Bees And Flowers: An Essay By Extropia DaSilva


What does it mean to be ‘PrimaryBound’ or ‘PrimaryCentred’? An avatar is PrimaryBound if there is one — and only one — RL person behind that identity. This might be because somebody claims sole ownership of a particular name, and can successfully argue that an avatar, blog post, etc. bearing that name is not something they were responsible for. Another reason for being PrimaryBound is because nobody else would want to roleplay that part. On the other hand, to be PrimaryCentered is to allow for the possibility that somebody else could take on that personae. I would imagine that such people would be roleplayers already; those who think of their digital self as a character they created and developed (akin to the George Elliot/Silas Marner). People who prefer to think of their digital self as a pseudonymn (akin to Mary Evans/George Elliot), are probably unlikely to permit others to take on that role and would rather let their digital self expire when their actual self dies.

‘PrimaryCentered’ posits other RL people willing and able to roleplay a pre-existing digital self. Tataru Nino kindly informed me that this kind of thing can and does happen in MMORPGs. “It’s the norm in many roleplaying virtual environments for ‘feature characters’ (well-known, influential, historic figures) to be played by a succession of users. Actually applying for the role requires considerable research, interviews with those who had close, frequent or important interactions with them, and oftentimes auditions. When all goes well- and it frequently does — there is little discernable difference between the personas…Characters often outlive their original player by many years, as successions of players retire from the role and new players take up the role in their place”.

We may assume that it would be the well-known, influential characters of SL that would stand the best chance of attracting wannabe roleplayers. That would mean somebody will have first developed that digital self for a sustained period, probably amounting to years. Such a person is clearly central to the role. Who better to provide background information about that character; to interview and audition potential replacements? If such a person can be replaced, and whatever differences this causes are too slight to be noticed by anyone else interacting with the digital self, that original person cannot have been ESSENTIAL, in the way implied by ‘PrimaryBound’.

Ironically, while it may be the most well-known and influential characters of online worlds that attract the most wannabe roleplayers, it might be the relative nobodies who stand the best chance of finding successful replacements. Take me, for example. What do I do? I write essays, take part in discussions, write silly poems on-the-fly and chat with friends. That is pretty much all there is to me. Replacing my current primary calls for someone else who has done research similar to what, typically, goes into my essays and discussion topics. Such a person should also be able to express opinions similar to my own, and be able to project a temperament that is not too dissimilar. The match does not have to be perfect, just good enough to convince everybody else that I am the same digital person I was before, taking into account the fact that we all change to some extent over time. It would be wrong to say any old person could succeed my current primary. But, really, it cannot be all that hard to find a replacement, particularly given the technological developments I outlined briefly at the end of my ‘Virals’ essay. But, then, who else but my current primary would want to roleplay me? Again, it is not as if I am famous or anything.

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