And it seems as though increasing numbers of us are at risk from the spectre of digital adultery.It comes as no surprise, then, to learn that a woman is divorcing her husband after catching him having an online affair.“Kira was everything I should have been,” says Kristen, who has a 12-year-old son. My real life was diabolical and I wanted an escape.In Second Life I could be who I wanted to be, and when I met Nik I was in control for the first time in years.And all this time Kristin and Steve were online, making it happen, choreographing their avatars’ every move for up to eight hours a day, despite the fact that each had a real-life partner, who was unaware they were being cuckolded by a cartoon graphic from a glorified 3D computer game.“Neither of us went on Second Life to find a new relationship,” says Kristen.I just want her back.” It all sounds very extreme, but according to Professor Mark Griffiths, a psychologist at Nottingham Trent University who has carried out research into the field, it’s surprisingly easy to get emotionally involved online.
But while the house and the heels stay in Second Life, the real people behind the avatars carry their heightened emotions back into their first life - sometimes with devastating consequences for their marriage or relationship.
“In Second Life, I tend to just wear jeans and weapons,” explained Elliott, the pasty-faced Londoner with pretensions to black hunkdom. It’s an extension of how I would look if anything went in in real life.” It’s the sort of remark that would have most of us running for the hills, but instead Carolyn and Elliott spent up to 14 hours a day, chatting, flirting and having sex via their avatars.
By way of explanation, Caroline told her daughters that her avatar was like Barbie and her boyfriend was just like Ken, albeit that in this X-rated version Ken happens to own an arsenal of AK47s.
“I had heard Duran Duran were playing a virtual gig and wanted to see them, so when my avatar, Kira, saw Nik, I got her to go up to him and ask if he was Nick Rhodes.
He said, ‘Maybe I am, and maybe I’m not’ and it all started from there.