A good friend of mine Heleno Nishi has admitted that she has an alternative avatar/character (or simply alt). I do as well; actually I have several of them. The topic of alts is quite fascinating and can also become a quite tempered discussion. Dusan Writer explores many of the ideas about alts in a recent post (and there is a nice comment as to the con of alts from Prokofy Neva, which seems to sum her feelings about alting) but I feel that we’re really not delving into the real core of alting. Creating an alt is really defining a new role for a person; take a look at the reason to create an alt in World of Warcraft. In WoW, I have several rouges, a warrior, and a ranger, each alt is different, each one does different things, and in the guilds I’m in, each alt performs different roles. Having an alt creates a different role for that person; much in the same way in the non-digital real world we have different roles.
In our life, we carry different roles, that of a lover, a friend, a colleague, a parent, a person of business, a student, etc. It is also become increasingly popular for one person to have two different jobs, a day job and a night job or some sort of hobby. In each space the role for that person is different. There are stories of sports cheerleaders who also are teachers or business women, their role as a teacher and a cheerleader are quite different, in some way they are alting. Their role as a teacher may be hidden (or not) from their role as a cheerleader, and both roles exist in two different worlds and have very different responsibilities, and tasks. In actuality, we alt several times in one day, switching from our role as a friend to our role as a business person to our role as a family member; it is quite normal to “alt” and not to share everything about ourselves with everyone. Some people know a few things about me, others don’t.
When we create an avatar, we are “alting”, we are creating a virtual representation of our selves but assigning that avatar different roles. This has become a topic of late that I’ve only begun to understand, how do you manage the roles of your avatar and the roles of your real life self? I always content that my virtual live is an extension to my real life. Nexeus Fatale is an extension to Leo Newball Jr., but even as an extension they have to exist in separate worlds. The work that I do as Leo is in a familiar circle but not the same as what I do with Nexeus. If I were to discuss, as Leo, some of the work that I do, many of my twitter followers as Nexeus would either not care or not be quite interested.
In some way, I have to separate the two on the outside, different accounts for each person (even on the same service), different blogs and even different twitter accounts (guess whose more popular!). Internally, it is all the same but it is also figuring out the roles that I have, even between my real and virtual self. What’s so different between Leo and Nexeus that I need to separate them? What can Nexeus really say that Leo cannot? Who is speaking to whom?
The question isn’t if I have an alt or not the real question is how do I manage all of these “alts”?