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Nomadic gender in the online worlds

What would the philosopher Judith Butler say or write about my avatar Wordacea? Wordacea is a powerful shaman in a virtual world where elves, wizards and warriors fight for supremacy. Should anyone care which sex or gender a person is in a
virtual world where pixels create the illusion of a landscape? Wordacea is a virtual character in a virtual world and she was chosen by me because her race and physical characteristics give me some advantages in virtual fights against virtual monsters and virtual evil characters. She is a Barbarian and her home is a snow-covered landscape, quite similar to that of Sweden, the place where I live.
Everquest, made in the US by American engineers and designers, is a cultural product showing our stereotypes, clichés and flaws. The cities in the game are frozen in time and remind one of Thomas Moore’s Utopia, where neither class struggle nor mayhem disturb the city's perfect harmony.
The characters in the virtual reality are devoid of all physical
attributes, the heroes and the villains don't sweat or get dirty.
Neither are they subject to any normal physiological urgencies.

The selection of races and physical attributes was tailored by the
designers to allow the players to accomplish different tasks and
quests. Magical qualities, the ability to heal or physical stamina
are crucial in the initial stages of the game.
With the help of magic objects or weapons the player can enhance a weak character or try to make up for a bad choice. Professions such as shamans, bards, warriors and wizards, can be combined to achieve the ultimate goal, the best
all-round fighter or the wizard who can turn the tide in a struggle.
The players in games such as Everquest are nomads, their quests make them travel between different landscapes and cities. There are hundreds of different worlds inEverquest, jungles and snow-covered peaks, urbanized patches of civilization allow the players to rest, eat and buy weapons.
They are nomads by choice and in order to understand them it is interesting to read Judith Butler and Rosi Braidotti, two
of the most innovative thinkers in the field of gender
studies. Braidotti's work with "Nomadic Identities" challenges the concept of identity as a monolithic structure, impermeable to
any change or modification.
The nomadic identity assumes that everyone can choose to highlight a part of one's identity, highlight a quality or cover up a failure or a minor fault. Our identity is intimately related to our sexual preferences, to our belongings, chosen or heritated, to our holding certain religious beliefs or
subscribing to certain political or philosophical ideas.a religion, to a political or a philosophical idea.
In the online world games are played and simulations enacted, the construction of a dramatic persona, a character or avatar, can be a wonderful case study for the purposes of analyzing the construction of an individual in a social context.
When I choose my avatar I try to mimic myself, but not my ordinary self, but the individual I wish I was or dream of of those multiple layers of my personality.
Judith Butler writes about the pain, about how seeing somebody else's pain can make us empathic and cause us to change our perceptions of the "other". The
"otherness" in virtual simulated reality is hard to portray, some of the foes are black or brown or are in disguise, (In the 1970s the French-Chilean sociologist André Mattelart
and the playwright Ariel Dorfman wrote a wonderful book, "To learn how to read Donald Duck".
The books is about how Disney used the plot in
Donald Ducks adventures to set boundaries for Anti-Americanism.
All the ducks on the oponents (and therefore the enemies of the US) were Korean, Cubans or Muslims and were involved in the different kind of geopolitical struggle where
the US was involved), but it demands a high skill to identify the true nature of your virtual opponent.
In "Everquest" bodies are beaten or wounded without pain or
mayhem, death is bloodless and painless, and you can be resurrected by some fellow player after paying a penalty where you lose some experience points. The religious experience of the resurrection feels trivial in a world where life is trivial too, digital heroes have no parents and no childhood, as Ridley Scott and Philip K. Dicks "replicants", they are born fully developed, ready to take on the duty or the task we have designed for them.
Food or drink add nothing to my virtual experience, the "agape", the Greek word to celebrate conviviality and joy through the sharing of food and wine is absent from virtuality. The feeling of comradeship, "le compagnonage" is hard to substitute with guilds where members only share a limited virtual experience. In games such as Ultima Online, the pioneer of RPG games online, it was possible to buy or build a house and see your guild comrades "live", on the screen.
In her book "The War of Desire and Technology at the Close of the Mechanical Age", cybertheory writer Sandy Stone writes about a woman with a multiple personality disorder (Stone is herself a transgender individual, a woman who lived an earlier life as a man). Both Sandy Stone and Sherry Turkle saw in the online world an utopia where people could live "multiple selves" or "parallel lives", the ability to trascend the limitations and
conventions imposed on us by biological hazard.
The ability to tailor my avatars, to choose their skins, faces,
bodies, names, backgrounds and affections, make me, the player, or the researcher, almost a God. I can be a "demiurge", a craftsman able to create new worlds. But I am also a voyeur, the possibility of changing my gender and my libidinal attraction give me an insight into Otherness, into how the "Other" experiences or feels.
An avatar is accepted such a fictional construct but the fictive framework is often loaded with multiple levels of content. Can a virtual persona be raped? In "My Tiny Life" Julian Dibbell tells the story of a virtual rape in a virtual community called Lambda Moo.
The lawyer and feminist activist Catherine MacKinnon
stated that a virtual rape leaves the same scars in the soul of the victim as a real rape leaves in the body of the victim and she appealed for legislation where virtual crimes were punished.
Wordacea's gender was never contested by anyone, she had a female shape, with big breasts. She was able to use an axe or a sword but she was also a trained shaman, a caretaker, and in spite of her rough appearance, she was able to care for anyone in need of her caring. To be androgynous and behave in a androgynous way should be the
norm in a virtual world where the limitations and the boundaries of the physical world are absent.
But the mental boundaries and the social and mythological structures of our fantasy make our virtual experience flawed. Our "memes" are a collective construction based on a shared cultural heritage and memory. Legends and myths shape a culture and construct an identity.
The transmission of those values is often related to institutions like the family and the school, bearers of the tradition and containers of the accumulated knowledge.
But how can we transmit those values in a virtual landscape where family,class, language, political affiliation, religious belonging and birth place don't matter? Gender and behaviour related to gender discussion are not an issue in games where fight and struggle determine the development of the virtual characters. All characters must know how to use a weapon to defend themselves or attack a foe. In the first levels of the game, the physical strength of the character is crucial to determine its survival. And Everquest is a classical darwinist game, the survival of the fittest.
I feel the death of my avatar as a kind of physical and psychological loss. The search for the corpsebody, the
mourning and the feeling of being catapulted to another dimension are very real. In spite of my intellectual rationalization I feel as if I had I lost a limb, or a
dear friend, or my beloved.
It's doesn't matter that the game can be restarted and my avatar can be resurrected from the land of the dead, I dream about online immortality and about a gender neutral marriage ceremony, I want to marry a female avatar and live with her in happiness for the rest of our virtual lives.