Nov 25, 2008

Second Life: What's a Guy to do?

A post by ex-Second lifer Paul Carr asks the question, "Why is it called Second Life when there's nothing alive there?" He goes on to explain that, "Wandering around Second Life today is like visiting Blackpool in February; all sad empty shops, deserted car parks and the stench of loneliness — and the opportunity to buy a fake cock for two quid."

It seems that Carr has had a bad experience of late and found that nothing was happening when he was there, ergo nothing is happening anywhere, ergo Second Life sucks and its death is imminent. Where have we heard this story before?

You intrepid blogger was first to reply:

"Blackpool? I suspect you more likely hit the virtual equivalent of Morecambe... in February... when it's raining... and when the buses are on strike. If you'd been in virtual Blackpool you'd at least have bumped into one drunken Glaswegian and an American exchange student who thought London was much closer.

Maybe you need to buy a traveler's guide to Second Life... oh, wait, you have one! I seem to have little problem finding busy places, to the point that my biggest challenge is not crashing due to activity. Of course, any "traveler's guide" in SL is an historical document even before it goes to press, with changes to the virtual world happening more frequently than Donald Trump's hairpiece. Checking out your "old haunts" in Second Life is a bad experience - as Don Henley sings in The Boys of Summer, "Don't look back, you can never look back."

As for Eric's stint in-world, I don't see the big deal. He's one guy among many who write about SL and he left for a new job! Anyone who had been following the Reuters' site was very aware that the posts were becoming menopausally irregular. The issue with SL is simply that for many "residents," it has become just like real life; tedious, repetitive, and punctuated by occasional fun things. My typical trip into SL involves reading the mail, chatting with some friends, checking out leads, interviewing folks, then hopping back to real life to write up copy for whatever SL press outlet I'm pitching at. Article gets printed, I get paid, and around it goes again.

This pattern of Second Life banality isn't "bad" or "wrong"; it just is what it is. I get a kick out of it because I love talking to people and writing about stuff that has - ultimately - no value. And getting a bit of cash for doing it helps my iTunes habit. I don't see that folks who "waste their time" in Second Life are any more stupid than folks who, for example, play golf. I mean, honestly, what is the point of walking around a field using sticks to knock balls into holes? Or how about those who spend a night at the pub, where all they do is drink alcohol, use yet another stick to knock balls into holes, stuff a 2000 calorie kebab down their chops and then complain they can't sit in an airplane seat? And even skiing (more sticks but this time strapped to your feet) seems pretty pointless when you consider that all you're really doing is sliding down a hill in freezing weather and pumping out vast amount of cash for the privilege.

For ever business that closes its doors (like Reuters and the Avastar), others get started. And don't that the darling of the SL tabloids, the Second Life Herald, is still going strong after five years.

If you don't enjoy the SL experience, fine. Try something more exciting. Like golf, drinking, or skiing."

I suspect Carr's tongue may well have been pushed slightly into his cheek - after all, he was trying to write humor here, not a critical analysis of Second Life culture or attempting an investigation into why Reuters retired their writer from the Second Life beat. But then again, the way in which humor is used to express a point of view matters too, and Carr is clearly no fan of the Second Life experience.

Oh, and for a fairly unbiased review of the book, check out Prokovy Neva's piece in the Second Life Herald. Make sure you read the comments - it's priceless!

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