Erf. Why do I do this?
I’ve probably read the same amount of hype/crap out there about Second Life, the self-described “online digital world” as everyone else. In the interest of avoiding of being one of those uninformed bashers I thought I’d drop in and see what the hype is about.
I was able to download the thin client and get into the noobie island for about 45 minutes before I just had to escape. As far as I can tell, PT Barnum and HL Mencken were right. There is a sucker borne every minute and no one ever went broke underestimating the taste or intelligence of the American people.
To be honest, I had a slightly more enjoyable time creating an avatar with Yahoo! Messenger. And I didn’t feel the need for a shower afterwards.
Not burdened with the weight of objectivity, I confess I went into this expecting to merely confirm that SL is largely a vehicle for anti-social sex predators, stalkers and grifters. My prejudices were largely confirmed, though I still remain open minded that there might be places in SL where there is something of redeeming value. And, to be fair, I will probably return on something other than a weekend day to see if performance is any better.
Signing up is very easy. Visit the website, fill in some basic information and start the 30MB download. I was able to pick a first name of my own choosing and then select a last name from a pick box. After entering a date of birth I was able to select a basic avatar style (later customizable). As a male, I was able to select from “Boy Next Door,” “City Chic Male,” “Harajuku,” “Cybergoth,” “Furry” and “Nightclub.”
I selected City Chic Male which basically looks like the stereotypical grad student– suitably shabby clothes, long sleeve shirt over tee shirt, shin length pants, beard, glasses and academically wild hair. I had about ten of these archetypes as roommates in the now distant past. Most importantly, all the basic avatars have a great ass, which seems to be a pre-requisite in SL regardless of style or gender.
I eschewed the opportunity to subscribe or purchase Linden dollars, the in-world currency and started the 30MB download. The download crashed on the first attempt, but a second attempt was succesful.
A quick install and I was logging into the world. With a thin client, SL must download all the textures and graphical data required to render the scenery and characters in your area. I knew this and expected a certain amount of lag, but not nearly as much as I encountered. For the time I was in SL, the lag meter never went below red.
I was dropped into the noob zone, “Orientation Island.” Here, you’re given an opportunity to learn the basics of SL: customizing your avatar, movement, etc. A helpful tutorial box popped up explaining the four different tutorials available which would only take a “couple minutes” to complete. Unfortunately, neither the “continue” or “close” button on the tutorial dialog box would operate. I logged and re-logged. Still no go. I clicked and waited thinking it might be lag related, but no. So, for most of my time in-world, I had this tutorial billboard covering half my screen.
On my own, I started exploring the various menus as dozens of other noobs dropped into Orientation Island. Chunk was the word of the day. There were probably about 20-30 noobs in the starting area and it was heavily lagged. I took a quick stab at customizing my avatar with mixed results. I ended up with some orange zebra stripped pants and a mullet before I decided to call it a day. I did have the opportunity to create a hulking behemoth wash-myself-with-a-rag-on-a-stick kind of avatar, but thought better of it. This place was creepy enough.
With no opportunity to go through the tutorial, I was left to my own devices.
Despite there being signage prohibiting it, the noob area was rife with folks hawking their “wares.” Most prominent while I was there was an arms dealer trying to sell guns. Chat was filled with the same 13-year old quality flame chat as I’ve come to expect in any internet space that is largely open to the public.
Fortunately, I only received two or three invitations to “be someone’s friend” in my first 15 seconds in the game. It certainly felt like being asked if I wanted a “date” in certain portions of town. I can only imagine what it must be like if I was a “hot” chick. There were probably 3 or 4 characters lurking around with names like “Sexilicious” or other monikers like “I like lesbians” or “virgin instructor” or some such. And this was the noob zone. I wonder what the seamier areas must be like.
Throughout there also seem to be player constructs that are in essence pay-per-click advertising objects. Unclear how this fits in with the admonition against sex, selling and offensive conduct in the noob zone.
Having given up on the tutorial, I took the opportunity to fly around Orientation Island. Textures were simplistic and the continual lag made rendering the screen almost unbearable. When I decided to consult the map and it took more than a minute to populate the world map, I gave up.
Now, I’m not a prude, nor an internet infant but I felt distinctly like the immigrant bumpkin dumped into the big evil Gotham. Immediately innundated with all that opportunity for the basest of human expression left me little interest in returning to see if there is any there there.
So far, if Linden’s intention was to create an acid-eating trip down Ken Russell’s carnival midway of cyberlife, they might have succeeded, but performance was so terrible that I’ll (ugh) have to return to confirm or dispell such a notion.