By Starr Fairlight
As SL celebrates its 8th b’day, I give pause to reflect on my experiences here. I started SL during beta; a time when we were all on equal footing as noobs; completely lost, awkwardly flying into walls and floundering our way around. I must admit it was nice to be among the majority as is not always the case when one first starts something new. I came reluctantly with the sole intention of a brief visit. I had been hanging out in two Social based VR games; one of which was highly task and skill oriented, the other of which was purely social. A friend from one of them had heard of Second Life Beta and enthusiastically dragged me here. Eight years later I’m still here with the same avatar and just as enchanted by this world as the day I arrived. Lately it seems, I’m often asked one of two questions; What was it like to watch SL grow from infancy to what it is today? and how have I managed to become one of SL’s oldest avies? In honor of Linden Lab’s upcoming celebration of Second Life's 8th year, I’d like to share my reflections on what I’ve seen and learned.
Upon my rez day of June 6, 2003, I could immediately see that SL was something magical. I marveled at how it was a shared, 3D collaborative world far more extensive and interactive than anything I had ever experienced. My initial impression of the avatars was that although they were standard with very few options, they were at least less cartoon-like than those of their competition. Their hair was very unflattering as it was pulled back tight and appeared painted on. With the exception of hair and eye color and gender, everyone pretty much looked and walked alike. There were no shapes, hair or ao’s for purchase. In fact, there was no currency. We were in a constant state of “Ruth”. Eventually Linden currency arrived and stores started popping up. As an avid shopper, I was hooked! In hindsight, the quality of the fashions was nowhere near what they are today. In fact, they were much like cardboard cutouts with no flexibility or mobility.
It was truly amazing to observe how SL progressed in correlation to the population growth. I was fascinated by how a whole civilization formed before my eyes. Various cultures and hierarchy grew exponentially as the population increased. In the early days there was no teleportation system, so flying was the fastest way to get around. I remember having to fly quite far between buildings in a land that seemed infinite. I could hear echoed banging and clanging as the wind whooshed past my ears which in essence was the soundtrack of a fascinating new world being constructed. I was amazed by it all then but am completely awe inspired of the architectural genius in SL today.
“You’re kidding right? You want to do WHAT to my avi... how?" That was the first day I had ever heard of pose balls. An acquaintance had somehow acquired the “latest and greatest” new SL technology and rezzed these peculiar orbs in front of me. Out of sheer curiosity, I followed his instructions and clicked “use" on one of the balls. Before I could blink, I was on my back suspended in mid air in a rather awkward spread-eagle pose. I nervously glanced around at the interested passers by when suddenly, he hopped on the other ball. There we were, frozen in a pose like some horrible Greek statue gone wrong. There were no animations, just one very unflattering sexual pose that would force even the most creative to stretch the boundaries of their imagination. Mortified by the implications of this pose, I turned every shade of red and jumped off that ball pretty damn quick. After that, for the longest time, I would run the opposite direction if I ever saw pose balls, thinking there was just no trusting those things. However, thanks to the new animation engines, I have since warmed up to them. (*winks)
Things in SL became even more interesting for me when one day I saw a building with a sign that read, “Casino coming soon”. I wondered how SL could manifest such a thing and anticipated its arrival. For the next year or so, I was a regular visitor at the various SL casinos. I enjoyed Black Jack and the slot machines and made the casino owners very rich! It was a blessed day for my wallet when the US Government put a ban on SL gambling. However there was a massive uproar with many demonstrations, the noisiest of whom I suspect, were the ones who had been prospering the most from the casinos.
Although I could tell lots of stories that mark the progression of SL, the real magic lies essentially in human interaction. I've had some amazing experiences in SL and met some wonderful people whose friendships I will remember fondly. Those I knew when I first began are long gone. I have seen most leave to move on to other interests and sadly some have passed away. True, I have taken a few breaks from this world when rl got in the way. But, SL was always the secondary home I gravitated to when I needed it. I've learned many things about myself and about human nature here. It has been a platform from which I could explore various sides to my personality that I would otherwise not have in the real world. I've tried occupations that helped me grow as a person and gain confidence in myself. I'm truly thankful to have had the opportunity to flourish along with SL and am a better person as a result of my experiences here.
In closing, I would like to share a few of the things I learned that helped me to remain here and be happy.
- Stay close to your core self. Let your imagination run wild and use SL to explore you alter ego. Fulfill your needs and try new things but always remain connected to who you truly are.
- Make at least one strong and sincere connection and make sure they know how much they mean to you.
- Always remember there are people behind the avies and treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect.
- Don't take yourself too seriously.
- Avoid drama and gossip- I've seen time and time again what a destructive path drama and gossip leave. It's like the Bermuda Triangle of SL; avies fall into it never to be seen again (until they resurface as an alt, that is) Avoid this emotional vortex at all costs.
So, Happy 8th Birthday Second Life! It's been a wild ride! I wish you much longevity and continued success. See you in world!