For those of you who may be reading this blog and are not familiar with Second Life (hereafter referred to as SL), allow me to give you a brief introduction to the Virtual World – in the hopes that you may be curious enough to come and join us. Let’s face it – there’s never anything on tv and how many of us have the energy to go dancing all night in the real world? I know, I know – some of you are still young and sprightly and have all your joints in perfect bouncy working order. But some of us appreciate having a virtual self who is still able to leap about and dance into the wee small hours without needing to lie down for 3 days afterwards! And for those of you who know exactly what I’m talking about, you may want to skip to the next page because I’m about to get on my soap box and do some serious selling here 😉
Let me start by saying that Second Life IS NOT A GAME! There. That should keep the purists happy 😛 And in all honesty, I understand the irritation when it is referred to as such. A game implies something that has levels, points, objectives to be achieved before you can progress further. SL is not like that. It is, quite literally, your Second Life. Anything you can do in real life, you can do in Second Life – and then some. Anything you can possibly imagine, or create, will be available to you.
The official Second Life blurb is:
“Experience endless surprises and unexpected delights in a world imagined and created by people like you.”
Hmmm. Well, there are certainly endless surprises – especially in certain locations. I would advise that you keep an open mind and are not easily offended. As with real life, there will always be people who are, let’s not mince words here – stupid. But at least in SL, you can just fly away – or blow them up 🙂 And don’t be put off by any negative press you may have heard about SL either. The platform was massively hyped up when it was released in 2002ish. It has been used, and still is, to some extent, by large corporations as a medium for international meetings that step over the limitations of impersonal conference calls: Business in Second Life. It has been used, and is still being used, by the military, for training and research: Military in Second Life. Retailers have stores and use Second Life as a valuable market research tool: Retail in Second Life. Charities are able to extend a greater level of support by providing a virtual presence to individuals who may be unable to travel: Charitable organisations in Second Life.
The subjects listed above are just a few of the very real and practical uses for this virtual world platform. I am aware that some of the articles are not recent. I have just linked to them to give an indication of what Second Life has been, and still is today. And let’s not forget even more basic benefits for such a visually interactive social platform. During my 5 years or so in-world, I have seen people with real life disabilities who have been given the opportunity to walk, run or dance with a loved one. It may seem a weak substitute for the real thing, but reading the comments in these people’s profiles, that doesn’t seem to be the case. It means that for the short while they are in-world, these people can still participate in activities that they can no longer do otherwise. Once you have experienced the true immersion into your virtual world, and let your avatar become a part of you, that little pixel person is then an extension of you. Able to do all the things you wished you still could – even if that just means dancing til 4am without getting blisters and a migraine.
I’ve seen a lot in Second Life and may have become a wee bit evangelical, purely to counter the negative press and the assumption that it’s “just a game”. I can see how much more it can be, if you let it. It is a lifeline for those who are housebound, or tied down with young children, or social anxieties, or medical conditions – or a million other reasons why real life interactions are difficult. I’m not advocating that anyone should rely on Second Life as a substitute for a real life by any means. But for many, it’s not that easy to just walk out of the door and go dancing in a club. Or go parachuting. Or swimming. Or skiing. I’m just suggesting that before anyone wrinkles their noses and denounces the whole thing as “sad / pathetic / geeky / lame”, they take a moment to consider the other reasons for using a platform such as Second Life.
It is a world with thousands of locations, all created and built by the residents themselves. The amount of talent and creativity is quite astounding. Some locations will quite literally take your breath away. After all this time, I am still in awe of what amazing things can be brought to life out of a few pixels on a computer screen.
(I’m not a techie and there are far more knowledgeable people out there who can explain this in better detail than me. So please forgive the layman’s terms if you are one of those techie types, as I’m explaining it in language that I understand myself. If anything I have said is incorrect, please by all means do feel free to correct me).
I think it is pretty much agreed that the user interface or functionality of SL is not the easiest to master. And because of this, many new users give up and do not bother to investigate further. But if you are considering logging on and exploring, do persevere because it really is worth it. There are lots of tutorials on YouTube about how to use the interface and how to generally do stuff once you are in-world. (Look out for tutorials by Torley Linden. They are nice and simple and he has a really cool way of explaining things).
There are several ways in which to enter the virtual world of Second Life. The ‘proper’ way is using the official Linden Lab viewer. To access SL, one first has to download a viewer. This is a free download which provides the gateway into SL. The virtual world is held on the main servers of Linden Lab, who created the ‘game’ platform, and only the viewer is downloaded onto your machine. There are also several other Third Party developed viewers, which give the same access to the SL platform, but with different layouts, interfaces and functions, over and above the official viewer.
- Official Linden Lab Second Life Viewer download link
- Singularity viewer
- Firestorm viewer
- Nirans viewer
- Dolphin viewer
(If I’ve not added any TP viewers that you think should be listed, drop me note or leave a comment and I’ll add it).
Update to viewer info as at 27.06.14 – the very lovely Chalice Yao (SL resident and techie genius) has compiled an up-to-date list of all current viewers, Official and Third Party, which you can check out on the SLU forum here: Chalice’s List of SL clients
Be aware that all viewers other than the Linden official one are developed by Third Party developers and therefore have no direct connection to Linden Lab. This isn’t necessarily anything to worry about, as a huge amount of residents use alternative viewers, but it’s just something you should be aware of. And also, I personally have no affiliation to any of the above sites or viewers. Simply suggesting and advising on what is available.
Everyone has their own preference as to how they want their viewer to look, and what functions they want it to have, so it’s not a bad idea to investigate and try the various options available. It is possible to have multiple viewers downloaded onto your PC or laptop. Some people prefer to use one viewer for general day-to-day SL use, but may prefer to switch to another if they want to take photos, or do role-play, or combat. So take your time and test them out. You’ll find one that you like and they all have their own support websites.
Speaking of support websites, take a look at the SLU forum page here. Again, as with viewers, there are several SL related forums; the main two being the official Second Life Forum, and the unofficial SL Universe (SLU). Both of these forums have a huge membership base and are a great way of getting help and advice. My personal favourite is SLU as I find it very friendly and far less strictly monitored.
It’s also worth having a look at Strawberry Singh’s blog here http://strawberrysingh.com/ as she has a really nicely laid out step-by-step walk-through for newbies, taking you right from when you first step into SL, through a few of the basics.
Well, I think that about wraps it up for my sales pitch 😛 . I do hope that if you’ve not already joined our virtual world, you will be tempted to come and give it a try. It’s far more fun than tv and you may actually find something you love doing. If you do decide to take the plunge, then by all means look me up when you get in-world. I’m Anouk Koray. I’m afraid that I’m not in-world often enough to be able to offer to mentor, but I’m always happy to try to help whenever I’m around, and it’s always nice to have someone on your Friends list when you first join 🙂