Second Life: It’s even more complicated than the first


For this week’s lecture on digital ethnography, we were asked to create a free account in Second Life (SL), a virtual community with almost 37 million residents. “Second Life offers a totally new experience for humans,” said SL’s creator, Philip Rosedale, in PBS’ Digital Nation documentary. And that’s exactly what SL was like for me — a totally new experience.

My Initial Reaction

I’m as far from a video gamer as they come. The closest I’ve come to regularly playing a video game was when I used to play the puzzle video game Chip’s Challenge on my first PC back in elementary school. But let me assure you that that did little to prepare me for SL.

Signing up for SL was pretty straightforward. I went to and signed up for a free account. I was asked to create a unique username for my avatar, so I chose “linnyz” because I didn’t feel comfortable using my actual name. It seems most people pick something other than their real name, so I wasn’t alone.

My Avatar

Once I was signed in to SL, I began creating my avatar. I had trouble deciding on an avatar because I wanted to present an integrated self, but none of the girls looked like me. Ultimately, I decided based off of which one’s outfit I liked best (such a girl thing to do, I know). I initially chose the avatar pictured left, but when I started the game and discovered that she was the “goth” one, I changed my avatar to the one pictured right because I felt it reflected my overall look/personality a bit more.

Goth Avatar Second Life                         Girly Avatar Second Life

When the game started, I was dropped off on an island surrounded by pirate ships. There were about four to five other people on there with me, but I couldn’t figure out what to do or how to interact with them. Before I was able to really orient myself with this new environment, I received my first chat from the residents on the island. In it, they were introducing themselves. One spoke Spanish and the other Portuguese, so I jumped in and said “Hello,” but the conversation ended there. Maybe it was because they didn’t speak English? I then tried flying over the ocean, and I have to admit, it was pretty cool because it gave me a sense of freedom. But after seeing minimal activity on the island, I chose another destination.

Chat Conversation 1 Second Life

My next destination was called “Hesperia Templemore”. It was dark, and there was weird rock music blaring in the background, so I tested out my avatar’s running skills and tried to find out where the music was coming from. I came across a deserted motel and a nearby bar. The bar was closed, but I was still able to enter through the side.

Motel and Second Life

I descended down the bar’s staircase, and at the bottom of it, I came across instruments and a notice that asked me to give a donation to “support live music in SL.” I opted not to donate and moved on to another destination.

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 7.34.08 PM                                  Support Live Music Second Life

My third destination was “Prehistorica: The Dawn Kingdom”. I was so confused by all the rules here, but fortunately, received help from a fellow resident named Eric who’s been playing the game for four years. He gave me a landmark called “Help Island Public”. I wasn’t quite sure what a landmark was, but it seemed like it was a tutorial, so I accepted it.

Helpful Resident 1 Second Life

Eager to find a destination with more people, I ended up selecting from among the editor’s picks because I figured they’d be more entertaining. I decided to check out “Rez Nightclub and Mall”. There was a live DJ playing original dance songs for a packed house, but, unfortunately, no one seemed friendly and I didn’t receive any welcoming chat messages.

Free Dance Club Second Life

Later, I ended up at Luskwood Lusk, another dance-type party. Here, the DJ was playing songs like “Material Girl” by Madonna and “Lovesong” by the Cure. Someone in the chat was looking for a fitted ladies top for her avatar, so one of the other residents sent her a suggestion. I’m still baffled by the fact that you can buy virtual clothes for your avatar.

Clothes and Second Life

I then chose to go to New Citizens Incorporated. Here, I tried to change my avatar’s appearance because I wanted it to look more like me. One of the female residents saw how much I was struggling and actually sent me a notecard containing instructions on how to change my avatar’s outfit.

Helpful Resident 2 Second Life Changing Appearance and Clothes and Second Life

 I tried following what she said, but ended up bald and without pants (eek!). So I undid my changes and tried changing her outfit again. Somehow, I managed to put her in a sexy school girl outfit. At this point, the avatar didn’t resemble me in the least. Well, at least, I tried.

Sexy Avatar and Second Life

For my final destination, I wanted to try Miami Beach since I’m from Miami, but, sadly, it was too full. Who knew virtual destinations could be at maximum capacity?! I have to admit, it felt kind of like not being on the VIP list for an exclusive party. Bummer!

Full Region and Second Life

My Take on SL

I found SL to be extremely confusing and wanted nothing more than to get out of this world. On the plus side, its residents were very friendly. Even still, I’ll take the real world and my real friends any day over SL.


6 thoughts on “Second Life: It’s even more complicated than the first

  1. Hi Lynette,
    When it comes to video games, just like you I am far from a gamer, so I want interesting to see how this was going to be. I wanted to find avatar that looked like me also, but none of them closely resembled me, let alone their style, so I chose the same one as you, see seemed the safest one, very girly. The landmark “Help Island Public” that was given to you by a fellow gamer, seemed like it would be a lot of help. Were you able to do anything with it and learn anything to help you through the world? I saw how you were able to buy clothes for your avatar too, I couldn’t ever see myself spending money to buy clothes myself in the virtual world. I did get a kick out of when you tried to change your clothes on your avatar you got a complete different look then you were expecting ☺ Great post, good to see I wasn’t the only one that was confused about how all this worked!

    • Hi Cyndi,

      Thank you for the comment! Unfortunately, I even found the landmarks fellow players gave me to be complicated. I didn’t really do much with the “Help Public Island” one, but I did experiment with the one I received about how to change your avatar’s appearance. Although it came with pretty basic instructions, I still felt overwhelmed by the whole process. I think SL really needs to make it a point to have more tutorials for people like you and me who have never played any sort of game like this before.

      I also wouldn’t think to buy clothes for my avatar. I’m careful with the money I spend in the actual world, so why would I buy clothes for someone/something that isn’t real? Although, I’m sure diehard SL players would be upset to hear I don’t these avatars are real!

  2. Hello,
    great post! I had no idea Second Life was used by that many people. I really enjoyed how you included so many screen grabs of your experiences. I did not know that different areas could fill up to capacity like that! Overall, I had a similar experience to you. The real world is good enough for me!

    • Hi Nicole,

      I’m glad you enjoyed seeing the screen grabs. I thought it would be nice to include a fair amount of them so that people could get an inside look at what my experience in Second Life was like. It seems like the majority of our female classmates felt the same way you and I did. At least we can say we gave the virtual world a shot!

  3. Hi Lynette,

    Looks like you had so much changing your avatar’s appearance! I just couldn’t figure it out and would’ve freaked if I ended up without pants… although plenty of avatars I met along the way were without pants. I too found that people weren’t friendly, especially in newbie worlds. It seemed as though everyone was just walking around aimlessly. It wasn’t until I ventured into “popular” destinations that others were open to talking to me. I also feel like it’s so easy to spot newbies in Second Life because we haven’t quite figured out our movements yet, so maybe that’s why we didn’t have very many interactions. I met two people in my experience with Second Life and both asked if I was new… whoops, easy target. Overall, I would have to agree with you: I prefer the real world!

    • Hi Nhi,

      Thanks for the comment! I wouldn’t have been able to change my avatar’s appearance had I not received help. Like you, I found the whole process to be super complicated. But at least I wasn’t without pants for long! I think you’re right. It’s not that newbies are unfriendly; rather, they just don’t really know what do, so their interactions with other newbies are few and far between. I did like that Second Life separated destinations into categories. The popular ones/editor’s picks made for better experiences for all of us I think. But even still, I don’t think I’ll be logging back into my account any time soon.

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