What’s so great about Second Life?

April 14th, 2009

I paid a visit to SecondLife a couple of years ago to find out what all the buzz was about. It was a bit like the Sims meets Grand Theft Auto but with no missions to do. After a while I felt it was a bit of a glorified chat room albeit one where you could actually laugh-out-load or roll around on the floor laughing rather than write the instant message equivalent. It didn’t really grip me at the time. Then I found out the the Open University was getting seriously involved in the “game?” and I decided to pay it another visit.

I met up with a couple of Second Life residents — Magus Burton (MB) and Zandra Fraisse (ZF) to find out more.

How did you discover Second Life?

MB: Some years ago I stumbled across an intriguing article in a Sunday supplement about an online gaming phenomenom by the name of Second Life. Although in (voluntary) incarceration at the time, I vowed to remember the name and investigate it further upon my release.

ZF: My son was looking in Popular Science Magazine and decided to get me a gift certificate for SL. He thought it would amuse me .

How long have you been using Second Life?

MB: Almost as soon as I returned home I logged on to SL to see what it was all about, so I have been ‘playing’ for maybe three years now.

ZF: Approx. 2 1/2 years

How many hours a week on average do you spend in Second Life?

MB: To be honest it really varies upon what projects I am involved with, the status of my friends, aqquaintances and business partners. I do a lot of artistic support for people and make textures, skins, eyes, clothing, furniture and buildings, so some weeks I will spend upwards of 30 hours and others I will spend maybe 2 or 3.

ZF: Approx. 25 hrs. a week, some less some more…depends on how much I have to do there or in real life.

What attracted you to it?

MB: have been fascinated by virtual reality and synthetic realities ever since I first saw Disneys Tron (1983) and the possibilities within SL seemed a perfect outlet for my creativity and thirst for knowledge.

ZF: Everything- the creativity, the people, the opportunity to meet people from all areas of the globe….

How does Second Life compare to things like text forums and instant message systems?

MB: I personally prefer the perceived ‘interactivity’ granted by SL, with a traditional messenger such as MSN you can be limited by text only and emoticons, therefore a lot of feeling can be lost in the substandard communication (over 95% of human communication is non-verbal). In SL we can more easily use poses and animations to express ourselves, for instance, if a friend is feeling down I can ‘physically’ give that person a hug etc. It does make a good deal of difference all though it is only 1 step up from an emoticon.

ZF: In some ways its the same but with avi’s to act out what ur trying to xpress in chat.

What or who helped you understand how to operate in Second Life?

MB: I taught myself most of what I know, but by its very communal nature the residents tend to be willing to help each other if asked politely and granted patience. I have a solid core group of close friends, people who I met ‘inworld’ who I now communicate with by phone, text, email etc. We all look out for each other although we exist in different timezones, countries and states. We all look after each other and provide for one another, even offer emotional support in times of difficulty.

ZF: In the very beginning it was trial and error until I met Magus Burton and Tanya Matahari, they both had a great deal of patience and kindness…without them I probably wouldn’t have stayed in SL as long as I have.

Is there any special jargon or terminology that newbies to Second Life could do with understanding?

MB: There are many differnt ‘inworld’ terms, and of course abbreviations just like with any other messenger. SL however as a far more comprehensive lexicon than most. This is due to the nature of the ‘game’. With any new idea, new terminology is necessary in order to describe it efficiently and effectively.

ZF: The terms SL for Second Life, RL for Real life , Ruthed meaning ur avi is all screwed up at its beginning appearance stage- the rest…I guess they will have to come and find out.

What do you most enjoy doing whilst in Second Life?

MB: I generally enjoy chatting with my friends and creating new things, I like to challenge myself and see how the world around me evolves.

ZF: Besides talking and sharing with my friends, I would have to say creating various things out of mere prims (primitives- basic shapes)

Have you spent any money in Second Life? How much?

MB: I have spent countless linden dollars (SLs currency) but that is not affected by my real life investment. The most I have ever paid in real life cash is only around £5, everything else is money I made ‘inworld’.

Have you made any money in Second Life? How much?

MB: Again I couldn’t quantify the ammount I have made in SL. But to give you an Idea, at the peak of my productivity, myself and my business partner had 8 shops, a club, a mall various houses and building estates. I ceased involvement in in our company last year and gave away my designs. I found SL had stopped being enjoyable and had become a labour so I went back to the nature of exploring and having fun.

ZF: I’ve spent alot of money,I have no idea, BUT I have made money as well….so to me, it all evens out for the pleasure that SL and my friends there have given me.

What have you created in Second Life?

MB: I have created numerous lines of fashion (somewhere in the region of 2000 odd garments), many vehicles, artworks, sculptures, furnishings,eyes, jewelery, skins scripts (to run animations etc.) and buildings.

ZF: Too many things to list but in general, clothes , furniture, music boxes, snow globes, motorcycles, cars, seasonal displays…so many things I can’t remember.

What’s involved in making a really great avatar?

MB: The key to a great avi, in my opinion is to customize and create as much as possible. I start with a decent shape, modify the features and the height and weight etc, next I use photoshop to make some nice eyes and upload them when satisfied. I then make a new skin, again using photoshop and upload that. Then either make or buy some clothes and finally buy some appropriate hair (if the avi is to have hair). Until recently I had never worn any clothing that I hadn’t made for myself.

ZF: Aside from the usual avi parts, skin, shape, hair, so on and so forth..I believe Heart….No matter what, ur RL personality shows up in ur avi eventually, so my advice is, follow ur heart when making ur avi, u can’t go wrong then.

Where are some good places to visit to get a feel for things? Why?

MB: There are plenty of good places to visit, I like a lot of the clubs but it really depends on your agenda. My advice to people is to get chatting and meeting people, they will often tell you about or teleport you to places that you never would have thought to search for.

ZF: There is something to be learned anywhere u go in SL…something learned about urself, about people, about SL in general, and all are willing to help a newbie…We were all newbies at one time or another, so we understand and know what newbies are going thru.

Are there any gaming elements to Second Life?

MB: There are many, there are of course the role play sims for people who like that-they range from fantasy to war games and everything inbetween. There are also a wide variety of contests and competitions to take part in and of course little interactive games like Pool, skating and even motor racing. I have even been fishing and skydiving.

ZF: I suppose if ur into roleplay there are so called gaming elements…but for me, I’m very competitive, in a nice way, so when one of my fashion designer friends asked for something for their treasure hunt or fashion show, I like to push my creativity to the limits and make them something fabulous, or at least I try for fabulosity.

What’s been your best experience in Second Life?

MB: Sounds sentimental but my best experience has been meeting the people who I am now so very close to. The kindness, openess and generosity of like-minded individuals is a real pleasure to experience.

ZF: Besides meeting ALL my SL friends….I would have to say meeting my soulmate here….and finding out there really is someone perfect for everyone somewhere

..and your worst experience?

MB: Probably losing my job as club host at Sphynx after a griefing attack (when people enter sims and wreak havoc upon any residents there) that was beyond my control and most certainly not my fault. Also the people who fail to differentiate between SL and real life can really make life miserable for others.

ZF: *Laughs* Finding out my soulmate was married but its all good, at least, we can be friends.

What do you think are the biggest opportunities for Second Life in the future?

MB: The opportunities really are endless, SL has a huge community (enough to make its currency have value within the real world), has made millionaires of people, has married people andcontinues to support users who need the help or support of those who think and act alike. It can progress in any way it chooses so long as Linden Labs listens to the views of residents.

ZF: In the future as well as now….I feel SL offers the opportunity for people who are handicapped to be able to dance, or to do things they just aren’t able to do in RL….Endorphins have no idea these people are doing these things in a virtual world…they just make the person feel good, so the depression is alleviated….it still amazes me..

What advice would you give to a Second Life newbie?

MB: Be polite, be humble, be whatever you want to be. If it’s not for you then that’s fine. Nothing ventured-nothing gained.

ZF: First I would tell them to NEVER forget there is a RL person behind that avi….so be respectful and kind….but to also take advantage of all the things SL has to offer that RL doesn’t, like dancing on a star, or the moon. Enjoy it, be yourself, and just have fun…..