Tag Archives: second life

The People Want to Know

At sushi dinner Friday Night, one of my peers heard that some other students in the department had been up until 4AM playing Axis and Allies last night, and gratuitously rolled her eyes, adding “they may as well have been playing Dungeons and Dragons”. I gave some retort that I resented her remark, and that it was insensitive to say that a few days after Gary Gygax’s death (I was sort of joking). Of course, nobody at the table knew who Gygax was anyways [editorial update – one person at the table has informed me that they knew who Gygax was].

This launched a conversation about role playing games that somehow became a conversation about Second Life. I actually wasn’t the one to bring Second Life up, but I heard someone talking about a “game like The Sims where you can build a house and chat with other people”, so I jumped into the fray. Once I mentioned that I had a Second Life account and had used it, I had to field many, many questions about what it is, how it works, why people do it, and most strangely (to me), what it looks like, both in terms of what you see…

Some People in Second Life

… and how the world is laid out geographically,

Second Life World Map

(This is just a small section of the Second Life world map).

Some of the other questions that came up, for example, were:

  • Do you have to pay for it?
  • What does it look like?
  • What do people do on it?
  • Who is connected? Does someone have to be connected for you to “play”?
  • Can you have sex?
  • If you have sex, what does it looks like? Is it pixelated?
  • How do you travel around the world? Is it geographically like Earth?
  • How do people make money from it?
  • What if someone tries to have sex with you and you don’t want to?
  • Are there political groups?
  • Do you have to write code to use it?
  • Who writes the sex code?
  • How do you go from place to place?
  • Are there countries?
  • How do you know you’re not chatting with minors?
  • If you pay for your account, do you get more sex?

A lot of these seemed to be inspired by things they had read or heard from short news stories, and I had to ask for clarification about a lot of the questions (pixelated sex? wtf?). Also, I don’t know why people were so interested in sex on Second Life (well, maybe I do know why), but I ended up telling my BDSM story. The discussion revealed some interesting aspects of how the people at the table viewed Second Life (and similar online activities – World of Warcraft came up a few times).

They really had no idea what a chat room with avatars would look like. The whole mechanic was foreign to them. Strange, for me, since that was sort of the “goal” of the internet as long as I can remember it. They were curious and very interested in seeing Second Life, but not so interested that they would try it themselves. Several times I was asked “could you show it to me?”, but there was a lot of resistance when I suggesting installing it on their computers (I wasn’t pushing for this by any means… I just suggested it because it made more sense). Some had a big stigma against adults playing pretend. They would ask, “why would you spend time doing this when you can do it in real life?” I tried to make a case for it being OK for adults to pretend too, and I think we came to the consensus that pretending is fine if it’s not adversely affecting other parts of your life. There was definitely a perception that sex and Second Life are equivalent. I gave some examples of other things that happen there (movies, lectures, arts, the Nature Publishing Group’s Second Life island, a.k.a. “Second Nature“, etc.), but in the end their perception might be somewhat true.

The most striking part of the conversation to me was the coupling of interest and disgust… There’s this other world of “stuff” to do, and they were fascinated with it, but the extreme distaste for actually being personally associated with it, coupled with the view that it’s a waste of time, feels odd. It reminds me of something from a Geekstudies post on a book by David Anderegg. Jason explains that part of Anderegg’s argument boils down to “[geek/nerd identity] is something kids mostly grow out of… before they go on to make tons of money”. Because Second Life is on the computer, I definetely got the sense that people felt they had “grown out” of trying something like that (never mind that Second Life is inappropriate for minors, let alone children). However, it’s nice to see that the press Second Life is getting is attracting people’s attention, and perhaps, interest.


Posted by on March 10, 2008 in Entertainment


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Not the RPG of Our Forefathers

I’ve been using Second Life (SL) recently in an effort to veg out a bit before I get busy at work again. It’s nice as far as chat programs go because while many people use it, it’s not hopelessly infested by bots advertising porn (i.e. like AIM chat rooms). I’ve been logging into SL on a semi-regular basis basically just looking for something to do. For those of you who don’t use it, here’s a typical snapshot.


You can’t tell from the pic, but the people in the “Elbow Room” are dancing. The dude in jeans in the foreground is “me”.

So anyways, my usual modus operandi is to log in and fly (yes, fly) around to arbitrarily chosen locations and see if there are any interesting conversations going on. Sometimes I’ll just open up the world map and randomly select a spot to visit, just to find something new. (Note: the SL world is huge — it’s population is on the order of that of Rhode Island). They say you can do anything in SL, and that may be true, but on my “random” explorations the most frequent things I encounter are related to people creating/selling either SL content or pornography. There are definitely activities for those interested in the arts or education or other pass-times, but for me they have been hard to find consistently. More often then not I end up logging out more bored than I was when I logged in.

Last night I was on my random patrol when I ended up in a quaint medieval-looking area. As I entered a window popped up that told me the rules of this area… Alot of it was pretty standard, though perhaps more strict than most communities. They had a lot of weird restrictions for visitors. It also kept mentioning something about slaves that I didn’t really pay attention to. What I did gather was that the residents of this area were into some kind of role playing game. “Cool” I thought, “I used to be into the RPGs. Maybe this will be neat.”

So I obtained a visitors permit for this area (something you don’t usually need to visit a new area) and proceeded with my regular exploration. The permit was publically viewable in the form of text that floated over my head reading “VISITOR”. Pretty quickly I ran into a woman named Jewell who was dressed in-line with the medieval decor… Jewell greeted me with some words I didn’t recognize as English, which I soon realized were part of a mini-language they had created for the RPG. “Cool” I thought, “this is probably too intense of an RPG for me, but I should still take a look around and see what it’s all about”.

When Jewell realized that I was not going to answer her unless she spoke English, she welcomed me to the area and offered to give me a tour. “Cool” I thought, “this could be fun. At least they are nice.”

When we were about to leave, another avatar came onto the scene. He was dressed as I would imagine a “fighter” in Dungeons and Dragons would have dressed, right down to the armor, sword, and hunting horn. Jewell introduced him as Adham and told me that he could give me an even better tour than her because he had keys to locations that she did not. “Cool” I thought, “I’m gonna get a VIP tour!”

I’m going to try to recreate the ensuing conversation.

Adham: Tal.

Me: Pardon?

Adham: Do you know Gor?

I had gleaned from the “house rules” that Gorean was the language they used.

Me: You mean Gorean?

Adham: Yes.

Me: I apologize, I do not.

Adham: What are you doing here?

Me: I’m a visitor, I’m just exploring.

Adham: Why exactly are you here?

It’s very common in SL that when you tell someone you’re looking for something to do, they’ll ask you what your interests are and try to help you find a community that you’ll have fun in, so there wasn’t anything so odd about his question. Continuing on:

Jewell: Adham, why don’t you explain it to him, nicely.

Adham: Okay…

Adham: Do you prefer domination or submission?

This one caught me a bit off guard, but I was willing to role with it. Something about slaves in the house rules crept into my consciouness for an instant and then was gone.

Me: I really haven’t tried either. So what do you guys do here anyways?

Adham: Are you interested in BDSM?

A few things started to make sense.

Me: (silence for 30 seconds or so)

Me: (meekly shrugs shoulders)

Me: (30 more seconds of silence)

Me: I’m.. not really sure… what I’m interested in. I suppose I should think about it and get back to you.

Adham: That would probably be best.

Me: Thank you for your time, have a good night. (begin to walk away)

Jewell: If you’d like you can add me to your list of friends and let me know if you have any questions.

Me: That would be fantastic! (Please don’t hurt me!)

I beat a hasty retreat. I don’t have any a priori objection to people participating in BDSM play, but it’s not something I’m currently interested in, and it caught me a bit off guard. At the same time, I didn’t want to insult anyone by overreacting. After all, I had essentially wandered into their ‘hood. A retrospective google search for the word “Gorean” taught me that there were clues about what was going on long before I had any inkling of what I had haplessly wandered into.

Has anyone else had anything like this happen to them?


Posted by on January 22, 2007 in Entertainment