July 27, 2009

Why I Left Second Life

Given that I’ve only mentioned Second Life twice in the last two years on any of my blogs, it might come as a surprise to find out that I’ve been a Second Life user—or “resident,” as the term is—since May 2007. Throughout that time I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to say that I’ve never been addicted to this virtual reality world, but the time has come for me to distance myself from it and its other residents.

For those unaware, Second Life is a virtual reality environment in which you decide what it is to you. Thus, it’s not a game per se; it’s a world that is whatever you want it to be. Whether you want to be an entrepreneur and sell virtual merchandise or whether you want to be a bum on a beach, you can do it. Whether you want to be a vampire or an purple cheetah from a planet with an unpronounceable name, you can. It’s all up to you.
A map of the Second Life grid.

I’d be using a lot of space trying to explain the entire thing with words, so if you’re trying to figure out what it is, go to the Second Life FAQ page which is offered by Linden Labs, which is the company that developed the whole thing.

Before I get to the negatives, I do have to mention a few positives that came from my experience with Second Life: I did meet a few really great people and I learned how to use technology that was off my radar until I learned about it through Second Life. This technology ended up helping me with my job in real-life and was a godsend. Two items in particular are a photo editing tool called GIMP and a self-publishing Website called Issuu.com.

But like I had said, with the positives come the negatives, and there were quite a few. What I’ll do is frame these in a way that will hopefully make sense to both Second Life users (or former users) as well as those who have no clue as to what Second Life entails. So think of this list as a guide-sheet for newcomers—only it’s giving you a heads-up for some of the crap that you’ll run into on your virtual journey if you choose to explore it.



There are two aspects to this section, so keep both of them in mind if you decide to sign up.

In Second Life, you can “partner” with a person of your choice. This is Linden Labs’ version of going steady with someone. What you’ll notice, however, is that most of this “partnering” turns into a really bad episode of Degrassi Junior High. For instance, a guy named Brock might be partnered with a woman named Sexykins this week, but next week you’ll see that Brock is partnered with Nippleicious and Sexykins is partnered with BigDick. Then BigDick finds out that Sexykins is having an “affair” with some guy named Gangsta, Nippleicious is having an “affair” with DJSmooth, and Brock is having an “affair” with an intergalactic vampire named Zorgonella who comes from the planet Xonix 15. Oh, and throughout that whole time, Sexykins was also cyber-fucking a girl named Trixxi, but it wasn’t supposed to be known because Trixxi didn’t want anyone knowing that she was a bisexual (since she had promised her girlfriend that she was strictly lesbian). In the end, everyone “unpartners” and DJSmooth names himself a “slave owner” with his slave being Trixxi, who is more than happy to have someone “own” her. They open a Second Life BDSM club and live happily ever after.

Making Your Avatar Look Hot
Since I’m writing this from the perspective of a straight male, I’ll offer these tips to other straight guys if you’re thinking about signing up with Second Life in the hopes of meeting women in this particular virtual world:
  • Make your avatar look as unnatural as possible. Give him shoulders that look sickeningly broad. Give him legs that look so muscular that he’s undoubtedly a steroid freak. Give him hair that would make an emo band envious. Give him as many piercings as possible. Be sure that he has a waxed chest because a lot of straight women in Second Life hate chest hair; the pre-pubescent look is very popular. And top it all off with more tattoos than you can shake a stick at. Whatever you do, don’t make him look realistic. And no matter what, never make your avatar look unique. Conformity is important here.

  • Be obnoxious. If you can act immature, do so. For some reason, many straight women in Second Life love men who act like seventh-graders.
  • Tell them that you’re a DJ. Even if you’re not, just tell them that you are. Your sex appeal will skyrocket. Tell them that you’re a DJ in real-life and you’ll have it made.
  • Tell women that you’re rich. The vast majority of straight women in Second Life who are looking to meet men want to know that you have lots of money. They also want to know that you’re willing to spend it on them: big virtual homes, expensive virtual cars, and lots of virtual land. Upon my first arriving in Second Life, a woman asked me, “Where’s your house?” When I told her that I didn’t have a house in Second Life, her response was, “It was nice meeting you.”
  • Finally, tell them that you’re married in real-life. It was disturbing to see how many women wouldn’t even talk to men in Second Life if the men weren’t married in real-life. Some women wore it as a badge of honor to “date” and partner only married men.
If you’re a guy who’s looking to meet women in Second Life, and if you’re a guy who wants women to like you for not acting like an asshole, there is a little bit of hope: those women can be found in Second Life. The only catch is that we call those women lesbians.

The economy in Second Life is probably the most capitalistic, freest market that you’re going to find on the face of the Earth. You can make virtual goods to sell or you can just buy Linden dollars (Linden Labs’ version of in-world play money) to spend. If you decide to make stuff to sell, just be aware that some merchants in Second Life are whiners. In fact, they’ll blame you for their own failures.

A Second Life store near a beach club.

Just before I called it quits in Second Life, a brouhaha broke out amongst a few merchants in which some merchants were whining because other merchants were charging less for their goods and thus making more money than the merchants who were charging more (they were viewing sales in terms of seller-side instead of consumer-side). The former merchants thought that the latter should voluntarily raise their prices to make things “fairer.” The latter merchants basically told them to go pound sand. Either way, get used to this. Second Life is full of people selling merchandise who have no familiarity with the world of retail sales or economics trying to survive in a cut-throat economy. Add to that an entitlement mentality and you find yourself with a situation that leads to thousands of shouting matches.

The economics of Second Life also lets us to see who the hypocrites are. You notice them very quickly because they preach the virtues of socialism and economic regulations while urging people to buy as much of their merchandise as possible to maximize their own profits. These people have the theory that capitalism and profits are evil unless it benefits them and no one else. This is just proof that you can’t remove the real-life, tangible world from a pixelated virtual world because human beings are running the entire thing.

While the issues that I discussed under the relationships section were a close second to this, this section was ultimately the biggest reason why I quit Second Life. I have to deal with enough of this stuff on a regular basis in the real world, mainly at work, so my time in Second Life was supposed to be relaxing if not fun. But when you have several kinds of negative personalities on the Second Life grid (the “grid” being the map of existing areas to which you can travel), there were several times that my time online was neither relaxing nor fun.

The Drama Queens
These folks aren’t necessarily women, either. The drama queen can be male or female and they’re constantly making a mountain out of a molehill. Some of them just gossip about other people but others actually save entire instant message conversations and paste them for others to see (which is actually a violation of the terms-of-service) in order to create conflict.

The Attention Whores
Similar to the drama queens, the attention whores come in male and female versions. You notice them quickly: as soon as you stop talking to them or stop noticing them, they freak out.

The Power-Trippers
From what I saw during my time in Second Life, these were usually males and they usually fell into two categories: club owners and “police officers.” Second Life virtual clubs look a lot like real-life clubs: laser lights, glitter balls, and music. These virtual clubs are basically just a place to socialize and listen to music if you have your music stream option enabled. If you get too many people in a club, however, you’ll experience lag. I have a pretty kick-ass iMac and even I experienced lag a few times. Prepare yourself if you go.


Anyway, a lot of guys who own Second Life clubs—and it was usually always guys who fell into this category—had issues with control. They own the club and they want you to know it. They set the rules, they decide who can enter and who can’t, and one guy even had the idea that once you walked into his club, he somehow “owned” you and everything that you would do while there.

I can’t help but think that these guys are trying to compensate for a lack of first-life worth. Their lives suck in the tangible world, so they want to be important in the virtual world. In a few cases, it actually works. Sadly it’s because of what I mentioned earlier in my critique when I talked about what many women in Second Life are drawn to. In this case, if you say you’re a club owner, all of a sudden you’re “cool”—and when you’re a student at Degrassi Junior High, you want to be cool, no?

“Police officers” are the second lot, and I use quotation marks because they’re not really real police officers—that is, they have no real law enforcement ability as they’re not under contract with Linden Labs. There have been multiple reports of these “cops” acting in inappropriate ways and justifying their actions by having “a badge” that they themselves made. Again, these guys want power any way possible and for them, threatening people in a virtual world with their pixelated handcuffs and pixelated guns gives them what they need.

Even though I never had a problem with someone “stalking” me in Second Life (basically just following you around, asking your friends about you, never leaving you alone, etc.), I know several people who were routinely stalked. I figure that I wasn’t stalked because I wasn’t rich, I wasn’t a DJ, and I wasn’t married in real-life. My value in Second Life was, for the most part, pretty rock-bottom. Still, I would not want to be the victim of this kind of harassment.


I will say that Second Life isn’t the spawn of Satan that some folks in the mainstream media would have you believe. In fact, when you think about it, they’ve brought a virtual 3-D world to the masses.

Yes, there have been problems in the past with the exchanging of child pornography, but to blame Second Life as an entire platform for the criminal acts of a few individuals would be like blaming the entire Internet for it, too. With that said, it’s not an environment that I could see myself returning to visit on a regular basis anymore. After two years it took its toll on me. Rather, many of the people in it took a toll on me.

My hope was that it would be some kind of positive outlet for an otherwise negative, mundane, real-life tangible world. The possibilities of creativity and imagination lured me in, but the specters of conformity and bullshit drove me off.

This post wasn’t designed to tell you what to do with your own decision on whether or not to try Second Life. By all means, if you want to check it out, go for it. If you like it and decide to use it regularly, more power to you. If anything, I’d be the first person to tell you to give something a try before making a decision on it. Don’t knock something until you try it—except for suicide, of course.

I tried Second Life. I lasted for a little over two years, but this weekend I came to a decision to click FileQuit for what was probably the last time.


1 comment:

VelvetViolets said...

You forgot to mention the RP Kings and Queens who make their own countries. These people were hilarious. Their actual lives must suck because they have to creat a place and force people to admire them in role playing.
I quit Sl because a griefer spammed my area with images of cats being tortured in the most heinous of ways, lit on fire, cut apart, beheaded, and of dimembered children and adults. I found out these were from snuff and crush videos. So you need to add a category for the morally bankrupt and for sociopaths as well. If these people had this content on their computers and the FBI found them, they would go to jail. Now I have it stuck in my head. F^ch Second Life, Linden Labs and people who condone (and make money from) torture and murder of animals and children