Oh. My. God! I’m contemplating updating the six-month-old “current events” on the secondlife.wikia.com (which takes a bit of searching to locate the actual source page, and which I’m not even sure I can do as a regular user), so I Googled on CSI:NY second life. Near the top of the results was this page: CSI: NY Second Life, which has choosing an avatar as the first step of registration.
The first thing that caught my eye? The clothes are way cooler than what LL starts us off with.
But the important thing to note is that they have honest-to-God African American and Asian avatars. (If I wasn’t white, perhaps this would have been the first thing I noticed instead of the clothes!) In general, the avatars look like they are supplied with better skins than the LL library options.
To reminisce a bit about race and Second Life (and me, mostly), when I first joined, almost a year ago now, I picked the boy next door. I knew just enough to know that I would be changing his appearance, and I was using an old laptop and the graphic quality was, shall we say, marginal. I didn’t pay much attention to the stock avatar options. So when I saw blog posts about how all the stock avatars are white, I thought, uh-uh, there are those urban and Asian dudes. But then I really looked at them. Sigh. It’s only because I’m white that I would ever have breezed past them thinking they adequately reflect racial diversity.
Two people of color (of each gender) to four whites (no furries, nekos, anime, or other non-humans in the CSI signup) still seems limiting, but in looking at wikipedia’s page on Race and ethnicity in the United States Census, I see that it’s not that far off the proportion of the U.S. population. But if I was black or Asian and wanted an avatar that reflected my RL race, “take it or leave it” wouldn’t seem like much of a choice when picking an avatar.
A suggestion to whoever does this next: Have more options. It’s great to have picking an avatar as the first step. It really creates a sense of identity, especially when they are well done avatars that you could actually use for a while. But if someone is going to use one of your avatars for a while, they certainly don’t want to keep running into themselves. And it seems like common decency that if you give people an option of selecting among races, that you give them actual choices. I’m sure six options are nice and tidy for the average browser window, but people are used to scrolling if it’s something that interests them.