Weekend Shopping List: This Mesh Head is so Beautiful That it Barely Looks Like an SL Avatar

VCO Mesh Head Tia
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

There's a new item at the top of my virtual world shopping list this weekend: The Tia mesh head by VCO, available at The Winter Wonderland event [Teleport link]. I already have my fair share of mesh heads, and these days the latest from The Sugar Garden has been serving me just fine. So why am I in the market for yet another? Well, when I first saw the above image of this finely-featured face from VCO I didn't entirely believe they were shot in Second Life. 

I don't mean that Tia looks hyper-realistic, however. Far from it. She looks more like a flawlessly modded Sims 3 character, or even a high-end doll, and to me that's just as appealing as realism would be.

Even if Tia's not to your liking you may want to swing by Winter Wonderland anyway, especially if you're looking for the perfect finishing touch for your virtual home...

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Can You Pose Your SL Avatar for a Yearbook-Style Photo?

Second Life Yearbook pics

Here's a fun new challenge for the new year: Can you pose your SL avatar like he or she was smiling for a high school yearbook photo? That's the premise for Strawberry Singh's Second Life Yearbook Smile Challenge.. "I always have a hard time trying to make my avatar not look so creepy while smiling," as she explains how the idea came to be, "so I was testing it out a few days ago and shared my image on Plurk and Whiskey Monday came in leaving me comments as if she was signing my yearbook, which I thought was hilarious!"

Here's how to submit:

Share an image of your Second Life avatar smiling for a yearbook photo. Don’t forget to share the link to your post in the comments and add your pictures to the new Second Life Yearbook flickr group, you can also share them in the Blog Memes flickr group if you like.

Then again, is just about every high school yearbook photo I've ever seen, all the students' smiles are totally awkward -- covering up the braces on their face, trying to look emo and totally failing, and so on. (Not to mention the horrible hairstyles, the pimples, the look of inward terror and sexual frustration.) Now that's another yearbook avatar meme I'd love to see.

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Physics and the Female Avatar in Second Life

Ciaran Laval just asked a very interesting, provocative question: "Do Avatar Physics Make Females Feel Unwelcome In Second Life?" He's encouraging responses from women reading the post, and I'm curious to read their responses too.

There's an Ugly Side to Dragon Age: Inquisition's Most Beautiful Virtual Fashions

DAI  (26)
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Why is it that feminine fashion in video games always seems to indicate something about the character wearing it? Why is it never just a matter of taste? It's the case in countless games, including BioWare's Dragon Age: Inquisition, and the subject of my latest article for Paste. As much as I love Inquisition and its stunning fashions, the way those fashions deal with femininity fits a little too well into some all-too-common media tropes.

Beyond the usual handful of narrowminded people who think dissecting a game's style and design choices is more "superficial" than writing a list of its most obvious mechanical elements would be, I've already gotten a lot of interesting feedback about this post. Pleasantly enough, one of the most insightful comments yet has come from a BioWare employee...

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Paint Me Like One of Your Virtual Girls: Don't Miss This Second Life Artist's Gorgeous Avatar Portraits

Jaimy Detail - Nylon Pinkney
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

As if any of us needed another reason to be in awe of SL designer and RL artist Nylon Pinkney, but here's one more to add to the list. Nylon (whose fans include comedian Drew Carey) has recently been painting up a storm with a series of beautifully detailed digital avatar portraits, including the one above which you can see in full on Flickr

Nylon's artistic talents are no mystery to those of us who follow her in SL, but if you're new to her work you may want to catch up...

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RIP Eddie Escher, Pioneering Second Life Creator UPDATED: Added Short Video Documentary

Eddie Escher Chris Edwards Second Life

Fallingwater Cellardoor & Eddie Escher in Second Life, 2004; Alayne Wartell & Chris Edwards at his 40th birthday, 2010

Once upon a time, two shy but talented 3D artists met as avatars in Second Life, fell in love with each others' virtual creativity, and then finally, fell in love with each other, and moved across an ocean, to be together. In Second Life they were known as Fallingwater Cellardoor and Eddie Escher, and in 2004, they were among the world's best 3D artists. I wrote about how they met and fell in love then, but sad to say that Eddie, called Chris Edwards, passed away eariler this year, tragically just shy of his 45th birthday. Years before mesh or even sculpted prims, Eddie (a game dev artist by trade), showed how beautiful Second Life prims can be (see below). Fallingwater recently posted this sad news on the new Facebook group for longtime SLers, and since the story of their meeting is among my favorites, I wanted to share it here:

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The Cold, Dead Eyes of Kevin Spacey Proves We're Still Years from Realistically Emotive Avatars

Here's Conan O'Brien having a lot of fun with the latest Call of Duty game, which features the motion-capped performance of Kevin Spacey (who appears at about 5 minutes in), and as Conan himself suggests, when it comes to realistically emotive avatars, we're still at least a few years from escaping the Uncanny Valley:

As anyone who's watched House of Cards or pretty much any movie or TV episode from Spacey's legendary career can tell you, Spacey can convey fucktons of emotion and deep eddies of thought from subtle changes in his eyes or facial muscles. And none of that is coming through in his CoD avatar. And the Call of Duty franchise is using the very latest in 3D animation technology, and is developed with a budget on par with major Hollywood movies. And yet, still, Spacey: Cold, dead eyes. So I'd say we're still several years (decades?) away from truly emotive, realistic avatars.

Oh, and before you mention Andy Serkis, here's the thing:

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In Second Life, No One Knows You're a Billionaire

Pierre Omidyar Second Life

This fascinating New York Magazine profile of eBay founder, investor, and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar has a paragraph that will amuse many NWN readers:

Though he continued to be eBay’s board chairman and largest shareholder, Omidyar receded from view in Silicon Valley. “Pierre has been such a reclusive guy for the past few years,” says Philip Rosedale, who founded the technology firm Linden Lab, developer of the animated interactive world Second Life. During the mid-2000s, Omidyar immersed himself in the Second Life community, adopting a secret identity: a tattooed black man named Kitto Mandala. Even after Omidyar became a Linden Lab investor, Rosedale primarily interacted with his animated avatar. Mandala rode a Segway and wore a T-shirt that said KISS ME I’M LAWFUL EVIL. He could fly, and hardly anyone knew he was really a billionaire.

Gawker, being Gawker, hunted up the old Flickr page of "Kitto Mandala" for some light-hearted snark. (That's Kitto above, with unidentified butterfly girl.) As it happens, I knew Omidyar was a hardcore Second Life user over a decade ago, but because I found that out while still working for Linden Lab, kept that inside info to myself. (Especially because Omidyar to my knowledge never "outed" his avatar). However -- and this is something New York and Gawker missed -- Omidyar wasn't just geeking around in Second Life, he actually considered it an important platform for activism, and sponsored an SL island promoting awareness of genocide in Sudan -- which as I wrote in 2006, become a flashpoint for online griefing and heroism:

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Iris Wants to Know: What Costume Are You Wearing For Halloween in Second Life and/or Reality?

Bakemonoya

Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

I haven't had the occasion to dress up for Halloween for a few years now, even though it's easily one on my favorite holidays. This year for the first time in a while I won't even be dressing up in the virtual world, either. It's a bit of a bummer, especially since I've still got that fashionista itch to buy loads of newly released Second Life costumes, just for the sake of having them. After all, one day I might need one of them (I won't.) Maybe (Nope.) Who can say? (Me.)

So let me celebrate this holiest of days vicariously through you. I want to know what you'll be dressing up as for Halloween, both online and offline. Share your costumes in the comments below and, naturally, if you're a blogger or photographer feel free to link your favorite Halloween looks as well and inspire those of us who have to wait until next year to get back into the spooky swing of things.

And if you're looking for the creepy-cute costume pictured above, it's a classic mesh gem from Bakemonoya that I covered way back in 2012. Check out the details here.

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The Trouble with Being a Tiny Avatar in Second Life

Small Second Life avatar

Terry Shuriken made the tiniest avatar in Second Life I've ever seen, as I blogged a couple weeks ago, but as it turns out, this tiniest of tinies is not for sale: "Uh, nope not selling this because its veeery unusable," Terry tells me, then goes on to tell me about the trouble with being so tiny: "You can't see it [the avatar, that is] unless you press control+0 many many times to zoom in, and also use zoom-in HUDs to zoom in even further."

And even if you manage to get your camera on the avatar, heaven help you if you try to move:

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