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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.

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Posted by on March 10, 2008 in Entertainment

 

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It Depends a lot on the Way You Ask

I guess sometimes the best way to ask for something is to say nothing at all.

Today I went to our workplace cafeteria for lunch and ordered a tuna wrap on on an “orange” pita from one of the hair-netted wrap makers. She used an ice-cream scoop to shovel around 1/2 of a single scoop of tuna onto my wrap – we’re talking less than 1 oz of tuna fish.

When she asked me what else I wanted on the wrap, I just stared blankly at her, then the wrap, then her again. Then I shot her a vacant blink while mentally trying to poof up my eyelashes. She tried to counter with a “what are you talking about” look, but I wasn’t phased, and she folded and scooped a more reasonable amount of tuna into the wrap.

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2008 in Entertainment

 

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