Monday, April 21, 2008

Second Life Journal

When I first arrived in Orientation Island I felt pretty confident in my ability to navigate, mainly because I have participated in online games in the past. For example, in the summer between senior year of high school and freshman year of college my boyfriend and I used to play World of Warcraft together for hours. I literally used to bring my computer and we would sit next to each other and play. I actually had a lot of fun, yet as soon as I arrived at college I stopped because I had too many other things to do. My friend Libby and I explored Orientation Island together and we soon understood how to navigate our avatars. My Avatar's Name is Lyra Brimm. I got the name Lyra from a fantasy book I have read in the past, and Brimm was just a default.

Anyway, so I quickly navigated around the island. I located the target that helped one learn how to walk. I also found that learning how to drive was much less painful in Second Life than my experience at fifteen. I also learned how to fly with the page up and page down buttons. This experience was quite exciting actually because you can while flying see the whole island and navigate quickly and easily to where ever you want to go.

When it came to editing my appearance in the castle I was initially shocked at my hoar like appearance. I had chosen a female, and I guess by default the female I chose on Second Life has big lips, big breasts, a skinny waist, long hair, and purplish eye shadow. I tried to tone down the makeup as much as possible, but I have to say I kept the big breasts. I think almost every girl would love to be able to edit the perkiness of their breasts and in Second Life you can, so I did.
When if first started exploring the real world of Second life I did not know where to go, so my friend Libby and I went to and Island called Sexy. When I got there I noticed everyone was dancing on this dance floor. All of them had crazy outfits and some of them even had wings. I must have looked pretty boring to all of them. I really wanted to figure out how they were dancing so I sent out a general chat asking how to dance. I got a reply from someone call Natasha Birnberg who also sent me some locations to get clothes. I thought this was pretty nice of her considering I was obviously a new player and had no clue as to what I was doing. I learned that to dance all I had to do was click on a dance ball in the middle of the dance floor. I found this quite boring pretty quickly and decided to use the links that Natasha had sent me to go shopping.
I picked the first link to go shopping which was called Iwo Jima. All these posters of women in crazy, strange, seductive, and fantastical, outfits started popping up around me. It was almost too easy. I could see why people might become addicted to Second Life because it is a complete manifestation of one's fantasy. I tried on three different outfits. One was a black dress, the second was a blue ball gown, and the third was a yellow fairy like outfit that I decided to keep. It is mind boggling to think that other players in Second Life created all these outfits, and they all these outfits were free. I think having this kind of freedom in Second Life, specifically being able to create almost any sort of outfit or human form that one can think about, probably inspires a lot of creativity in people. In real life people are so restricted by money and materials, yet in Second Life everything and anything seems possible. I think that many people fantasize about being able to have the perfect body and wear whatever outfit they want in a blink of an eye. I read a book about the future called Biting the Sun, by Tanith Lee, where a person could never die, and they could choose whatever body they wanted. As a result people began to choose ugly forms because everyone was always beautiful (which became boring). This seems to happen in Second life. Many of the people I first encountered on sexy had alien forms. I think people choose these forms because they are intriguing and interesting.
When I arrived back at the Island of Sexy with my new outfit the girl who had sent me the links, Natasha Birnberg, said "Wow, nice choice!" This made me feel cute, even though she was really just complementing my avatar. At this point I was beginning to see why people become so attached to their avatars. It is so easy when it is something you created and helped to grow and change, and people start to communicate and compliment you based on your creation. Second Life really is participation in the form of communication because everything you do or change affects other people in a very direct way. I think that in real life most things we do have such small effects that it is easy to start to feel insignificant. In Second Life you can make huge changes to your appearance really easily and these changes can have big effects.
Although Natasha told me that the outfit I had chosen was nice I felt uncomfortable about talking to her about anything else. I did not think it was appropriate to ask where she was from or anything more personal because reality is not part of Second Life. I complimented her on her outfit and thanked her for the shopping locations, but then I was at a loss. I think that I would have to spend more time in Second Life in order to really understand what is socially correct conversation. I can see now why Second Life is such a separate and addictive community because I am sure that once you start to participate more then you would start to understand the correct form of communication. I think this understanding would allow you to feel like a part of the community, and I think many people crave feeling like they belong.
After watching people on Sexy for a while, and talking with Libby, my friend from reality, about how strange people looked which outfits we liked the best, a virtual male avatar told me I looked cute. This was really weird because a real person was hitting me on in a virtual game online, but. At first Libby and I found it quite funny. Then he asked me back to his place, I was still feeling like this was a complete joke and I asked Libby what I should do. She said to go for it so I did. We both teleported to his house and he started trying to cuddle, kiss, etc. At this point I started to feel uncomfortable and teleported right out of there.
Although it was in virtual reality, there was still a guy, or girl, at the other end of the avatar who might be getting turned on by my avatar. This inspired a conversation between Libby and me about whether or not this would count as cheating. We came to the conclusion that it would because there is another person who is at the receiving end of the pleasure that you are taking from the game or giving through your avatar. It is still strange to think about because I would not define looking at pornography as cheating yet, the person who is in the pornographic picture is a real person, like an avatar character is controlled by a real person. I think the important difference is that in pornography the person in the picture is a fantasy and cannot respond in any way, whereas in Second Life the person controlling the avatar can participate in virtual sex.
I told my boyfriend about my experience and he was grossed out and told me that I should make a male character instead. This made me think, what if I did have a male character and I went with another female character, would that be cheating? Honestly I don't know I guess it depends on the relationship, but it is interesting to think about.
Anyway I don't think I ever want to have another sexual online avatar experience. I think I will stick with the real thing in the future.
Finally I decided to leave Sexy and go to Las Vegas. When I arrived a smaller male who looked almost childlike was dancing by himself. I said hello and he asked me where I was from. I did not want to give him too much information so I told him I came from California. He told me he came from Japan. This was so exciting because I have never met anyone from Japan before. In reality he could be making it up completely because I have no way of telling whether what he says is true in reality. At the same time it is really amazing that Second Life can connect people from all over the world, who in the real world would never be able to talk. I asked him what he thought of second life, and he told me he loved it. He asked me if I was new and I said yes. At this point he said he had to go so I did not get a chance to ask him any more questions. I would have loved to ask him what Japan was like, and what he thought of Americans.
I think that Second Life has both negative and positive aspects. I believe that as a tool for communication it is amazing, and that in the future it will be used in the context of business, staying in contact with friends, and even in education. Second Life can also be addictive and can separate people from their real lives, which I believe is more important. I think the most important thing to remember about Second Life is something that was brought up in class, which was the idea that Second Life is a tool for you to use, but you should not let it use you.

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