the animation of desire (originally published here).
Phil Murdock had a hankering for his neighbor Snow Hare; to launch a romance with her, he hit on the most logical solution available to him: he got on his motorcycle and crashed it into Ms. Hare’s living room.
“Break the ice,” Phil shrugs. “Nothing like a motorcycle crash and a ‘sorry’.” He’s a brawny, bare-chested guy with close-cropped hair (not unlike the photograph in his First Life profile), and keeps a nickel-plated .45 crammed in the front of his leather pants. “It’s been love ever since.”
That was last June; their first month together in-world was a whirlwind of clubbing, shopping sprees, and building. Come July, they started creating custom animations to sell. Phil would design them offline in Poser, then upload and attach them to their avatars, so they could try them out. By that time, however, they both knew their feelings for each other were real and deep, and not just confined to their avatars. Trouble was, in real life, they lived several states and 700 miles away from each other.
And so to move things along, they hit on the most logical solution available to them: they created a kiss. Not just a friendly embrace, either; those already existed, anyway. What they had in mind was a kiss worthy of the name-- full-bodied, open-mouthed, devouring.
“We stood toe to toe and I wrapped the animation to our bodies,” says Phil. He had to modify the animation to make all the body parts come together just right. He also worked on making it more passionate, with his fingers tracing up her back, his granite body pressing ever more closer into hers. Recounting it now, he laughs. “Every time I tweaked it I got an ‘Oooh’ out of her. Was a ton of fun.” And though this kiss really only involved a depiction of their two animated characters together onscreen, he says, “[T]he first Second Life kiss was awesome and special. Just as special as the first in real life.”
But that kiss came a couple months later. First, they had a business to launch in the lucrative field of custom animations—in particular, the kind of animations that two or more people can engage in, out of public view in the Mature regions.
“We didn’t like what was out there already,” Snow Hare tells me. She’s a delicate brunette with bright eyes (not unlike the photograph in her First Life profile), in bare feet and jeans. They set out creating new animations, Phil working his Poser skills, Snow Hare acting as his model and his inspiration. (And later, she’d make the furniture they’d embed with “poseballs”, a popular scripted object that automatically launches your avatar into a pre-selected animation, when you sit on it.) They created these for their personal enjoyment, but there was also a market out there to serve, too.
Their enterprise, PM Adult, is built on the shore of Innu; an American flag and a giant red arrow point the way into an emporium of their animations, selling all manner of positions, in all levels of explicitness, for several kinds of erotic taste and orientation.
“This is one of our hottest sellers,” Phil announces, on a brief tour. “Watch the book case.” At his command, the bookshelf drops down to the floor, revealing a bed on the other side, thoughtfully arranged with several poseballs, for various couplings.
I ask how many of these animations and poseball furniture they’ve sold, since launching.
“Thousands-- maybe fifteen thousand.” Phil laughs. “Should get a McDonald’s-type ticker on the front.”
“Toys, too,” Snow Hare adds, grinning.
For awhile there, says Phil, PM Adult was pulling down some L$2,000,000 per month, on good months.
The figure makes my head lurch. I actually have to calculate the conversion on pencil and paper, to make sure I’m reading it right. “That's like, uh, $8000 a month!”
“Yeah, about that for a bit,” says Murdock. “When we first hit the scene, was making the ton. But like the Internet boom everybody got it and it’s slowed-- but is still nice.”
Nice also was last Labor Day weekend, when Snow Hare and Phil Murdock had their first real date; for it, they got in their cars and met each other halfway. I ask them if they wondered what would happen, after driving all that while, if they were only to discover they weren’t as compatible in real life.
“Probably would have just gone our separate ways [if it didn’t work] I guess,” Phil muses.
“We agreed that we’d still work together, though,” Snow adds, “but deep down we knew we’d hit it off, it was pretty much a sure thing.”
And so it was. Their first date lasted all Labor Day weekend-- pausing only momentarily, so Snow could meet Phil Murdock’s mother. (“Anyone who’d take you to meet his mother is cool in my book,” she notes.)
It’s not often that two people who've spent so much time creating simulations of passion get a chance to engage in the thing itself, together. So later on, I ask Snow Hare about the impact of their avatar lovemaking on what eventually became a real relationship.
“It wasn’t the only reason that we decided to move onto real life,” she tells me. “As everybody knows, there’s more to a relationship than sex. But I would say yes, it did have an impact, positive, in such a way that I knew what to expect… before real life, I knew what he liked and enjoyed, and vice versa. Since we were honest with each other and were very compatible, it was easy to know what to expect in real life.”
“[I]t was almost like meeting an old friend and a lot of the nervousness of a first date wasn't there,” Phil tells me later. “This medium definitely lets two people share their feelings and desires for one another and that is a powerful thing in itself.”
So their avatars' tandem love gymnastics really meant something after all. And not just as a catalyst for their offline romance-- there was also that nest egg of Linden Dollars they now had, from PM Adult sales. Phil converted enough of that into US currency to buy himself a truck, and a washer/dryer for Snow Hare. And then he converted even more, so he could help Snow move into a new house—this one only a couple hours away from Phil, so they could meet each other a lot more often, with a lot less travel time in between.
“SL, we just keep on chugging making animations and furniture,” says Phil, when asked of their current plans, “RL, keep on huggin’ and kissing and snugglin’.”
Snow Hare laughs. “As long as he can stand my kids. Hopefully things stay the way they are, they are just great.”
Now that they have the best of both worlds, I wonder if she ever fantasizes about the real life version of their romance while in Second Life, or vice versa.
“Not in real life,” Snow answers. “I don’t fantasize about Second Life. And in SL, well sure, I do fantasize about RL, cuz it’s obviously better.
“Who doesn’t want the real version?”