Business in Virtual Worlds, Identity and Expression

Dating Avatars: Preparing for Face-to-Face Contact

The next step in online dating appears to be virtual dating, according to the Toronto Star.

Virtual daters at Omnidate create avatars from six male or female choices and then go on virtual dates in bars, at the beach or at a museum, all the while listening to favorite music. The goal is to eventually meet an avatar in the flesh, while hoping that the screening process of a virtual date, which is much more involved and telling than traditional online dating, with its e-mails, chats, and profile viewing, will lead to a more positive outcome.

“It was like I already had the first date online and got the awkwardness out of the way,” said Paula Weisz, a 42-year old single mother of two. “It helped me feel really comfortable when we actually met, in a way that I wasn’t with other dating sites.”

Virtual worlds facilitate flirting with avatar movement and offer all sorts of ice-breaking tools, including game popups.

Virtual dating does eliminate the pressure of focusing on looks on the first date and lets the avatars focus on, well, the fact that they look like 1/6th of all the other people.

It’s intriguing because to many, an avatar is not a substitution for the ability to lend yourself presence, and virtual worlds are not practice runs for the actual. Certainly it’s an extension of virtual world technology, but implies that avatars are stand-ins for the real, which is increasingly understood as a false notion.


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