A few months ago, I signed up for Second Life. I spent one evening going through the “training” island, and then didn’t go back until yesterday (Second Life won’t run on my windows box).
Well, people, I’m finding it really hard. I’m not used to finding myself in an environment I have trouble using and which is confusing to me. Here’s the story of what I’ve been through and understood (or not) — with pictures, so that you can get an idea what’s going on in there if you’re not familiar with Second Life. I’m Stephanie Spicoli in Second Life — do get in touch in-world if you have an account.
One thing I’ve pretty much figured out is how to use the arrows to walk around. Sounds silly, heh? At first, I kept running into things. Now I’m getting used to turn left/right, and backwards/forwards.
Yesterday evening, I spent some time in the welcome zone — lots of weirdos there. A kind person helped me out a bit by giving me things and showing me some place I could go to which were nice.
Put this way, it sounds straightforward, doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t. What happened is I started having all sorts of little pop-ups appearing on my screen. I didn’t know for the life of me what to do with them. First I clicked “Discard” on all of them because I didn’t know what they were. Then I had to ask her to give them to me again, and vaguely understood I had to keep them in my Inventory (that’s where you store things in Second Life, kind of like a big handbag). But I couldn’t figure out how to put them in there. Actually, I just had to close the pop-up windows, they were already in my inventory. Gosh. Thank goodness chatting is pretty similar (albeit somewhat laggy when it comes to typing feedback) and I’m at least familiar with that part.
I then teleported to New Citizens Incorporated, a place which gives classes and has lots of free stuff for newcomers. You can see the shops on this photograph. I went into one of the shops, and the shelves were absolutely packed with all sorts of stuff which didn’t make much sense to me. Well, one type of item I understood was “clothes”. I wasn’t really interested in clothes at first, until I saw another person wearing exactly the same outfit as I was! I was still wearing the default outfit they give you in the training zone.
That set me off on my first mission: try to get some new clothes. Not as easy as it sounds. I managed to get a box or two of female clothes off a shelf (Cmd-click on the box, and choose buy). Of course, I tried to wear the clothes directly and ended up with a box on my head. Then I understood I had to go in my inventory, drag the box out of it so it was on the floor, Cmd-click on it, choose open, then go back into my inventory, look at what items of clothing were in there, Cmd-click the ones I wanted to wear and choose “wear” from the menu. Sounds like a lot of trouble just to change clothes, doesn’t it? Well, it was. It probably took me an hour. Needless to say that in the process I ended up in my underwear — though hopefully I managed to avoid being stark naked in the middle of NCI Plaza.
At that point I was ready to try to do something with my hair. Somebody told me there were classes organized for new Second Life citizens, so I went to have a look at the program. Unfortunately there was no class named “dye your hair pink in less than 30 minutes”, so I postponed that piece of fun to the next session.
Instead, I played around a bit with the camera controls (I desperately wanted to see what my face looked like) and tried to take a snapshot or two. Well, I still have a lot of learning to do. Zoom in and out works now that I’ve understood I can use the MacBook trackpad scrolling technique (go up or down the trackpad with two fingers, and it scrolls/zooms). As for detaching the camera from right behind my avatar and moving it around and up and down… well, sometimes I manage, sometimes I don’t. It’s a bit hit-and-miss — again, not something I’m used to on a computer. I’m aware that for many people, normal computer use is just as confusing as Second Life is for me now. It’s an interesting experience for me.
As I’m writing this, I’m trying to remember when I did what. I’ve been on Second Life three times (last night, this morning, tonight). I’m honestly not certain which part of the story I’m telling you was last night, and which part was this morning. My memories are a bit confused and jumbled up.
Right, I went to look at the time I took the various screenshots I have: this morning, I chatted quite a bit with a bunch of people who were trying to build a Griefball.
A Griefball? Well, as one put it, mainly a statement — but the idea was also that this ball would then be programmed to get rid of griefers. Griefers are the Second Life equivalent to trolls. We had one this morning, by the way: he was dancing all over the place and making noises and stuff. Pretty irritating. I “muted” him (the equivalent of “ignore”) and then I think somebody else filed an abuse report on him. How do you mute somebody? Not too hard: Cmd-click on that person’s avatar, and click “Mute” in the menu that appears.
This morning, I also decided to do something about my hair. After a few random clicks in my inventory (I saw I had different kinds of hair in there) I finally landed in the hair style editing menu. Holy cow! There are tons of settings. You can literally spend hours doing your hair in Second Life.
I also managed to make it pink (my initial goal). The magic slider for that is “rainbow colour” (don’t ask).
- grew a pink tiger-tail (not quite true, somebody gave it to me)
- swapped my red shirt (arghl, not nice with pink hair) for a green one (which I modified myself!)
- went for a stroll in the park by sunset
- got stuck in a mountain (no photos of that, I was too busy trying to get out).
Want pictures? Clicky below:
Overall, for the moment, I’ve met quite a few nice helpful people. What makes Second Life exciting is also what makes it really difficult to get into: it’s complex. I’m spending a lot of time learning stuff which isn’t really that interesting in itself for me (I have no ambition to become a digital hairstylist) but which is needed for what’s coming next. Feeling comfortable with your inventory, moving the camera about, doing things with objects… there are all basic skills and I’m not comfortable with them yet. But if you want a world where people can be digital artists, build businesses, organise live music performances or conferences, you need that level of complexity to allow users to be creative.
As one of the people who helped me out this morning said: “there’s not a lot of hand-holding”. Inside Second Life, of course, there are classes and coaching, but in my opinion the interface is complicated enough that it’ll get in the way from getting help in-world for many people.
I’m certain there is (will soon be) a market for introduction classes to Second Life… in First Life.