About a year ago I got an email from someone asking if I’d like to perform a show in Second Life. I was intrigued by the idea but had never set a virtual foot in-game so I downloaded the software and signed in.
I spent at least 45 minutes just futzing with my avatar. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get it to look anything like me, not even close. Apparently, that’s not the point. I watched as other new arrivals appeared, played around with the face/body shape controls for about 30 seconds, then immediately chose the hottest-looking body features and sexiest clothing. Meanwhile, I’m fretting that my nose doesn’t look just right.
I went off to explore the introductory world, an island (cool!) where you can experiment with the movement controls, etc. Being able to fly was cool, and it was neat to explore the terrain unrestricted in just about any direction. But one thing quickly began to aggravate me: other people. I prefer game worlds like Myst and Shadow Of The Colossus and the Silent Hill series where it’s just me exploring a vast landscape alone. I enjoy the solitude and the “last-person-on-earth” atmosphere. I like game worlds that let me escape society.
In SL people would babble at me and I’d just blow right by them like they were schizophrenic street people. Just like in real life! Besides, there were no dinosaurs. What’s the point of having an island to explore if there are no dinosaurs, and no weapons lying around to shoot them with?
So after the training world I teleported to the “real” SL world. I’m not exactly sure where it was in the scope of the SL universe; all I recall is a concert pavillion and a dock, strange music in the air, and a bunches of other avatars standing in groups, chatting. (A lot of them were furries.) A horrifying avatar resembling a butterfly with a human head and blue skin fluttered over to me and spoke something. At first I thought it was supposed to be some sort of crazy click-language but it was just IMspeak (“hi sup w/ u? lol”). It’s cool that you can choose to be a butterfly creature in SL, I guess.
I brushed past mothboy/girl and walked around town a bit. All around were avatars standing motionless — I assumed it was because their human owners were out doing real-life stuff, and they’d been parked here like an abandoned car on the freeway.
I wondered how long you could park an avatar like that. Indefinitely? Do they impound your avatar after it’s been standing on the sidewalk for too long? I walked up to one motionless bearded guy and tried to shove him around to see what happened, but I couldn’t do anything. Too bad, it would be cool if you could prank people so when they came back, their avatar would be standing in a toilet, or had ELVIS LIVES scrawled across their forehead in magic marker, or had been pantsed.
I flew around the area, landing occasionally to walk through someone else’s uninhabited house or unfinished building, trying to take things. I visited a yacht (empty), a sprawling outdoor complex (empty) and an under-construction amusement park (also empty). This appealed to my affinity for solo adventuring, but without a goal, nothing to fight, or even anything to pick up, there just wasn’t much to do.
Eventually I jumped into a canal, swam to the bottom, and parked my avatar there. It’s been there since last February, gathering virtual barnacles in Davy Jones’ digital locker. Apparently that’s not well-hidden enough, as a few weeks later I got an email offer from someone inside Second Life, offering to sell me something. Beware: direct marketers will find you, even at the bottom of the sea.
I know that since then, people have been doing and building cool things, having concerts and book-signings and even starting businesses inside SL. So I’m hesitant to say I’ll never go back. The idea of an always-on virtual world still fascinates me. That said, you’re unlikely to find me hanging out in Second Life much. Heck, I’m barely functional in this life.