This week’s grad school adventures took me to Second Life, a 3D world where people create avatars to interact with each other and build homes, other buildings and fantasy environments. I’ve played my fair share of video games, but I’ve never been a PC gamer, so it took me some time to get adjusted to changing from flying to walking to running using my computer’s keyboard.
The first thing I did was pick an avatar. I played with the custom clothes for at least an hour before getting frustrated and choosing an already-put-together avatar that at least shared a few of my own characteristics — brown hair and the most normal looking clothes I could find.
Then, I was ready to explore. When looking at destinations, I chose a category that claimed it was beginner-friendly — a good thing since I was still occasionally running into walls.
One of the places included this Second Life schoolhouse, which had dozens of these informational boards laying out the basics of Second Life and explaining some of the lingo.
Then I practiced my flying around this zoo.
After I felt I had my movements pretty much under control, I headed over to another beginner-friendly place that actually had other people in it so I could make some new friends.
But I must have still looked pretty awkward, because the first person I got to talk back to me immediately asked if I was new. I told him I was, and he offered to show me around a bit. Here’s how he introduced the virtual world: “Basically in this life, you can do anything that we can do in real life.”
My new friend had been a Second Life resident (what the program’s users are called) since 2006. He had a premium account, which allows you to own land and build your own house, and he said he had actually built two. We teleported to one of his homes, which overlooked a beach and had a pool and very nice virtual furniture inside. My friend was a designer in Second Life who actually sells his virtual goods to make real money. He told me that I could do this, too, with some practice. I told him that he greatly overestimated my Second Life skills.
I don’t see myself spending a lot of time in Second Life, but my experience this week was not an unpleasant one. The people I met were either as clueless as I was (probably because I was mostly hanging out in the newbie spaces) or very kind, like my temporary tour guide. And as we’re facing another round of wintry weather here in Alabama, at least some version of me got to swim in this pool!