Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Second Life: Celebrity Avatars

The recent in-game U2 fan concert and the discussion on the SL forums prompted me to look for other celebrity-based avatars, and it turns there's quite a supply and a growing range of available designs. IP issues aside, building and making available avatars based on a media property seems like an intriguing way to encourage fan involvement and ultimately to promote the real-world media product and the associated merchandise. The avatars could also be scripted to deliver automated in-game performances in 3D, a more interesting way to promote, say, a movie than running trailers on the in-game TVs. A virtual Michael Jordan could walk door to door peddling virtual Nike shoes (a hypothetical scenario, of course).

The big question, of course, is whether and how to control the use of the avatars in what is a very flexible and often risque environment. What happens if a player wearing the Pippi Longstocking or Hermione Granger avatar decides to pursue a career of an escort or an exotic dancer? (See a story about Mattel suing an artist behind Barbie erotica.)

UPDATE: Csven asks more questions on his blog.

I found three different stores devoted nearly exclusively to skins, body parts and costumes designed after real and fictional celebrities, although my search wasn't exhaustive. There are also a few places that sell celeb avatars as part of an unrelated line-up, such as the shop that sold me the Stewie Griffin's likeness for 50$L (~$0.18) but that also carried other fan parafernalia (the MIT shirt is my first stab at creating clothes in SL). Some of these businesses offered custom designs. Many avatars also come equipped with a set of sounds and appropriate movie quotes.

Not all avatars bear close resemblance to their real-world counterparts.

You can choose to be the glamorous but civilian version of Johnny Depp...

... or a pirate one.

For 300-800$L (~$1-3) each, you can buy famous stand-alone personalities...

... or entire casts from movies...

... or even cartoons.

If you don't want to be a Harry Potter for the rest of your virtual life, you can rent the outfit for a period of time at a fraction of the cost.


  1. I'm not sure if you read my entry on this subject, but it touches on one element you mention here and expands it - both into a non-policed, non-centralized virtual environment and from there into real, manufactured product ( ).

  2. Thanks. Updated the entry with a link.