People are strange

An Avatars point of view by Roel Swanenberg aka Zachary (in the Girlfriend Experience)

"Hello, welcome to the Girlfriend Experience. For the next 15 minutes you and me are one and the same person." That whas my opening line. I must have said that at least a couple of hundred times.

As an avatar you want to give the user an experience, but you're also trying to keep it interesting for yourself as an avatar. It's not only about executing commands, like: slap her, kiss him, dance, bark like a dog, etc. You try to establish a personal connection with the user and you start to build from there.

The most inspiring moments where those in which you collaborate, e.g. A guy starts to speak to other avatars in poetry, which gives me the opportunity to improvise with him and create a new language together.

As an avatar you learn a lot about your user in a very short amount of time. How they think, what they like, how they look at the world, e.g some users didn't speak at all. They just wanted a audiovisual trip, no communication. As an avatar that's a challenge. How can you keep it interesting for 15 minutes.

Another interesting inside-fact. As an avatar you can also have a mind of your own. It happend several times that I didn't have a user. In that time I could do anything I wanted, even pretend that I did have a user.

The strangest encounters where those between people that knew eachother very well, e.g a married couple or a group of friends, who would use us avatars to play their strange games.

It takes a lot of patience to really listen to a user and try to find out what it is that person really wants. You may have to suggest things, be openmindend to try out new things and at the same time try not to get frustrated if something technical is going wrong.

There is also a scary side to it. People know who you are, but you don't know them. You can imagine how it feels if someone comes up to you in person after a session and says: Hey Zachary. It's me. Bill. I'm the one who slapped you in the face and called you an asshole!

When I look back on it now, it feels like a out of body experience mixed with a dream, a little bit of torture and a sexual sci-fi touch on top of it.