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Second Life: First Encounter

Posted by Rick · March 14th, 2007 · No Comments


People who don’t know me — which is to say “almost everyone” — are sometimes surprised to learn the variety of things in which I’m interested. When they learn, it’s usually, but not always, a positive event. I’m interested to see how this one is going to turn out.

Recently, I discovered Second Life.

Second Life is a “virtual word.” Virtual worlds are “places” that exist only virtually, in what is sometimes known as “cyberspace.”

I’m not going to talk right now about exactly what Second Life is, because I’m still learning. I’m only “a few days old” in Second Life. I’m having a blast so far. Ironically, it’s the unexpected learning experiences I’m having that are proving both the most interesting and the most exciting.

Back in the very-late 1980s to about the mid-1990s, I often played MUDs, or multi-user dimensional games. Although I know a lot more about MUDs than I do about Second Life, suffice it to say that there are a variety of types. Those that I frequented were usually more “game-based” or game-oriented than what I’ve seen in Second Life so far, but as with Second Life, they allowed “building” your own virtual places. However, it seems to me that Second Life is very much like how a lot of the MUDs in which I was involved turned out: although game-oriented, the folks who logged onto the system and played frequently ended up creating their own small social network of friends.

Not infrequently, these friendships came to be more important than the games. Some folks, including me, would log on to the system and play the games as a diversion while they awaited the arrival of their group of friends. Then they’d all wander off to a virtual bar, sit, drink and chat.

In that sense, both MUDs and, now, Second Life seem to me to be essentially hyped-up Internet Relay Chat (IRC) rooms. MUDs, like regular chat rooms, are text-oriented; but they include “room descriptions” and the text frequently includes descriptions of other people wandering in or out of the room, grabbing objects, ordering drinks, etc. In Second Life — which is built with “three-dimensional” graphical representations of people, places and things — this is, of course, more visually-oriented.

In the end, Second Life, because of the way it’s built, lends itself to greater emphasis on socialization — what I think of as the IRC aspect. (However, I understand that there are role-playing games in Second Life, as well; the only one I’ve actually seen parts of is Port Kar.)

At any rate, one of the side benefits of my past experience with MUDs is that I’m apparently adapting pretty quickly. I’ve had a few people even accuse me of “pretending” to be only four days old. They think my current “avatar” — or computer-representation of myself — is a hoax and that I’m really an experienced Second-Lifer with some kind of ulterior motive. It’s no hoax, of course, but I’m grateful that I don’t appear to be a total “noob” because the (mis)perception that I’m an experienced Second-Lifer allows me greater interaction with others, a bit more freedom and leads to a wider array of invitations from other, more experienced, Second-Lifers.

And with that, I’ll leave off this post — I’ve been told people don’t like reading these if they get too long. In my next post, I plan to talk a little bit more about the surprising learning experiences I alluded to above.

Until then, you might want to check out Second Life yourself.

Categories: Social Issues


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