How do Second Life families start? How do they get together? How do they grow?
Let’s say one wanted to be part of a family in Second Life – a daughter, mother, auntie or sister – how would one go about doing that? Take my friend Gwen and me for instance: We love each other like sisters, we do and talk about a lot of things sisters might do and talk about, so I guess by virtual standards, I could qualify as one of her sisters, right? I asked Gwen’s daughter, Aurora Jones-Ravenheart (incidentally, Aurora’s mother’s family name is Jones, her father’s family name is Ravenheart), about how I might go about becoming Gwen’s sister:
Well how I see it is that when it comes to brothers and sisters it can be only those two’s decision. If for example they don’t have parents. But when parents are involved, it’s nice to discuss it with the whole family. At least this is my opinion, but everyone has their own. But then there’s those who become siblings, but don’t share the same parents. It’s a lot of options I’d say.
Clearly, there are no hard and fast rules for virtual kinship. Presumably, if I wanted to become a part of Gwen’s family, I could, provided that they accepted me as one of their own. And it’s this organic nature of familiy development that seems to be a prevalent form, as echoed by Kyleigh Reyes:
(Second Life) Families seem to come from friendship that is deeper then just aquaintances…. Usually they are people you have known online for sometime…… For me my family came from Role Playing, and at first the story of who my parents and siblings where, was just a story made up by myself and my Sister in real life , who of course naturally is my sister in (Second Life), but together we formed friendships and a family formed out of our friendships along the way…. Even though in the end our role playing came to an end, the people who were a part of our (Second Life) family, till this day are still, our Mother, or Father, Grandmother, and sisters, They are still friends who are closer then just aquaintances and in most cases , you end up knowing these people outside of (Second Life) as well…….. Again most times , (Second Life) families just happen, it just feels right….. So if you are in world enough it will happen to you as well….People you are close to, will just fall into the role, and before you know it you will have your own (Second Life) family… Of course if you don’t want that, then it might never happen…
So, it seems that families grow in a similar way to how friendships are formed. But what if you don’t know anyone who’s in a family you want to join, or you don’t want to wait or depend on fortunate circumstance for your family to start? Enter the virtual adoption agency.
My first visit to MAWCT (Making Adoption Wishes Come True) was an eye-opening experience. With 6 years in business, Kalle Harmison and Maddison Dagostino clearly saw the early writing on the wall and recognised that there is, like in so many relationship-based businesses, a rendevouz problem between adopters and adoptees. Like a dating agency, MAWCT specialises in connecting parents seeking to adopt with childen, teens, and even adults, seeking virtual parents.
This is a considerably more organised way to start a family, complete with adboards, rules of conduct, inworld messaging to inform you of a mutual “like” match, preset trial periods, and even adoption certificates. You might, like many, apply as a couple, but single would-be parents are also encouraged to apply – I’d say it’s about half and half. MAWTC plays the role of platform, but stops short of matchmaker: “You choose your family. We won’t select parents or kids for you. You will choose for yourself” says the instruction notecard.
While I was there, I counted up the occupancy rates:
- There are 144 available panels for parents, with 85 occupied (59%)
- Of the 60 teen panels, 38 are occupied (63%)
- 4 of 24 adult kids (16%)
- 9 of 24 twins (37.5%)
- 66 out of 100 kids
For adoptees, clearly young children predominate, followed by teens, but an interesting group, are twins, which no doubt brings an all together additional dimension to the role play. From what I understand, adult children have the toughest time finding adoptive parents. In terms of gender, girls outnumber boys by about 10 to 1. Parallel to the ethnic diversity found elsewhere in Second Life, the options are generally white caucasians, mostly blonde, followed by brunettes.
For a starting fee of $L200 (you can pay more if you’re able), you can simply post a picture of yourself on one of their boards, add a completed application form detailing your experience and views on virtual parenthood, and find yourself receiving applications of interest (“likes”) from prospective adoptees within 24 hours. If you are interested in a child after reading their notecard, just click “like” on their panel. If 2 panels both click “like” you will automatically go on a 6-day trial. If you go on trial, the panel goes free to someone else. If you don’t find a match within 14 days, you need to renew in order to keep looking.
Upon entering MAWTC with my friend Gwen as my guide, I felt very much a stranger in a strange land. There’s seems to be a whole industry devoted to supplying the needs of new families. There was the enormous quantity of vendors selling family styled furniture, including of course family-oriented poses, cribs, toys and other nursery paraphanalia. As I sat in some of the furniture aimed at young parents with infant children, I could even imagine such a set up in my own home. I wondered what we might do, what we might talk about, and what games we might play together.
I noticed how I felt a bit sorry for a little brunette girl that was less than what we’re told pretty and cute is supposed to look like, who’s notecard had been “viewed” about 9 times and had no “likes”. Having never gazed on as many avatar children in my life, I couldn’t help but realise how sweet and innocent they looked.
As I panned over the faces of these children, one captured my attention, and struck me as incredibly familiar. There she was looking at me, red hair, freckles, pale skin, blue eyes… she was by all appearances, a miniature version of myself.
I clicked on her picture and opened her notecard. As I read it, I couldn’t help but smile when she answered the question to tell a bit about herself:
I’m very bubbly, but very shy. I’m not the kinda brat to jump around and make noise. I would fink that I like to be a princess, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever been a princess. hehe. I am very lovey and need hugs, cuddles, & long sleepytimes.
In response to what kind of activities she like to get up to and what kind of family she was looking for:
having get togethers with other fams or family members, time at home, exploring the grid, theme park trips, and the occasional shopping? I’m not sure, but I can be kind of picky. I need the perfect fammyy. don’t let that stop you from giving me a chance!
As I weighed up her plea, I wondered: Is this how it all starts? And if so, what might be the outcome of relationship that has all the trappings of blood, but is really no thicker than water at best? Could a bond actually develop as a result of these circumstances, or would it be forced? And if it didn’t work out, might it be saddled with compromise and guilt? How do you tell a virtual daughter, “I don’t want to be your mommy anymore”?
From what I read on several cards, adoptions don’t always end successfully. Some parents and some children, might lose interest in each other, or even Second Life in general, and what I wondered, happens then?
Clearly, this is not a step to be taken lightly. I left MAWTC, safely assured with the fact that these were not questions for me to answer, at least, not for now.