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Extra Lives: Second Life (Part 3)

This is the third installment in a series of articles regarding the expansive virtual world of Second Life—a realm so enormous and varied that there’s nothing to do. Be sure to read part 1 for an introduction to the series and part 2 for some pictures of polygons fucking.

Day 4:

- Honestly, I had no idea what I was going to do today in Second Life. I figured I could just beam in, type a few random locations into the search box, and teleport around to see if I found anything interesting.

- But why? What’s the point? I’ve been to all sorts of locations in Second Life by now, and none of them feel much different from any other. Whether it’s a restaurant, a club, a beach, a park, a shopping plaza…it’s all the same. It’s just a big, glorified, 3-dimensional chatroom.

- And there’s nothing wrong with that, of course. People enjoy chatrooms. But do we need so many? Most of the areas I’ve visited haven’t even been populated. What’s the point? I still cling to the idea that I am missing something; that Second Life is offering something valuable to its patrons that just hasn’t clicked with me yet.

- Prior to logging in, I find the following in my email:


- …and suddenly I have direction for the day. Roxy Ronas, the girl I met on day 2 and couldn’t figure out how to teleport to the beach with me, has sent me a private message. It reads, “hi.”

- Maybe it’s not much to get excited about, but this is the first person Nipsy’s encountered who saw it fit to contact him at all.

- Which, thinking on it, is exactly what’s been missing from my Second Life experience: contact. I haven’t made any friends; I haven’t shared any secrets. I’ve hardly spent time with anybody at all before shuffling on to the next sight or experience.

- This is at least somewhat to do with the fact that I don’t really care about these people. I’m not saying that I don’t care about their humanity, or the people they might be in real life. I’m saying that in Second Life, I come across these sluttily-dressed human-shaped avatars all the time, and I’m not sure why I’m supposed to feel compelled to connect with them.

- In a traditional chatroom, at least, people can discuss anything they like. Weather, politics, religion…whatever they’re comfortable with. But here, in Second Life, aren’t we all supposed to play along with the idea that we “live” in this artificial world? Are you supposed to reveal that there’s a real person behind the puppet, or does that take all the magic away?

- But I’m getting too deep into theory here. I already realize that I need to connect with somebody. Roxy seems to be online pretty early and I’m not THAT desperate for digital companionship, so I’ll log in later and see if she’s still around. I need to start meeting people. Maybe once I have friends in this place, I’ll be more likely to visit.


- I don’t log in until much later in the day, so Roxy is no longer online. That’s okay. I shoot her a private message anyway, just to let her know old Nipsy’s been sniffing around her patch. My message is something to the effect of, “Catch me online sometime and we’ll get to know each other.”

- God knows that for a guy like Nipsy I’d positively jump at that offer.

- I wander around without finding anybody I’m particularly interested in connecting with…so I open the search pane, just as I had planned earlier. I type in a few locations I might enjoy in real life, such as “library” and “coffee shop.” These exist in Second Life, but are completely barren. Like the church, the library is very well-designed, and I’m sure I’d feel right at home there in real life…but in Second Life I’m sitting in a desk chair navigating an African cowboy through the reading room and every minute I spend doing this is a minute I’ll wish I could have back on my death bed.

- My offhand search for “rock and roll” has a much better payoff. The Rock N Roll Cafe features a host of people who helpfully explain to me how to configure my streaming audio so that I can hear the classic rock songs they are spinning. I thank them for this; Second Life is a lot less boring when there’s music in the background, and the different regions of the game actually start to make some kind of sense: you gravitate toward the music you enjoy. Why, that should also give people something to talk about when they meet! Look at me, I’ve struck it rich.

- I meet a girl named Tia, outside of the cafe, who invites me to come back for a party that will start at 5 o’clock, game time. I’m not sure how game-time translates to real-time, but there’s a clock in the upper right so I’ll just keep an eye on it. Tia even promises to introduce me to interesting people if I come back, so it looks like tonight won’t be a bust after all.

- She does ask me, however, to find a pair of shoes before I come back. Whoops; I guess I was so excited to explore the game that I never let Nipsy finish dressing himself. I try to locate the free clothing store that my porcupine friend showed me on day 1, but I can’t find it. I do, however, come across something called The Freebie Shop on Help Island. Hopefully they’ll have some shoes…I wouldn’t want to disappoint Tia…


- They do have shoes (actually a pair of Spider Boots…whatever they are…), and then some! Look at this! A FREE HOUSE. Perhaps that whole “mansion or apartment…it’s your choice!” thing wasn’t hyperbole. Maybe you really CAN just choose between the two with no other factors at play.

- Needless to say, Nipsy helps himself to a free house. Into his pocket it goes, between the fire extinguisher and his chocolate candies. (An Alpine house is free, but a fortune cookie costs L$6?) Now I just need to find some empty land on which to place it.

- There’s an empty, grassy expanse right outside of The Freebie Store, but I figure it might be a little rude to stake that out. (And besides, if I’m going to use this Alpine house as my place of operations, I wouldn’t want confused newbies mistaking Nipsy’s possessions for the free stuff.) I guess I’ll need to fly around and find some more appropriate living space. Before I leave I stock up on free furniture, such as a bed, a glass table, and a wholly appropriate “Emperor’s Chair.” Nipsy’s love nest is really coming together. Maybe he’ll even bring somebody home after that party tonight.

- Since I don’t know my way around Second Life very well, I’d better put Nipsy’s house in a place that’s easy to find…lest I lose track of where it is. I fly to the Lobster Claw restaurant (for sentimental reasons) and scope out some of the adjoining land.


- This looks like a capital place for my 1-bedroom bastard house. It’s near the church, a river…and a stray helicopter, with a lovely view of the misty mountains…and it’s just a quick vertical climb to the Lobster Claw, for when Nipsy finally saves enough money to buy a fortune cookie.

- I open my inventory and drag the Alpine house onto the ground, already brainstorming furniture arrangements when…

- …I receive a message telling me that the land is owned by somebody and that I am not authorized to build on it, unless I pay the fucker rent.

- So THAT’S how they get you. I thought it was pretty ridiculous that I had found a home for exactly L$0, but now I understand. You can have a house for free…but you’ll need to pay somebody for the land you build it on. I wander around for a bit trying to place the house elsewhere but, every time, I’m given the same message. Somebody owns this land, and it isn’t Nipsy.

- At one point I am actually ejected from the area by an unseen security force. Nipsy is hurled flailing into the air while a warning message flashes up on my screen. I guess my several rapid attempts to build on privately owned property made the game think I was looking for a glitch or something.

- Oh well. Nipsy knows where he’s not wanted. I still have time before the party at the Rock N Roll Cafe, and I need to break in these Spider Boots, so I head over to Orientation Island (which I have seen but never visited) to see if anyone can help me find free land to host my free house.


- At some point on day 1, I came across a big sign that listed several warnings to players in Second Life. One of them was NO GRIEFING. Now, I admit, I’ve been detached from the main swell of the gaming community for many years, but I think I understand the concept of griefing. It basically means going out of your way to make the game experience an exercise of unending misery for some unfortunate, singled-out player, correct?

- I wasn’t really sure how one could do this in Second Life. To my knowledge, you can’t steal things from people. You can’t shove them over. You can’t shoot them in the head and do it again the moment they respawn. The worst thing you could do to somebody, I guess, is say rude things to them over and over again, but the person can always teleport away, and the “griefer” won’t know where he went. So “no griefing” seems kind of like a pointless rule here.

- I say all of this because, on Orientation Island, I believe I met my first griefer.

- His name was Ruach Gamba, and he was hanging around in a corral of newbies and mentors. (What he was doing there—as he was neither—is beyond me…he must have specifically been waiting for people to harass.) He singled out Nipsy for no reason that I can identify (apart from the way he looks, acts, and dresses), and to every question poor Nipsy asked, Mr. Gamba would pipe up with some quip.

- “Where can I put my house?” / “In the trash if it’s as ratty as your clothes.”

- “How do I get free land?” / “Take it from the Indians, cowboy.”

- Which is basically as close to griefing as anyone can really get in Second Life. He also made his avatar thrust his crotch at me, and then he climbed onto a fence post to cut a fart in Nipsy’s face.


- Of course he didn’t count on Nipsy fighting back. Oh no. Little did he know that the torch-carrying black cowboy intended to kill him…with kindness!

- Yes, after just a minute of Nipsy asking Ruach to dance, blowing him kisses and trying repeatedly to gift him a heart-shaped piece of chocolate, Ruach Gamba decided he just was not man enough to tango with the Hansome.

- You may notice in the above-grab (taken shortly before Gamba’s panicked departure) that there is a girl in the background whose name is obscured. The astute among you should recognize this as foreshadowing; I’m taking a deliberate step to protect this person’s identity.

- She must have beamed in at some point during Nipsy’s confrontation with Ruach, but until I was cropping these photos I did not even notice her back there. The time of the party was drawing near and I had run out of hope for placing my free Alpine house anywhere, so I figured I would spend a few minutes trying to make a friend. I approached the girl in question—let’s call her Lola, as there seem to be an awful lot of Lolas in this game—and struck up a friendly conversation. She’s new to Second Life as well, and is looking for something to do. I invite her to the Rock N Roll Cafe, and she agrees. I’ve learned how to teleport people by now, so I head over to the cafe and beam her in as well.

- And you know what? For the first time since this experiment began, I begin to understand the draw of Second Life.

- At the Rock N Roll Cafe we dance for a while, among many others. Of course, all “dancing” entails is clicking the sphere labeled “dance” and watching as your avatar flails to the music. But for whatever reason, Lola is interested in Nipsy. She asks him about things he’s seen and done in the game, about where he got his hat, and eventually about me, the person controlling him. Where do I live? How old am I? What do I do for a living?

- For the most part, I give her honest information. (The exception will follow shortly.) I’m just glad to be having a conversation for once. And it’s actually kind of nice. Maybe Second Life is just an assortment of 3D chatrooms, but when you’re actually chatting with somebody, that can be quite fun. Furthermore, The Rock N Roll Cafe is streaming some very good music (I’ll Take You There by The Staple Singers was a truly inspired choice), meaning that it’s pleasant to be there, passing the time with classic rock and motown songs. I might not be REALLY dancing, but I’m enjoying the music…and unlike a real club, we can carry on a conversation here.

- There is a DJ who asks trivia questions periodically, and you can shout out the answer. I don’t think you earn anything for doing so (I answered a few correctly but couldn’t identify any bonus I might have received), but, again, it’s fun. If you’re listening to good music, answering trivia questions and making a new friend, then the odds are you’re having fun. At least, I’m enjoying myself. And Nipsy, if his twisting and bumping is to be believed, is enjoying himself, too. I guess Lola is as well, because she asks me if I have a girlfriend.

- Now here I had to break a slight rule…or maybe I didn’t have to…but I told her no, I did not. Mainly because I could tell that the question was going to be a deal-breaker, and I wanted to follow through with my first Second Life friendship. It was a scientific lie.

- After a few songs, she asks me about the other places I’ve visited in the game. It’s a short list, but I rattle off the locations. She mentions she hasn’t been to the beach yet. Would Nipsy like to take her?

- Why not? Nipsy heads to the same beach he visited on day 2 (the only one he knows) and when she appears behind him he gives her the best Second Life chatup line he can muster:


- Now I admit, I have a little bit of remorse about misrepresenting myself. At first I didn’t care, because I was interacting with people who had no desire to continue a conversation with me. I’d bother them for a bit, and then I’d get bored and move on. Here, however, is a person who is, for whatever reason, quite taken with Nipsy. (She even asks if I look like my avatar, and is apparently disappointed when I tell her no.)

- Some might wonder whether or not I’ve led her on. Well, I’ve been wondering that myself…and the answer I’ve arrived at honestly is no. I was polite to her, and I responded to her questions, and asked all of the same ones in return, but that’s all. I was a conversationalist…but as we all know, if one party wishes to view conversation as flirtation, there’s really nothing you can do to stop them.

- So we walk along the beach and she says to Nipsy, “Come sit by me.” There’s a picnic blanket with a blue orb inviting me to rest there, so I do. Lola joins me.


- This is all very strange. Of course, part of me is holding onto one fact: she could also be misrepresenting herself. Yes, she’s told me her age, and what she looks like, and what she does for fun…but it could all be a lie. Second Life facilitates that. You’re not required to lie, but I can’t imagine anyone would fault you for it. It’s built in to the escape. Second Life gives you the option. For all I knew, I was lying on a blanket with a retired cryptkeeper.

- And yet I do feel somewhat guilty, because now, all at once, there is a real human caught up in Nipsy’s bumblings. She’s got a crush on him, the poor girl. Part of me doesn’t want to interrupt the flow, as I’m wondering how far she will take it. (And hey, Nipsy deserves a little action too, doesn’t he?) But another part of me wonders how this woman would feel if she found out that my only desire to keep this going is one of curiosity.


- We move on to slightly racier action nodes, which reveals to me that she’s pretty willing to let this go far. I really have to wonder why. Is it just because she’s new? Is she doing all of this out of curiosity, too? Or was Nipsy the first guy who paid attention to her? Has she spent her whole life waiting for a man like him—exactly like him—to come along and sweep her off her feet?

- This is one of the things I’ve always questioned about internet dating in general. Yes, you can see photographs of each other. But “seeing” the other person entails more than just determining that they are / are not attractive. You need to see them to understand their intentions…their desires…their satisfaction. What is going through Lola’s mind right now? Is she smiling? Is she laughing? Is she relieved? Is she crying? Anybody who sets aside her night to spend time on a digital beach with a guy like Nipsy should be viewed with suspicion, yet I don’t know. It’s a strange world, this Second Life, and it’s one I don’t entirely understand.

- For the purposes of this article, I thought it might be nice to get a picture of Nipsy and his new flame (I lost the torch at some unknown point during the evening) holding each other romantically in the same place he was observing a couple grind a few days ago, so I invite Lola over. Unfortunately a practical joker slipped into the complementary node before Lola got there.


- I guess he didn’t count on Nipsy being such a good sport about it, though, because once our small-hatted hero started moaning and calling him baby the guy took off and abandoned his efforts to humiliate me.

- For some time I had been wanting to sign off. I was getting uncomfortable, not knowing how seriously my partner was taking any of this in real life. If it was all a joke to her, then that’s fine. If it was all serious…well, that’s fine, too, but she should probably be off with somebody else who is taking it seriously. The only thing that stopped my from having Nipsy beam her into the sex club was the fact that the girl on the other end of the connection might actually…you know. You know. Nipsy isn’t going to be coming back to Second Life for much longer, which would turn this into somewhat of a one-night stand. And I couldn’t forgive myself for that.

- So at this point I tell her I need to leave for the night. She asks me if I’ll be back tomorrow, and I tell her I might. Goodnight Lola. “Wait,” she says. “Do you have a myspace?”

- I tell her I do, which is the truth. She then gives me a link to her profile and she asks me to add her. In good conscience, I can do no such thing, but I thank her, and log off.

- I am compelled, however, to visit the profile and verify her claims.

- And she’s actually a pretty girl. Her age and location check out, too. It looks like she was being pretty genuine after all. So what was she doing with a guy like Nipsy? I realize that her default picture (I dare not go any further) may be the best picture she’s ever taken, but even so, you’d think she could do better than spending her nights with digital imbeciles.

- I don’t know. I conclude this evening in two minds about Second Life. On one hand, I had my first positive experience in the game: trivia, conversation, and good music. Those are three things I enjoy very much, and having them in one place actually convinced me it was a good enough use of my time and attention. On the other hand, however, I’m pretty sure I met a girl who takes the game a bit too seriously, and I might have even caused her to fantasize about our sharp-dressed toddler-hatted hero, and that leaves me a little bitter about the whole experience in general.

- I think it might be nearing time for Nipsy to hang up his Spider Boots.

About this entry


She’s so going to google “Nipsy Hansome” and end up here.

Marleen's picture

By Marleen
January 13, 2009 @ 9:16 am

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Bravo - excellent 3-parter!

By Simon
January 13, 2009 @ 3:27 pm

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Thanks, Simon.

There might be a fourth, though…I’ve played for a little on day 5, and might return for a day 6, if only to give my overall final thoughts on the experience.

After this, I’m thinking either Warcraft or Maple Story…

Phil Reed's picture

By Phil Reed
January 13, 2009 @ 4:46 pm

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This has been one of my favorite running articles. Keep it up, mango

dip's picture

By dip
January 14, 2009 @ 4:10 am

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Yep me too. You writing style really suits this kind of thing. One more part for Second Life and a summation seems ideal.

By Karl
January 14, 2009 @ 10:32 am

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you cheeky bugger. never know with you noobs what ur up too. so your crap at second life because your blogging constantly i see i see. i get it now:D :P. no honestly though i am highly flattered. This blog goes way back and even though i dont remember you and i have gotten a whole lot worse at my ‘trolling’ i enjoy that you at least thought it was noteworthy. i would like to thank the academy and my lovely wolf parents who raised me in a cave; i couldnt have done it without you.

By Ruach Gamba
May 03, 2009 @ 6:43 pm

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