Tuesday, December 9, 2008

One Reason People Leave SL

I mentioned to a couple real-life friends that I'd been spending a fair bit of time in Second Life, and that the time had been considerably more pleasant since I mostly stopped popping up at my assigned "home," an infohub called Memory Bazaar in a sim called Ross. They immediately asked why ditching my SL-assigned home made such a difference. After all, one might think Linden Labs would want to make default "arrival points" for new residents as friendly and pleasant as possible. And, well, they might, but if you're a woman in Second Life there seems to be one persistant theme that makes infohubs cringe-inducing experiences: rude boys. Memory Bazaar is a "PG" area where (supposedly) crude language and adult content aren't permitted. But…well.

My friends didn't quite believe me—but then, again, one of these people first got on the Internet via AOL and still seems to think the online world is a patrolled, gated community where nothing bad ever happens. Since Linden Labs is essentially in total control of Second Life, they thought it would be the same way. So I made them a deal: they would meet me at a Wi-Fi coffeeshop (after I got done with my trivia game!), and they could watch while I went back to Memory Bazaar, sat off to one side, and said nothing unless I was spoken to first.

Within two minutes, a male avatar (here called Boy1) approached me, and we had this delightful exchange:

[13:55] (Boy1): hi
[13:55] Lou Netizen: hi
[13:55] (Boy1): mana f__ker
[13:55] (Boy1): im playing
[13:57] Lou Netizen: um, ok
[13:56] (Boy1): how are you
[13:56] (Boy1): ?
[13:56] (Boy1): i am fine!
[13:56] (Boy1): talk sun of bitch
[13:56] (Boy1): son of bitch
[13:56] Lou Netizen: excuse me?
[13:57] (Boy1): i am playing in here
[13:57] (Boy1): it´s pay
[13:57] (Boy1): play
[13:57] Lou Netizen: um, sure
[13:57] (Boy1): shut up
[13:57] (Boy1): play...

After that a legitimate new resident approached and asked if I could tell them how to modify their clothes—which, to be fair, is also a very common question at an infohub. A friend also turned up, and sat down next to me. Then came Boy2, who had obviously found his appearance control because he was shirtless and wearing a pure white skirt made from default Linden clothing, which any avatar can create at will. And while he wasn't crude, he wasn't exactly subtle:

[14:10] (Boy2): how are you al doing
[14:10] Friend: great and you
[14:10] (Boy2): WOnderful
[14:10] Lou Netizen: doing ok
[14:10] Lou Netizen: nice skirt :O
[14:10] (Boy2): I am loving this towl
[14:10] (Boy2): yeah
[14:10] (Boy2): it is so easy to
[14:10] (Boy2): wear
[14:10] Lou Netizen: just be careful it doesn't make your butt look big :)
[14:10] (Boy2): (friend) you are so beautiful
[14:11] Friend: oh thankyou lol
[14:11] (Boy2): and lou is beautiful too
[14:11] (Boy2): you are like
[14:11] (Boy2): 2
[14:11] Friend: do you like my ears they twitch
[14:11] (Boy2): different
[14:11] (Boy2): types
[14:11] (Boy2): of beauty
[14:11] Lou Netizen: Mine would be the short kind.

After that, more legitimate new residents turned up, along with an experienced Second Life resident who had come to check out the Memory Bazaar infohub because, apparently, there's been some online discussion about it. My friend was still sitting next to me when Boy3 came along. No subtlety at all:

[14:35] (Boy3): what can i do in this place
[14:36] Lou Netizen: Well, the basic, not-very-unhelpful answer to "what can you do?"
[14:36] Lou Netizen: is "anything you want"
[14:36] Lou Netizen: but I know that isn't very specific :)
[14:36] Lou Netizen: what do you want to do? Have you found the Search feature?
[14:36] (Boy3): can i get a girl here
[14:36] (Boy3): and f__k her
[14:36] (Friend): omg
[14:36] Lou Netizen: not this girl
[14:36] (Friend): and not this girl either

Sadly, these are far from the rudest encounters I've had at Memory Bazaar—they're just the ones that happened within the span of about half an hour on a random weekday afternoon. And I am not one of these Second Life amazons who walks around in glittery bras, butt-floss, and fake boobs up to my chin, who might legitimately expect to receive that kind of attention! I'm short, quiet, and typically wear nondescript jeans and tops. Nothing provocative. But if an unknown male avatar waddles up and immediately wants to know how old I am and where I'm from, there's really only one place that conversation is going.

Needless to say, neither of my friends who watched these exchanges over my shoulder are in any rush to create Second Life accounts, despite some initial interest in the idea of virtual worlds. And, to be sure, there are many aspects of Second Life that aren't rude and crude.

But a Second Life friend told me a funny: "Lesbian relationships in SL are two guys, each pretending the other is a female."

Is it any wonder?


  1. SL's best hope of keeping new users is to pray they escape those welcome places and make it to good ones like NCI or TUI

  2. Maybe! But I've been in SL since August: I've heard of NCI once (from Chadd, I think!) and have no idea what TUI might be.

  3. Maybe LL is reading your blog ;)

    They are working on a different way for new people to drop into the world:


  4. Another lovely moment:

    [14:14] Lou Netizen: Do you have Search open?
    [14:14] (YetAnotherBoy): yes
    [14:15] Lou Netizen: you can use it a lot like Google
    [14:15] (YetAnotherBoy): can u have sex in here ?


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