Second Life

Previous Sememsters

Second Life is an online, virtual community, where essentially, the “game” is freedom.  Users, or “Residents” do whatever they please, from building houses, making friends, and everything in between.

Joining Second Life is my first venture into the world of online gaming, or virtual communities.  I spent the first hour of my visit creating an avatar (mine was human and female, though the vampire option seemed interesting) and getting the hang of movement, walking, running, flying, and teleporting to different scenes and areas of the game.  After getting a handle on the logistics, I made my first (and only) attempt and communication and making a “friend”.  I put out that I was new to Second Life and would love some insight on what exactly I was to do as a resident.  Was there a “game” with a goal or mission?  Am I just to wander around and make friends?


I was met with some initial rude responses that I needed to move to the beginner’s area (who know that the opening page wasn’t the beginner’s area?).  Then, I seemed to make a “friend” who helped me understand what a virtual community was all about, and where to go, how to buy land, build a house etc.  My new “friend” also gave me some tips about accepting gifts from strangers and warned me that there were some malicious characters out there, including rapists.  Whoa!  Another avatar can rape me on Second Life?!  I was shocked, and expressed that to my new “friend”.  After we finished out chat, I thanked my “friend” for their help and told him/her that I would not talk to any unsavory characters or rapists.  At this point, my “friend” told me that they were, indeed, a rapist, and had offered me a gift that would allow them to take control of my avatar’s body.  SO.  I immediately signed off and deleted my account and will not be venturing back into the wonderful world of Second Life.  Sorry, but virtual communities are simply not for me.  I think that even without an experience like my own, I am simply not the right match for a virtual community. Image

Did anyone have a similar experience with Second Life?

Does anyone have more experience with online gaming/virtual communities?  Did I go about it in the wrong way?


13 thoughts on “Second Life

  1. Wow Lesley, I’m so sorry to hear this story. I have heard at least 1 other person share a similar story. To me, yes, there is plenty of sleazy stuff in SL, but I honestly don’t think it has a higher percentage than The Internet as a whole does, or than RL does. Perhaps the problem is that “the bus is dropping you off in the bad part of town”.

    I do think RL, The Net, and SL all have “neighborhoods” that feature plenty of vice and corruption. But they all also have poetry and altruism and sharing and creativity of all kinds.

    What happened to you is for sure not at all your fault. But I can say that in my entire time in SL I’ve never had anything like that happen even once. I came in as an artist and perhaps I was channeled to art & culture locations and groups, I’m not sure, but it’s been pretty legit the whole time.

    Of course as a self-absorbed and opinionated artist I’ve got plenty of thoughts about what’s overrated and underrated, but whether I love their work or not, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who wasn’t passionate about their work, serious about the world, and pretty considerate of others in their art practice as well as in their daily living.

    1. Hi Vanessa, thanks for your response! As a new user, I was pretty unclear about the status quo in Second Life, and it seems you are familiar with the program and it’s intentions – so your feedback is valuable to me. I didn’t mention in my original post, but I made an account on Second Life as part of my graduate studies in digital research methods. I think a platform life Second Life is incredibly valuable on multiple levels for a research base. But, as you said, there are always some bad eggs in a research pool (or virtual community) that can taint the results (or experience).
      I think all digital communities – whether virtual, role play, whatever – have legitimacy, and the experience is based on the users intentions. The sharing of creativity, exploration of culture, and sense of community are all excellent experiences for users, and reason enough to participate in such a program.

      1. Yes Lesley. In teaching I’ve seen a single “bad attitude” student come into a class and change the tone of the whole experience. I’ve also seen a ridiculously inspired student come in and do the same in a positive direction.

        IDK much about how Linden Lab has crafted the New User experience, but I do know that the very first place you go is a little island where they sort of teach you to walk, jump, fly, and so on. No one who isn’t new can gain access to there, so it should be creeper safe.

        But I think after that they might send you to one of those “Orientation Island” or “Help Island” sorts of places. I’m sure there are some nice people there, but to me those places are terrible. They’re well meant places, but I think they can often be the places where the “High School Bullies” hang out.

        My friend Jeff once told me an interesting story. His son wanted to join the Boy Scouts, and Jeff was terrified.

        It turns out that when Jeff was a kid he was in the scouts and what it actually was, was a disorganized thing where the older kids took the new kids behind the church and beat the crap out of them. Week after week.

        When Jeff reluctantly let his son start participating, with lots of parental supervision, Jeff was shocked to discover that THIS scouting troop didn’t have any bullies or hazing, it was an actually pro-social organization. Jeff had no idea that there could even be anything positive about scouting, but it turned out that his son had a wonderful, positive, empowering experience.

        You might be done with that phase of your research / study already, and/or too traumatized to go back, but if you do ever want to look around SL, I’d be happy to give you a trauma-free tour of a few of the many, many art & culture experiences and installations to be found there.

        And yes, as you say, it’s an amazing place for research. It’s incredible how many anthropology PhD candidates you meet waking around! Probably the seminal book on this being Tom Boellstorff’s _Coming of Age in Second Life_:

  2. Yikes! That’s awful, Lesley! I wonder if there is a way you could have “reported” that avatar, or something. It all seems so predatory, doesn’t it? Nobody seems to trust anyone, and actually one of the first things they tell you is never to accept anything from anyone. You may or may not have noticed the signs that were posted in some of the other locations about all of the things that weren’t allowed in that particular club/island/etc. If you didn’t – trust me – the lists were long.

    1. I feel the same way. The person I communicated with told me that there was no “game” (I asked if there was a point, like to collect gold coins or rescue the princess), but that Second Life was a celebration of freedom to do whatever you want. I don’t see the point of a freedom to intimidate other users.

  3. Oh my gosh Lesley! I was blown away reading your post! I agree with your response to Royce, the point of freedom is not to intimidate others! It was touched on in lecture that some people could be using virtual reality as a means of living out crime fantasies and it appears that you encountered this first hand. I always thought of that theory as the population of Grand Theft Auto users, not users participating in virtual communities like Second Life. I was disturbed to find that some worlds were marked as being “dangerous” but I brushed it off as there being areas in the real world that are also labeled in the same way.

  4. Wendy, after reading about your experience, I have a different outlook. I think I was just unlucky to encounter the person I did at the time I did. I think there are definitely a lot of merits to a platform like Second Life, but the experience is what the user (and other users) make of it.

  5. I’m so sorry that happened Lesley! I read your post before I even started using it, so it definitely made me more cautious. I don’t think I accepted anything from anybody and I moved away from anybody that got too close to me. Note my “angel of death” reference in my blog post. I think online games are fine, but online communities like this with no real purpose aren’t for me either.

    1. I am trying to stay neutral about my experience, as odd as it was. I would hate to generalize an entire virtual community for one creeper’s behavior. But, that being said, it seems several of us had unsavory experiences.

  6. Leslie, your experience is absolutely revolting and I am so sorry for you. While I agree with Rocoreacts in wondering if there is a way to report an avatar, I also think that it would do no good. That person is physiologically unsettled and would build a new avatar, or move to a different virtual platform.
    I was able to find a gaming world within Second Life, I had teleported my self to what looked like a world where nearly everyone there spoke Hebrew and walked through a portal door that took me to a game. I didn’t stick around long enough to find out all the details, but it seemed the only goal was to craft items upon request.
    Back to your experience, I had a similarly creepy experience as I was told or asked to get naked numerous times. The people I encountered were either newbies or creepers. It makes me wonder how many people in our society truly have psychological issues that make them predators on virtual worlds. Are they acting out fantasy or are these people this creepy and eccentric in real life?

    1. Yes, exactly – what’s up with all the naked requests?? I am not sure if we were experiencing some good natured hazing, but I am not going back to find out. It was all a little too much like a Law and Order: SVU episode for me.

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