Friday, July 20, 2007

Embarking upon a Second Life


It always amazes me when I discover a new world.

Despite the fact that 'Second Life' is immensely popular, I never knew much about it until a friend recommended it to me yesterday.

For those who are as ignorant as I, 'Second Life' is a computer 'game' that actually allows individuals to live in another world. It is not like 'The Sims' because there is no story line and all the characters are real people. The world is very much like this one in most respects, although there are some technological advances, such as teleportation, that have not been possible at this point in our world.

When I visited the 'Second Life' site, I found it a little daunting at first. It seemed so much like reality, especially in the realm of business and money-making schemes, that I felt I would be as much a 'fish out of water' there as I was on Wall Street in Manhattan.

Despite my self-doubt, however, I registered and underwent the Orientation Tour. Rather amusingly, I was accosted by a number of newcomers like myself, who appealed to ME for help! Fortunately, having obtained my Key to the Island (the prize for completing the Orientation), I was able to help them. Perhaps one day I shall write a Guide for 'Second Life'. Who knows?

I wandered about a little, accepting pamphlets from various organisations and reading them. Free outfits and accessories were being given away as well. It was rather like a convention in many ways. I acquired a number of brochures and objects that may or may not prove useful. Although my avatar was clothed in jeans when I arrived at the Orientation Island, I was able to create an elegant long skirt for her instead, as well as a pair of gloves. Most of the activities on Orientation Island are designed to familiarise newcomers with the basic workings of 'Second Life'. They teach newcomers how to move, how to change their appearance, how to communicate with other individuals and how to interact with objects.

One of the first steps when registering is to create an 'avatar' for oneself. One is offered a few basic choices. One needn't be a conventional human being. If one would rather have the head of an animal, for example, one can. In any event, the initial appearance one chooses does not determine any ultimate choice. One can change gender, change body type, change everything, once one knows how to do it.

More than once on Orientation Island, I encountered a bizarre creature, perched on a wall. He (I assume it was a male) had the body of a chicken, but a head that resembled that of a human. I did not attempt to engage in conversation with the creature, although he looked rather forlorn, and the fact that I encountered him at different locations probably either signified loneliness or a desire to show off his bizarre appearance to every newcomer who arrived.

Incidentally, 'Second Life' truly is international. People speak every language and instructions can be found in almost any language. The first question any individual asked me was whether or not I spoke English. I believe I spoke to individuals from Scandinavia, Southern Europe and Japan within the first five minutes of my sojourn at Orientation Island.

I then discovered an offer for a free 'balloon tour' of the Island.
I clicked on the offer and was given the option to teleport to the site of the tour. Promises of free lemonade and popcorn operated as an added inducement, despite the fact that I never eat popcorn in the 'real world'. It sounded like fun, and that indeed was the purpose of this marketing device.

The balloon was very attractive, but did not move from its moorings. Until another newcomer arrived and promptly found a seat in the balloon, I was at a loss. He told me that the balloon would not move until an individual was seated safely inside. I found a seat and the balloon tour began.

'Second Life' really is all about marketing and recruitment. The balloon tour was a rather clever device to introduce newcomers to the people who had created 'Second Life' and to promote the entire vision of a second reality to newcomers.

As we passed a display of stuffed animals, I reached out to try to grab one and suddenly, was the recipient of a stern scolding from an unseen male. 'Don't make me get physical with you, Freyashawk!' the man shouted.

My companion, a chap named Noob Nishi, responded rather chivalrously, shouting back at the guy, telling him to be more courteous in future!

I was a little taken aback when my companion disappeared suddenly. I did not know if the unseen male had disposed of him in some sinister fashion or if he had forgotten the warnings not to stand in the balloon. (We had been told that if one were to stand, one would fall through the floor of the balloon.)

I completed the rest of the tour alone, floating slowly over the island until at length, the balloon returned to the platform with the popcorn machine.

Here I found my companion once more. He told me that his computer had crashed, thus explaining his sudden disappearance. He then announced his intention of flying to explore the island further.

Yes, one can fly in 'Second Life'. Although one can take a tour of the island via hot air balloon, one could take the same trip simply by pressing the 'Fly' button and taking to the air alone. No wings, but one does have the power to fly all the same, even though the scientific basis for this power may remain unexplained. (It is possible that it IS explained somewhere, however, as there are real scientific communities in 'Second Life', as well as exhibitions and events. One can attend lectures and become involved in classes, as well as opening businesses or creating a new community. One actually could make a second life more profitable than the first, and money made in 'Second Life' can be converted to American dollars or whatever currency you choose.)

I decided to explore a little in like fashion, and experimented with the power of flight. Unfortunately, when I chose to land, I overstepped the mark and fell onto a rocky cliff on a level far below the buildings I had intended to explore.

It was rather comical, actually. I do not know if any one watched my clumsy efforts, but I expect it would have been amusing to watch me dive and swoop, only to plummet onto the rocks below.

At length, I discovered a very upscale shopping precinct that included a photography studio and wedding chapel. More of this later...

Meanwhile, the official website can be found at:

In my next post, I will describe my exploration of some of the business opportunities that exist in 'Second Life'.

N.B. I do not know all the specifications for running the programme. I am not terribly adept at computer operations, but I was able to install the programme effortlessly. It runs without trouble on my laptop.

One simply registers by choosing a name and initial 'avatar' appearance, then one must provide an email address and create a password. After that, one will receive an email that includes a link to the download site. Download the application, install it and then open it to enter into a 'Second Life'. It is as simple as that.

Note: Two of the photographs show the basic avatar created upon registration. The third shows my avatar in her current manifestation on her own land.

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