Who Are You?

Who Are You?
Sociolotron: How the Other Half Plays

Russ Pitts | 11 Sep 2007 12:18
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All my clothes were brown. All clothes start brown. When you learn how to change their color, you can make them whatever color you want, but when you're new - when they're new - your clothes are brown.

I was in the world of Sociolotron for one reason: I wanted to explore everything the game had to offer. I wanted to live in a world where people act out sexual fantasies as easily as you and I buy a cup of coffee. I wanted to see what it was like to be virtually raped. I wanted to know how it felt to do the raping. I wanted to explore the most violent, sexual and deviant virtual world going. I wanted to know how the other half plays.

I decided I'd start with a female character. Half of them are played by men anyway, and if I was going to be looking at a human-shaped avatar for any length of time, I wanted it to be hot; which is why so many men play women. I also wanted to see how easy it is to be taken advantage of in Sociolotron. Call it a grand social experiment. Call it the education of an ignorant white male. Call it whatever you want. I thought it was journalism, and I thought it would be easy.

My character turned out more attractive than I thought she would. I named her Janet. She had long, blonde hair and a generous figure. In some clothes, her breasts looked enormous; in others, merely large. Sociolotron's graphics aren't stupendous, but they're defined enough to make a fair pass at realism. This was my first surprise. I'd assumed from screenshots that the toy-like nature of the little people on the screen would be a repellant to emotional attachment. Not so. My chick was hot. Entrenched firmly outside the uncanny valley, she was just alien enough to appear reassuring, just human enough to evoke ... something.

I started to care for Janet almost immediately. Not sexually, exactly. I felt like her guardian. I didn't identify with her, per se, but I was playing her as if playing a character in any other game. I was controlling her. I wanted her to succeed. I wanted her to be safe. I wanted her to win - whatever that meant. I was suddenly glad for the "newbie" distinction, which makes it difficult to be abused. It was like being wrapped in a warm security blanket. After playing with my little doll for a while, dressing her up in different clothes, tweaking her attributes, I suddenly felt unsure of my plan to subject her to the vilest torments imaginable. This is what it's like to get sucked in.

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Walking around Sociolotron as a newbie, I felt like a 19-year-old soon-to-be waitress/porn star/prostitute, fresh off the Greyhound to LA. I felt vulnerable. And I knew that newbie sticker was as much an advertisement as a blanket. I knew the people I passed were looking at me, my brown clothes, my attractive form and my "newbie" designation, and wondering how long it'd be before I'd be fair game; wondering if they could get me alone. I imagined the terror in Janet's heart as she looked for somewhere safe to learn the ropes, and my own heart quickened.

I hurried through a series of empty-looking neighborhoods, wondering where to start my adventure and how I would go about doing that. I wasn't even sure I understood the game's controls. Moving and interacting with things seemed to happen just like in any other game, but Sociolotron has menu options that didn't make sense to me, and I couldn't find certain controls I knew existed; the rape switch, for example. I needed a helping hand; I didn't even know where to find that. My first thought, however, was to get out of the ugly, brown starter clothes.

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