It started out as a friendship, as many relationships do. And although they shared all kinds of intimacies in Second Life, the real people have never laid eyes on each other. “The fear of someone calling me up at home.” For many folks, the arms-length quality of in-game romance is what separates a (fairly) harmless experiment from actual infidelity.
But gradually Sam's feelings for Kat, a beautiful, smart and confident woman, had turned romantic. If these intimacies, no matter how personal, never translate into a real-world meeting or real-life sex, can it be considered cheating?
Ratchet that up to online talk or “Webcamming,” and the cheating meter ticks up slightly: 57 percent of men think that’s a no-no, while 77 percent of women do. “What looks like a hot blonde babe could be a 60 year-old man in Milwaukee.” But at some point, Sam’s in-world relationship with Kat began to intrude on his real life.A recent family vacation was punctuated by furtive Second Life meetings with his avatar girlfriend.“I dreamed up any excuse I could with my family to tell them I needed to get online for a few minutes here and there,” he says.“It was pathetic.” That’s where the lines get blurry, says P.Shavaun Scott, a marriage and family therapist from San Luis Obispo, Calif.