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A Casual, Cornered: There's No Shame In Playing Second Life

By Beau Hindman on March 11, 2015 | Columns | Comments

There's No Shame In Playing Second Life

Ah, Second Life. It’s still the angsty teenager of the MMO world, even though it’s been around for more than a decade. My account is almost as old as the game – May of 2004 – but I definitely do not play in the world as much as I have in the past. Second Life really deserves full attention, or at least it can demand it, just like a teenager. It’s also full of energy and hormones and bursting with creative ideas… just like a teenager.

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But is playing Second Life something that is embarrassing to admit? I don’t see why it should be. It’s pretty much the only tool/game/world/thing like it, so why would anyone feel ashamed to take part in the massive sandbox from Linden Lab?

I think it’s pretty simple; these players who are too embarrassed or too ashamed to admit to playing Second Life either

  1. Have family that would not understand (I do not have this problem)
  2. Actually care what the internet thinks of them (I definitely do not have this problem)

I have attempted to be a champion of the title, but it has always seemed obvious to want to be a champion of something that is so cool. Does it have a seedy side? Yes, but so does Reddit – holy moly don’t get me started on what I think about that place – yet thousands of people have wonderful, safe and entertaining experiences on that website.

I was recently asked to be on the Drax Files Radio Hour, a very interesting Second Life podcast hosted by Draxtor Despres, someone who has completely sunk himself into the virtual world (to say the least.) We talked about the average player of Second Life, and how they are often a quiet bunch, at least in the podcast panel’s experience.

So what if they are shy? As if World of Warcraft players or Diablo fans are running for president right now. However, the fact is that Second Life is under a different type of magnifying glass than these other mainstream hits, so its players might feel a bit burned when every other article, mention or documentary on the topic tends to show Second Life as nothing but a haven for oddballs. (Have these critics visited Tumblr?!)

The co-host on the show, Jo Yardley, allowed me to speak most of the time (I tend to talk way too much) but when she weighed in, she mentioned that Second Life fans should probably go into the comments section of articles like this one, in order to let non-players know that the world of the Linden was indeed a wonderful place.

I agreed with this in the past and I agreed on the show. I have been covering indies for a long time and, as I say on the show, one of the first things I tell indie developers is to “share this coverage with your community.” Sure, I get the benefit of some new eyes on my writing, but the current players get to invite new players into their game. Win-win.

Yardley shared an older blog post on the topic, called “Coming out of the virtual closest”. While I didn’t agree with the title at first, (coming out, in the classical sense, is often a bit rougher and possibly even dangerous than telling your mom you like virtual landscapes) it has grown on me by now. She says in the post:

Many people keep their activities in Second Life a secret from their surroundings, their RL friends and family often have no idea they are even involved in Second Life. They do this because they don’t want everyone to know what they get up to in this virtual world, because they feel embarrassed to spend so much time with something others may not understand or because of the bad reputation Second Life has.”

I have to wonder how many of these embarrassed players just need to tell others to stuff it. Spending oodles of time in a virtual world should be no more embarrassing than spending oodles of money on football fandom or collectible bears.

She goes on to say:

The world knows SL as that weird old place that they thought vanished years ago and that was full of weirdos doing kinky hanky panky stuff with their avatars, flying unmentionables and people spending real money so their avatars can look like barbie while in RL they are fat old men. And of course, part of Second Life is exactly that and we will probably never get rid of those stories.”

I have a slight problem with this section, but mainly because it points to some issues within the Second Life community itself, and not with outside haters or trolls. Second Lifers can sometimes be snooty within snooty; they are often divided into cliques that perfectly represent the greater internet that is supposedly against their favorite game.

Why even worry about mentioning those unmentionables? Or, if you do and it’s not your thing, why not come out and say it: “I do not play Second Life to have virtual sex.” Second Life is not a fart in a crowded elevator; it’s a fun, virtual world. Don’t be afraid to admit that you dig it, even if it can stink sometimes.

Hanky-panky, fat old men… all of that stuff is a part of Second Life. It’s also a part of real life but, as long as a new player takes some very mild steps, they would not be subjected to horrors like flying unmentionables. I’d rather new players know about the simple filters that Second Life offers than anything.

She then says:

So I started posting screenshots of some of the most amazing things I had seen in SL. I posted them on facebook and yes of course, the second I mentioned SL I got the old ‘does that still exist’, ‘ewwww it’s a pervy places for weirdos’. etc. So I proved them wrong, I showed them the other side.”

This is, of course, sound advice and something that any shame-filled Second Life lover can work with.

My advice is easier, however: forget anyone who doesn’t like what you like.

I have never cared if my readers thought I was skilled or talented or handsome or creative or anything. The older I get, the less I care. I hope that they have some fun when they read my stuff or when they join me in a game, but I could not care about anything less than “that person hates the game I like.”

That person can, for the lack of better words, go find their own fun and leave yours alone.

Second Life is a brilliant mess. Yes, the developer needs to do a better job promoting the artsy side of the world, but I’ll guarantee they make most of their money from the sexy stuff. It’s very hard to maintain an MMO these days. While I do think that advertising Second Life as a sexy romp that is filled with beautiful women is sexist, stale and so last decade, I can see why they do it; it makes money.

I wish they’d stop, but it makes them money. It’s part of the deal.

Come out of the Second Life closest or not; I don’t care. I won’t wait around for you.

After all, I have things to do in Second Life.

Beau Hindman / Beau is a writer, artist, PR/CM, game designer and pro moderator, and he's been blogging since 2002. He lives it up in Austin, Texas with his community manager wife. He's also the author of Anna the Powerful, a sci-fi book about the world's only superhero. Buy it here: http://my.bookbaby.com/book/anna-the-powerful