Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Honour's Early Days in SecondLife

Crap has posted about the "first hour" experience referencing Cen and Nika. This led me to think about my own initiation and early times in SL. I don't usually do think pieces, true - so if you're not interested I won't mind. Just stop reading now. Or go read the posts I linked to above - they're much better. :)

There are some things you need to keep in mind when I describe my early times in SecondLife:

  • I'm pretty much a geek. However, I only discovered this recently - and since I'm now in my middle 50's, this was a shocking thing to learn at a relatively advanced age. My life would have been very different if I'd realized this a long time ago.
  • I don't have a back ground in video games - I remember being intrigued with "Adventure" on the old SQL machines but since I wasn't a techie I never got a chance to really play it.
  • In real life I'm a nester - I need my home base. I'm all for travel and adventure - but I have to have a place where I can return/hide/own/control/feel at peace.
  • Although I make fun of the old time techies who believe this - it probably holds true for me as well -: "Reading the manual ruins your amateur status". Which, of course, is just a way of justifying the fact that they (we) don't read the instructions.

    So understanding all of that - the following might make some sense. :)

I first joined SL because I'd encountered it in my online reading on a number of occasions - and I was intrigued by the thought that I could "build" things. I signed up and went through the "orientation". Could not bounce the basketball, kept walking into things, but manage to fly over the bit of water. I figured I'd practice and get better on my own so I left the Orientation Island and went to find some land (remember the nesting?).

I'm pretty good at exploring menu's, but only til I find what I'm looking for - no reading it all in advance for me. So I found the listings of land for sale and tried to find some I could afford with the L$1200 they gave me. This was the budget partly because I'm cheap and partly because I wasn't allowed to bring in more money for a couple of days. So I tried to find something I could afford.

I found two listings that seemed promising. One said it had a great view - but since it was always dark when I tp'd there I couldn't confirm that (remember, I didn't read the "manual" and hadn't found the "sun" controls yet). The other listing was for a whopping 96 sq m - but next to a Linden Road. It was jammed in between some pretty ugly builds but there was this road - and even a newbie figured that would be a good thing to be next to. I bought it and my blood pressure immediately went down - I had a home. :)

Over the next couple of weeks I started buying up these weird little 16 sq m parcels that were around me - ugly things. Once I could import more reasonable sums of money I started buying bigger parcels in the area. When I wasn't doing that I was exploring - I knew I wanted to learn how to build (figure out is probably more accurate, I didn't look for courses and didn't "read the manual"). I decided I would start with something I love in RL - gardening. So I looked at garden centres in SL and honestly was not impressed. I decided that there was a niche for photo realistic material and that's what I'd aim for.

Once I had a reasonable amount of land I did my first "build". It was a hedge maze - not bad. Extraordinary though when you realize that I didn't know about "shift copy" and couldn't control my camera to allow me to look down at the maze. I can't believe I managed to build that thing with those handicaps - but I did. And it's been uphill from there.

On the social side - well, I was a hermit. Partly because I was obsessed with the early building. Partly because I was sure I would be the proverbial "sore thumb" - so I just kept my head down and tried not to do anything to draw too much attention and, therefore, not feel too stupid. I've learned since then that there are far more of "us" than people would think - the older residents - one day we'll rise up and take over. And won't the rest of you be shocked. :)

After a particularly good day of land buying, I met one of my neighbours - Wrath. The first person to talk to me in SL he's still a good friend - and has put up with a lot of my ignorance. I literally did not do anything to improve my AV for the first 3 months I was in here. I was Ruth with bad hair and shapeless jeans. Wrath actually asked me with a straight face if I was planning to open a clothes store. As if.

I didn't get out much until after I did make changes to my AV - but that doesn't mean I didn't meet more people. I used to get newbies (meaning even younger than me) landing in my garden every day or so. I would share the little info I'd managed to glean - help them remove bald spots, find portugese speaking clubs, etc. I couldn't understand why they kept landing in my garden - I mean was there an Orientation Island nearby or something? I finally asked one of them who told me that on the map my land was a big green square and it looked safe to land in. I still keep in touch with a few of them - nice people.

My early times in SL probably aren't typical, and maybe I'm not either. But if SL is looking at the orientation of new residents let me make a couple of suggestions.

  • Don't label helpful locations, items, people, etc. in SecondLife speak. Use terms that make sense to a newbie. There's always time to give them the vernacular later.
  • Remember that we all need a "safe" harbour - home, location whatever. People who are really social will find it right away in a bar or club. The rest of us have to make our own. Figure out a way to give a newbie their own safe corner - right away - something they can retreat to if things get too overwhelming. Something that feels like theirs - even if it's only for a month or so. Something where there isn't somebody being helpful, wanting you to make decisions. Someplace where you can modify your appearance without feeling like a dork. Someplace where you can just take a deep breath and plan your next move.
  • Provide a list of places in SL that speak different languages - that Portugese fellow I mentioned was thrilled when I found a club I could send him to. They don't have to be official locations - just places where the people will welcome a newbie and speak to him or her in their own language.
  • I always tell newbies that they need a reason to be in SL. If they want to build, socialize, have sex - whatever. Just arriving without an agenda makes your eyes glaze over. Once you know what you're looking for it's easier to start finding it. SL could give a list of places to start based on the things that people are looking for. Once they start on that journey it's easy to start making progress on their own.

I love this place and I'd like everybody who arrives here to love it. When I look back I'm astonished that I did what I did - and that I didn't get embarassed and just leave. Keeping your head down does work - I just don't recommend it. :)

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