Hi, my name is Ella and I survived the welcome provided for me on “Learning Island” in Second Life! This picture on the left and above capture me on Rez Day in my newly minted “Rocker Chick” outfit. The rez day experience was totally unexpected, and only marginally less scary than the hot coals I walked over at one of Anthony Robbins’ epic life changing events. I am telling you this today not to spew vitriol, but because I really like Second Life. I hope that the day-to-day reality of it can be better translated into a safe and fun learning area for new users, so that other people don’t have to experience what I did!
Day 1: Signed up on March 1st, 2014. It all started so well. I had fun picking a whimsical name (Ella means beautiful fairy) and then chose a female avatar. But as soon as my avatar rezzed, the trouble began! Some miscreants had bunkered down on the welcome island to terrify every new person that rezzed (I later learned that these people are called “griefers” and they like to shake things up by being disruptive). Highlights from my rez day included:
- A gigantic buddha-fat baby, ten times the size of a regular avatar appeared on my screen. It was surrounded by what appeared to a massive black-hole (a black octagon like shape that surrounded the baby) to which quite a few avatars seemed to be stuck to. These avatars seemed trapped all helter skelter; with limbs and body parts adhered but jutting out of the black hole at various angles.
- There was a kind of Modern-Warfare-esque thumping electronica playing. Layered over the music was a male voice yelling something like: “2 down, 4 to go!”
- I felt like this creature was sequentially targeting every new avatar and that any minute I would be next. I was thinking to myself “great, I’ll be taken out by a giant baby on day 1 never to be heard from again!”
- So after this welcoming incident, I figured I’d change scenery. I quickly walked to another part of the island looking for instructions on what to do next. I couldn’t find any. I typed in my chat window to some of the other people around me asking “Does anyone know where the help instructions are?” Complete tumbleweeds – nobody answered back.
- I flew around the island a bit, checking out what was there: a deserted dance floor, a lighthouse, some empty platforms, nothing really that interesting.
- I wasn’t really sure what to do, so I used a lifeline. I used my mobile to call a friend in real life who then sent me a TP and effectively rescued me from the confusion and boredom of Learning Island.
It appears I’m in good company on this kind of experience. Theia Magic wrote about similar dazed and confused experiences for newcomers in Second Life, and Skyspinner Soulstar recently posted a video commentary on the sorry state of the new avi experience in Second Life. At the most recent weekly Basilique Salon, I heard a story from a lady that spent 3 weeks on Welcome Island (one of the predecessors to Learning Island). It’s funny to think about it and we all laughed at the time, but I can totally see how that could happen.
To date I’ve realised that the early user experience of Second Life is nowhere close to being reflective of the real benefits and fun that avatars routinely experience. This has to change!
I’m glad I stuck it out to find ways to explore and experience Second Life that made me feel connected and engaged enough to continue on the journey, but I highly doubt I would have, had I not had a real life friend telling me there was a light at the end of the tunnel. This is a user experience you have to ‘work around’, instead of ‘engage and enjoy the experience’. It’s felt more like a battle than a delight. Perhaps that is the market – people that like a challenge, and perhaps there is some pride to be had in being affiliated with other people that are part of this special club of folks that hung on until the day the battle turned delightful. In that case, maybe I’m not meant to be here – perhaps I should have let natural selection take it’s course and not used “life support” to artificially survive. It’s impossible to know now!
I have now been in Second Life for 2 months. I’ve learned a lot and there’s so much more to learn each day! I’ll be exploring some more of my early days in here over the next month to make sense of what I’ve learned so far. If you have any funny or fond memories from your early days in Second Life, it would be great to hear about them in the comments below.