[iDC] An Inconvenient Youth and Second Life
aschiffler at www2.ferzkopp.net
Sat Feb 24 17:15:25 EST 2007
With all the SL talk around, I had to try it ... so I went and got my
second life last night: let's call this segment "babysteps in SL". Here
are my observations and comments.
Off to Google to find the website - the SL homepage greets with a black
Ninja. Never wanted to be one. I notice the "Under 18?" version button -
thankfully I am older than 18 and are spared the "Teen SL". So let's get
straight to it, I'll join and become a "member" (of what?) for free.
After two screens, the credit card number is requested - aha, it is all
about money. Well, that was to be expected - the front page announces
the US$ statistics squarely on the front in bold. Skip the CC or poke a
bit around on the homepage before continuing ... yup - the islands are
definitely pricey (btw, their cost is exactly equals the cost of a
decent rack-mount PC plus hosting = that's how it is build; each square
is one server). Funny - the choices in last names. Click. Download.
While waiting for the bytes to arrive I look a bit around the site ...
the SL map shows areas of suburban sprawl. Features: Event URLs? "Prims"
editor? A few minutes later, the Linux client is running. Unfortunately,
the 3D graphics are too slow on my box, so back to the Windows game
machine. Login again, pick the guy in Jeans (least offending to others,
me thinks) and off we go to Training Island! Yup - it looks like a game
and the controls work like in Doom3.
So after squishing a little animal to get a "training star", doing
typing exercises on a "Survivor"-like island (I hate that show), getting
a chain mail shirt in a medieval castle (it IS a game!), downloading
Quicktime from apple.com (NO, please don't sell me the frigging QT Pro
version for the 100th time) the training is finally complete. So far I
don't feel SL very compelling, but what the heck - this is just the
training level. But where is the "mainland"? I want to see the action
... doh, stuck.
So after a few /smoke and /hula's someone responds. I don't really know
who at first, because there are 8 other people in Jeans lounging around
the portal and it's just IM text with a cryptic name attached to it. I
need to "Do the tutorial" some tells me. "I did ...", is my response,
"... but where is the Teleport button that went mysteriously missing on
my interface". No response understandably. Its a software bug. Now the
real training begins - learning the interfacing of a PC game. The
harsh reality of navigating layers upon layers of menus, windows,
buttons and context menus. Not giving up, the double click on the map
finally works - I guess the system was just slow - and I end up in
teleporting to a box called "Korea2".
Wow - lots of people, many still in Jeans (I managed to change to a cool
black jacket; I feel cool, almost a SL pro). After a few steps - an
invisible barrier. "Server full". Walk Walk. "Server full". Hmm, the SL
'Matrix' is under a big attack it seems. Someone shouts "joohoo" - I
respond likewise. Asking where the "beef" is and where one can "go now",
I earn just a short "Dunno" from the Doll-like girl (must be a pre-made
Avatar, aka: cheap and crude). But the amount of responsiveness of
others is encouraging.
But then we have the magic Teleport button. Click and zap somewhere else
"Star Trek" style. A nice snowy area with a BIG "for sale" sign shows
up. I have L$0 and don't want to figure out how to increase that number
or how much the 12-polygon country house is worth. Click and teleport to
somewhere with some "Life". The map shows a spot with a few green dots
(people) gathered around a pink star (event) - so let's join the
happening. Upon arrival I am greeted with a "voulez vous coucher aved
moi?" it reads, and "Hellooooo". I respond again, mentioning to the
femal avatar that this is my first 10min in SL, earning a brief "ic".
Where are these avatars typing on - thin air? Click and teleport into a
deserted "Mature" square - now let's see some action! ... Wow nice
couch, the arrangement in the otherwise empty room is suggestive. I let
my avatar sit to him his well deserved rest while he sleeps his binary
"$logged_in=false;" dream. Quit.
My son, who was watching me experiment loves it. He's been playing "City
Life" - a Sim style building game. He figures SL is the same and doesn't
quite get my hint of "he would need to read and write a lot with other
people in the game" if he were to play SL. After all City Life looks the
As for me - I do understand the hype. Technically it is cool - but the
execution is lacking. Even in my 1 hour of use, there were glitches and
with my Satellite broadband (ping times >1sec) the game is barely
playable. And the advertised "Physics" in the game, means that I fall
(but don't die) when I turn off "Fly". The "tamed volcano" on Training
Island is, after all, accessible via a wooden bridge. It IS a game!
I'd like to dig deeper, but need help. Can anyone hold my hand and show
me around? I would love to hang out on an "island" of like minded people
(what is it that I like? geekstuff maybe) during my work day - using it
as "just another messenger" window on my desktop (although one which
consumes more memory and CPU, but hey that what we have the new
So where is the "iDC clubhouse" in SL?
And in response to Trebor's comments
> It's a stunning social experiment.
Stunning - not really, social - within its limits, experiment - no, it
is a game designed to make money. We may use it to experiment though.
> give their immaterial labor away for free
Good point, but what are we getting? What is that "labor" ... 3D
designs, access rights bypassing virtual fences, actual "content" or advise?
> My main question to Jenkins and all of you concerns the relationship between this virtual world and "first life."
I think at this stage - it's merely an expensive game.
Yes, one with "political" or "artistic" possibilities. Yes, one that
uses a new level of technology which can benefit the interactions we
pursue. But in the end, the fact remains that to gain anything
substantial apart from entertainment, we pay a "price" ... to get Linden
Dollars or in the time we spend away from the "first life". And I am not
sure if the "bang for the buck" ratio is very good for this particular
implementation or for this kind of technology yet.
For example, if we are looking at it as a medium to disseminate
information, the shortcomings outweigh the benefits: its a
high-bandwidth protocol, has a significant vendor lock-in, and is
inefficient for searches because it uses the real-world metaphor of
place. If we like to talk with each other, teamspeak or Skype works
better. As a widely used IM replacement, the computer hardware and
Internet hasn't evolved enough to facilitate this in 3D yet. The list
goes on ...
So what I really would like to see in the future is a technology that
has some real benefits AND is designed to let me use it!
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