Second Life: Get me out of here!

Second Life, virtual world, avatar

Listening to Fergie in a club, prior to my makeover.

This week I left the “actual world” and entered the virtual world of Second Life. When logging on, I had the option of choosing an avatar, none of which came close to resembling me. I assumed once I entered into Second Life, I’d be able to customize my avatar more so it would be a better representation of me. After downloading the program (which I had to do on a PC because it wouldn’t work on my Mac), I found my avatar on the beach, surrounded by other avatars. An avatar near me started chatting with me, but he didn’t speak English so I didn’t engage in the conversation. Before I started chatting, I decided to get my profile in order. I was hesitant to get into too much detail by saying that I was conducting research, so I just wrote that I was a “Midwestern girl, 20-something, exploring a virtual world.”

Amidst the sound of ocean waves, I could hear the sound of typing. Eventually I figured out that I was involved in a group conversation. I was put in a precarious position when an avatar near me asked if I was in Second Life for fun or for research. I decided to reveal the truth, she wished me good luck and that was the end of the conversation.

After finishing the conversation, I decided to explore more of the island. I made my avatar run around the island (I’d been sitting down trying to figure out SL for awhile, so at least one of us was getting in shape!). After exploring the island on foot, I decided to give flying a whirl. I assumed my avatar would fly around obstacles, so poor virtual me ran my head into many boulders! I finally figured out that if you clicked to places on the map, your avatar would travel to where you clicked.

Upon finishing my tour of the island, I decided to work on my avatar’s appearance. I was shocked that you could control the most minute details of your appearance, including how much your butt swayed when you walked! I spent awhile trying to get my avatar to look like my actual appearance, but the end result looked nothing like me.

I played around with teleporting and explored some of the free worlds in Second Life. Most of the places I teleported were clubs, where I struggled to get my avatar to dance. Dancing is surprisingly a lot easier in the actual world than it is in the virtual world! I finally thought I had figured it out, and I got so excited when the avatar next to me on the dance floor sent me a direct message. He asked me if I was ok. Confused about the question, I answered with a simple question mark. He informed me that I was running in place…so much for dancing! I must have run right out of the club because before I knew it, I was in a completely different building.

Next, I explored an island that was supposed to be for people just starting out in Second Life. I thought this might be the best place to try and start conversations with people, because we we’re all learning together. I direct messaged a couple of the people around me, and they were all really helpful in helping me navigate the virtual world. One of the people who I talked to was someone named Jeff. Here is our conversation:

Me: Hi!

Jeff: Hello

Me: Do you play this game a lot?

Jeff: Yeah, quite a bit. Why, what’s up?

Me: I’m just starting out, and I’m not really sure what to do.

Jeff: This is a good place to start, things all over the walls that you can read to get started.

Me: Ok thanks, just trying to figure it all out.

Jeff: It’s not so much a game, but you should read that tutorial behind you.

Second Life, virtual world, avatar

My avatar, post-makeover.

The conversation continued, he helped me find other clothes, and tried to help me fix how Second Life appeared on my laptop. Turns out, the PC I was using wasn’t so great, and that’s why the majority of the Second Life world appeared purple to me. I asked others similar questions, and got a grasp of the Second Life lingo. Besides learning that the people in Second Life don’t like it to be referred to as a game, I learned they always distinguish between SL (Second Life) and RL (Real Life).

Second Life reminded me a lot of middle school and high school, when I was nervous to talk to new people, and I would spend a couple minutes looking at an instant message before I actually pressed the send button. After spending some time on Second Life, I have a better understanding of how it could be a useful classroom tool. The anonymity made it easier to talk to people, which would benefit an education setting because students could participate in conversations without the fear of raising their hand in class. On the other end of the spectrum, I also experienced why Second Life is frowned upon. During my stay on the newcomer island, one of the people who started up a conversation with me told me he was going to take my “SL virginity,” within seconds of saying hi. As a parent, I wouldn’t allow my child to enter the virtual world.

After spending five hours on the site, I was definitely happy to log out of the virtual world, and get back to my actual life!

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8 thoughts on “Second Life: Get me out of here!

  1. Lauren,
    I really enjoyed reading about your experience in Second Life. I especially liked your description of dancing — I mean running in place — in the club! I couldn’t figure out how to dance, either, so I ended up buying a couple of dancing animations. There were all sorts of kinds: line dancing, pop-locking, booty shaking, and many more.
    I’m glad you ran into “Jeff” and he was so helpful. I think if I had had some helpful interactions with natives, as a newbie, it would’ve helped me feel more comfortable there. I understand your junior high school analogy. I found myself standing alone in clubs, not really knowing what to do, not having anyone talk to me. I tried to initiate a few conversations, but none of them went very far beyond greetings.

    • AnnMarie,

      Thanks! I would have guessed dancing in virtual world would have gone seamlessly, but it’s much easier to twerk in the actual world! It took me awhile of being on Second Life before I got the confidence to actually have conversations with the avatars around me. It finally sunk in that I didn’t know the avatars around me, and I would most likely never talk to them again, so what did I have to lose? It was a slow process but by the time I logged off, I definitely felt comfortable starting up conversations with virtual strangers.

  2. Hi Lauren,
    I think it is hilarious that you saw it as a purple world! That really would have probably changed a lot of things visually. I honestly feel as though a few of the females had some experiences with sex references.. I am glad it didn’t go further. I know seeing a virtual me being violated in any way would have really upset me. You could have just told him that you were doing the running man, right? Isn’t that a dance move? I think that it is great that you ran into some helpful people. I am sure that helped a lot when trying to figure some things out.

    • Hey Amanda,

      Being in a mostly purple world definitely made my first Second Life experience a little trickier! Thank goodness for all the patient people who attempted to help me! I was surprised things got taken to that level, but it made me question the legitimacy of the program. If I experienced that within hours of being on the program, I have to think it’s a pretty common occurrence. I should have told him I was doing the running man! Haha

  3. Hi Lauren!

    That running/dancing part was too funny :D! And I see that I’m not the only one that had computer trouble with the game. I didn’t see the screen as purple, but my computer’s fans were definitely overworking trying to keep up with the high CPU usage. I think that I got messed up with the places I visited. I never notices any kind of tutorial billboards around me. I saw billboards alright, but they were advertising things to be sold, or they were in all these different languages. I find it interesting that the people that take part in Second Life don’t think of it as a game. I don’t see how I could look at it as anything but a game!

    • Second Life did seem to have some technical problems for several of us! I definitely don’t think it would be worth it to invest in the paid version, or anything else in Second Life, but I guess to each their own! I assumed everything would be in English (which definitely would have been more helpful when talking to people or reading the billboards), but I guess it’s kind of cool that people from all over the world are on the game. Which yes, I’m with you, I think it’s a game!

  4. Hi Lauren,

    You had a purple world… WHAT! I’m a little jealous. I also laughed at your running in place story. I eventually figured out how to dance in SL, and it was my favorite along with flying. I’m glad you found a lot of people who helped you adjust to the program and learn more about it. I think it would’ve made all our experiences easier if we had had a guide. I spent so much time wandering around by myself, and at times it felt like a waste. I mean, here we are just dumped into this crazy virtual world without any instructions. Also, you made a really great choice with mulling over your responses. I, on the other hand, often “spoke” without thinking in SL, and I ended up offending someone I met on it.

    • I wish I had figured out how to dance so I didn’t alienate myself on the dance floor or cause people to ask what was wrong with me! It definitely would have been helpful to have a little more guidance about the world when you signed up or logged in for the first time. If I was braver, I would have gone with your tactic just so I could have talked to more people and maybe had a better understanding of SL! Sorry that person got offended by you, you would think they would understand that you were new in the virtual world.

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