Thursday, April 10, 2008

Adventures in Second Life

Scene from the BP awards ceremony last year

You might ask what an old lady like me knows about the trendy world of Second Life. I first heard of this place last year when Tom Paine, a member of Blogpower invited everyone to his airship in Second Life for an Awards ceremony. It was a great idea, for where else can you hold such an event for a group of people who are scattered all over the globe.

But first of all one has to enroll in Second Life where you choose an identity and an avatar to represent you. You must choose a surname from a set list but you have have free choice of a first name, so in SL I am known as JMB with the surname of Balough, which everyone knows since it is written above your head. You have a limited choice of avatar which you can alter within a certain range and let me tell you, this is easier said than done.

Relaxing at the bar, after the ceremony

Most everyone who wanted to attend the ceremony was new to SL, so there was a great flurry of enrolling, downloading the program and desperately trying to get up to speed with the possibilities in that virtual world, for the date of the ceremony was approaching fast. I think some people met up with others and I certainly ran into at least one other person on one occasion when we had a conversation using the local chat feature which is basically IM using text. But mostly for me, it was stumbling around on my own, trying to master locomotion and make changes to my appearance and clothing, rather unsuccessfully I might add. For the longest time I had a ridiculous beanie attached to my head which I had no idea how to detach. I don't even know how I got it in the first place.

However I managed to scatter freckles over my face, make my eyes greener than they are in RL (real life) and equip myself with the red hair I always wanted when I was young, instead of the coppery brown stuff I had in former years.

Yes, I did wear a red skirt and red blouse, along with the aforementioned beanie, to the ceremony, although I arrived at the tail-end since it was timed to suit the UK and European folk and I was not willing to get up at 6 AM, so I rolled up when most people were winding down at the follow-up party. I danced for a bit. No, I can't dance in RL, but thanks to the "clever" people I can dance in SL.

Once I left that event I did not go back to Second Life for a very long time. It can be an extraordinarily frustrating experience as suddenly your clothes and or hair disappear and you are left standing bald with your pink rubber "body" exposed, or your avatar freezes and can't move or participate in the local chat or even worse, Second Life crashes not only itself but your whole computer and you are forced to reboot. Usually I flounce off in a huff, swearing never to return.

The BP common room

Recently, TP announced that he had created a common room for Blogpower members, inviting us to meet there should we choose. Naturally I went along to the BP common room, but no one was there! Quelle surprise.

I have to admit it is a bit seductive over there, as one tries to learn how to navigate the various areas which are open to one as an ordinary resident, with no property. When not at TP's airship, which gets boring fast with no one there, I tend to go back to a place called Help Island, where supposedly one gets some orientation and there are usually monitors who will give you help, provided you know the right questions to ask. I have managed to detach my beanie and it sits in my inventory, although I cannot imagine ever wearing it again. I suppose I should delete it. My locomotion is still very haphazard, as I keep bumping into walls and stopping and starting in a most peculiar fashion. No hand/eye coordination on the navigation arrows I'm afraid. Sigh!

Recently my adventures in SL have stepped up a notch and become much more interesting but I'll save that for another post. My daughter's students think it is amazing that her old mother nips around in Second Life and I have acquired considerable cachet with them. If only they knew how clueless I am there, although I have certainly made myself slimmer and less wrinkled. Remember JMB Balough, maybe I'll see you there.


Tom Paine said...

SL is interesting more for its potential than for what it is at present (which can be quite squalid at times - so watch out).

The art community is interesting though and I have had fun assembling the collection on display in my gallery. I even dabble a bit myself (photoshopping "paintings" from SL photos). My small gallery is two levels up from the main display. I also belong to something called the UK Writers' Guild which holds readings in SL. I haven't written anything yet, but did read out a favourite poem at one of the events.

It is what you make of it and for someone like me - endlessly travelling on business and stuck in hotel rooms alone - it provides a good place to socialise. Meeting a fellow Blogpower member is always a pleasant bonus. You may like to try IM'ing the whole Blogpower Group in SL occasionally to see who's there.

oestrebunny said...

How cool!

I think I saw this on an episode of CSI once.

Certainly opens up a lot of opportunities.

Carver said...

Wow, you are far more adventurous than me. I feel like the old lady reading the young JMB discussing her adventures with style and wit. I'm sure I couldn't find my way into the room so there would be no danger of me being left with my nude rubber body. Fun post.

Vic, the Cariboo Ponderer said...

I had heard of this some time ago so when I got my satellite connection I went to join and was informed that Second Life and satellite did not get along. I was disappointed it looks like fun.

Crushed said...

Not sure I've been there since the ceremony.
A while back, that.

leslie said...

This reminds me of an episode of Law & Order or CSI - where a young woman was killed by a fellow virtual "friend." I guess you just have to be careful. Could be fun, though.

Liz said...

I didn't make the award ceremony - I think we were on holiday - but visited beforehand, and kept walking the wrong way and generally being disorientated. I have to admit that it didn't grab me so I haven't been back.

Dr.John said...

I don't think you'll see me there. I don't want to crash into things in cyber space. I have enough trouble walking in real space . But it does sound like you had fun so good for you.

Donnetta Lee said...

jmb: Sounds like you are really having fun. I just saw some TV mystery show (might have been one of the CSIs, not sure) about SL. It was interesting. Don't lose sight of your RL persona!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

As a fellow blogpower-member, I remember that get-together we had with affection. However, I am not very technically-minded, am busy and so these days I am scared of the amount of time it takes just to get in there and change your clothes, for instance! I can see how it could become addictive, though.

Rositta said...

I checked it out about a year ago and signed up. It got so confusing for me I've never been back. Maybe some day I'll look in again...ciao

Mimi Lenox said...

You've been royally tagged by Mimi Queen of Memes. Have fun!
Message In a Bottle

Semaj Mahgih said...


Colin Campbell said...

My kids have been back with Jocko a few times to have a look around. I only have it loaded on my work computer, so it is not an every day opportunity. The whole Blogpower Awards thing was fun and it is hard to imagine the goodwill that was around at that time being replicated. A lot of (virtual) water has passed under the bridge.

Beaman said...

I visted the Blogpower common room a few times but it was empty each time. Somehow I found a parachute on my travels and so had much fun jumping out of the Blogpower airship door, falling fast and then being tugged to a slow and controlled descent onto the castle below.

Ian Lidster said...

I must check this out. Could be fun. You have such a dynamic, dear friend. When I am feeling too jaded and cynical about this screwed up world I go for a shot of you and it perks me up and lets me put things into perspective.

CherryPie said...

I am sure I would be useless at this. It looks like a great deal of fun though :-)

Phil A said...

I never made it to the original awards ceremony, but I joined sl on the strength of the possibility the next ones will be held there. Being the sort who likes to acquire knowledge about various things and become proficient if possible I chose the name Stainless Weatherwax and charged straight over the initial learning hump.

Slaughtering monsters and terrorists in Quake, Delta Force gave me a head start there.

I find sl has more of the feel of a rp or most like the old dungeons and dragons where you used to sit round a table and a group of you (ales and females) would plot to steal a treasure, or clear out a hoard of zombies.

I quickly found an educational Elizabethan sim that was interesting and the people were knowledgeable and pleasant. I joined that; I learned to handle a spellfire TM sword and buckler.

I also came across a book club that meets up regularly and has talks from authors. I rather like the 1950s too I hang out there sometimes.

I have made some friends, or at least close acquaintances in sl. Some I have no idea about in rl.

Last Ditch Writer was helpful with advice. Recently Last Ditch writer had a castle warming party that seemed to go off well, though the lag (delay you can get when there are a lot of avs in a location) was a nuisance. Oh and excellent job on the sky base meeting rooms.

And last night was Yuri night and we partied like it was 1961 -12 April 1961.

Sl actually seems to be more popular with the ladies than guys. It has it’s own currency the, linden dollar. Shopping for quality clothes is relatively cheap with an exchange rate and prices better than the Far East. A friend there pointed out the clothes always fit, they never run out of your size and if they don’t quite fit then you just change your clothes, or your av to fit the clothes.

Initially I tried to make my avatar as much like me as possible. I succeeded after a fashion; I couldn’t work out how to make it look suitably mature. It ended up looking like me circa 27 or possibly my brother and I left it at that.

Age doesn’t seem to make much difference, except when you can tell you are dealing with a real irritating juvenile and there the problem is a lack of experience and conversation. You tend to take people as you find them.

JMB Re movements try combining a mouse click on your avatar together with the arrow keys, makes things more fluid and lets you look up down left right.

This is running on a bit, more like a post than a comment. Addictive? No more than reading good books, listening to music or visiting with friends.