Within the summer of June out of curiosity, a few friends and I decided to try Second Life. I’ve acquired a plethora of gamer friends from every perspective, from those that enjoy playing against others competitively to those who indulge in a game’s enticing storyline, and the latter seemed interested in joining me in our random endeavor into Second Life.
Little did we know this “game” doesn’t seem like a game at all unless considered in the sense that it is a MMO (massively multiplayer and online), but is in no way a MMORPG like World of Warcraft or Guild Wars. Linden Lab, the creators of Second Life, consider their product to be a social experiment of sorts, as the company itself was originally made up of sociologists while users consider it a 3D world imagined through creation and ownership of the residents. Through Second Life, they can promote their research even more and run a real life simulation through this online realm.
What makes Second Life so unique from any other application where you may play an avatar is that the world is seamless, there is no storyline but the one you create or choose to indulge in. They aren’t any barriers or judgments about you based on your skill as a ‘player,’ but encourages creativity through design. Second Life is much like real life in the sense that if you don’t earn money through in-world employment or investing real life money into it, you won’t get ahead of others. This certainly scares some newcomers away as neither everyone can afford to do this nor have a skill that would make others pay them for their work. People earn money on their avatars through creativity such as designing clothing, accessories, make-up, hair, furniture – literally anything you can think of can be designed, scripting, modeling, maintaining a site for an in-world shop, building environments and architecture, blogging an event, managing real estate property, hosting an event, working in a club as a DJ or hostess, or the infamous careers that are notorious for making real life news, dancing, stripping, being a bouncer for a club, among other questionable professions.
Despite Second Life’s birth in summer of 2003, I’d only heard negative things much like any other outsider, about couples living secret lives in Second Life through exploring their hidden sexualities or being involved in an online scandal regarding someone stealing their product designs and then taking it to court with much media attention.
When I logged into Second Life with my friends, it was just for fun, we were simply going to joke around and see what sort of scandalous behavior we could find and laugh at, being former World of Warcraft players who mocked any other gaming platform from our elitist high horses (Or should I say dragons?).
Our image of Second Life was one painted in electric blue glowing stripper poles with flawless, well-endowed avatars dancing upon them for tips and sex beds dotting every residential area with questionable sexual options. However, we became intrigued with the beauty of the game upon leaving the starting area and discovered Second Life was unlike what media had projected about this simulator. After logging off for the night, we all quickly found each other logging in the next day and felt rather embarrassed at finding each other each signing in to take a second look at Second Life.
Over time, our avatars have opened a shop where our Lindens (Second Life currency) have made us quite a bit of real life money through our skill set and design – and yes, any Second Life money can be transferred into quite a bit of real life money. My friend’s avatar has also become a security guard at one of the most prominent clubs in Second Life, and I sometimes bring my avatar to visit her’s while on duty to make her two-hour shift somewhat more enjoyable while listening to the electronica music within the tropical-themed terrain. Our avatars house together on our own cherry blossom-ridden property that we pay rent for and much like a real home, we can place any objects and decor in it as we please and may set rules for our guests. Our avatars have also become regulars in a multitude of communities in Second Life, from the Japanese fashion culture to niche communities like “breedables,” pets you can breed in-world and sell based off of the genetics involved – and believe me, the breeding is just as complicated as the steps you perform to calculate proper genetic odds of animals breeding in real life. Our avatars have scooted along countryside dirt bike paths and have partaken in breedable auctions, our avatars have even experienced Black Friday just as busy as malls get offline. While we’ve only been active in Second Life for seven months, we’ve had quite a series of misadventures on our avatars regularly.
Events often highlight Second Life, promoting plenty of fashion designers with products exclusive to event-goers to DJs playing live music at the clubs they’re employed at, often staging a costume-themed event with voting and prize incentives to end the night, a hostess often makes sure to hype up the event to get more Second Life clubbers through the virtual doors. Events also take shape in the form of “hunts,” which designers each create one item and hide it in their shop, and the shoppers or “hunters” follow clues in order to discover each item hidden in the store. These hunts also give designers a way to garner new shoppers who never would have ventured into their shop otherwise and show them a taste of their style through the free hunt item hidden.
This blog will be focusing on these events throughout the semester while also highlighting any interesting finds within Second Life. With a vast world scripted and sculpted completely by the denizens of Second Life, it creates a fantastic, awe-inspiring universe that seems never-ending without any impossibilities, the world is only limited by your imagination. Embracing all that Second Life has to offer, I hope to offer the best in terms of events and bewildering places to visit if you ever journey onto the grid.
With closure to this long-winded and much needed introduction to both explain Second Life and to talk about my own beginnings to this forever enigmatic world, I hope you’ll join me on my (mis)adventures upon my next blog post,