The dark-maned avatar she created looks like a Goth stripper, and strides around wearing an S&M bustier and G-string.Her online lover comes from England and is a terrifying, dark-skinned hunk with multiple face-piercings and no shirt.It also featured the extraordinary transatlantic tale of Carolyn, a wife and mother of four from the United States, who became so obsessed with her Second Life relationship that she grew increasingly estranged from both her longsuffering husband, and her angry, confused children.

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Meanwhile, husband Lee, an insightful, sympathetic man, was desperate to reclaim his wife from her virtual infatuation, and hovered helplessly in the background in a state of near despair.

“Our kids have said to her face that the computer means more to her than they do.

“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.

“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.Amy Pollard, 28, discovered her husband’s character in the arms of another female player – having caught him previously, she claimed, having sex with an online call girl character.Pollard has made headlines for divorcing her husband, David, 40, on the grounds of “unreasonable behaviour”. Earlier this year, Kristen and Steve appeared on a prescient BBC documentary, Virtual Adultery and Cyberspace Love.“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.You can start a new career, own a big house with a pool and, increasingly, fall in love.