Monday, May 12, 2008

How Second Life made me $26,320 richer in just one day!

(My most spam-ish blog title ever.)

Yep, I was paid the above amount for a magazine article I wrote on Second Life. Unfortunately, that's my fee in Linden dollars (the SL currency.) In U.S. dollars...well...let's just say the amount was substantially less.

Anyway, being a neglectful/lazy blogger, I am posting my article here in lieu of actually writing something new. It appeared in the March issue of the unnamed (to protect the innocent) publication I write a column for.

But you, lucky internet readers, get to see snapshots that did not appear in the print version! I might also humbly suggest that you click the pictures to enlarge them and see my SL adventure in greater detail.

(My crystal ball shopping never made it into the article...oh well...)

Home Sweet Virtual Home

“Good evening, M’am.” The gentleman startled me, as I did not hear him approach as I stood on the darkened street, outside a lovely Victorian era house. “Good evening,” I replied, “I was just admiring your home.” Thank you,” he responded, “but my wife deserves the credit. She did all the work.”

A rather pedestrian conversation, if not for the fact that the “gentleman” I was chatting with was actually an adorable little teddy bear wearing flannel pajamas and a wizard’s hat. (I didn’t dare ask the species of his wife.)

Have I neglected to mention that this chat was in text form, and taking place on my computer screen? Yep, it was just another evening in Second Life, the online 3-D virtual reality world that I have been visiting with all too much regularity.

Oh wait – how rude of me! I haven’t properly introduced myself. I am “Cyn Peccable,” a steampunk Victorian woman of little means but great reserve (or at least that’s how my Second Life profile reads.)

Um…yeah…seriously…I’m waaaay too into this.

But let he who is without a time-wasting hobby cast the first stone…keeping in mind that in Second Life, you could throw that stone haphazardly about in a glass house without breaking a single window -- cool!

Mixed imagery aside, my attraction to Second Life can be summed up in two words: no cellulite.

So, what’s a person to do with their nice cellulite-free avatar? Explore! Shop! Make friends while shopping! Shop! Try on the stuff you bought shopping!

And find a place to live.

While I’ve mastered shopping, and even have a “partner” (my real life husband, who signed on to Second Life just long enough to take me off the market) so far I’ve resisted the urge to settle down.

Not that I’m unfamiliar with others’ residences. While Cyn is a proper Victorian lady, it seems she is also quite the peeping Tom. I’ve peered into houses ranging from haunted to Architectural-Digest-ready.

I’ve seen clam shells for mermaids, post-apocalyptic sheds for those surviving an imaginary blast, and double-wide trailers for wannabe trash.

Not to mention a gigantic undersea rusted-metal seahorse/house that would set Jules Verne’s heart a-racing (if he weren’t dead, that is.)

And plain old normal stuff too. Sometimes a house is just a house.

With all this in mind, I set off to educate myself about the cost of Second Life housing. A quick search gave me the location of a sales area, appropriately named “Home Sweet Homes.” One mouse click later, I had teleported there. (Teleporting = fun!)

Materializing in the center of an expanse of neatly-trimmed grass (that never needs mowing), I found the landscape dotted with model houses of different sizes and styles. And each lot had a large sign stuck in the front yard; if you didn’t fancy the model sitting there, a click on the sign would materialize another in its place.

In a blink of an eye, I conjured up a large 3-story Victorian mansion, complete with wrap-around porch and turret…and an asking price of 6,000 Linden Dollars (the currency of Second Life.)

Oh, did I forget to mention that the exchange of (real) money is a very real part of this virtual world?

The 6,000 Linden price tag of my Victorian dream house translates to about $23 U.S. dollars. A bargain in real life, but pricey for the SL world. And I’m not sure if I’m ready to make that kind of commitment.

I mean, it’s lovely…but why be tasteful, when you can be tacky? Methinks a castle might be more suited to my flights of fancy. As a point of reference, I decide to check out Victoriana Castle, which bills itself as “The Most Beautiful Castle in SL.”

Holy Ice Princess, Batman! Blindingly white and overdone in every way imaginable – Victoriana Castle has more spires than I can count. Its curlicues have curlicues! My blood sugar level rises to a dangerous level, forcing a quick teleportation escape…

…to “Elite Estates” -- where one can buy a castle of more modest proportions. In fact 1,500 Lindens (about $6) will get me my very own a starter castle!

Unfortunately, “Dakota Castle” is unimaginatively rectangular –and its façade bears a strong resemblance to cinder block. I half-expected to find medieval-themed dinner theater going on inside. Instead, the interior was empty, if slightly dungeon-esque (which could be a positive, depending on what one is into.)

Still…hmmm…even cinderblock could be made cozy with the right furnishings. After all, isn’t décor what makes a house (or castle) a home?

So, a new mission – furniture shopping. To that end, I enlisted the companionship of my sister, AKA “Angelique Nightfire.”

We meet in the small but elegant showroom of “Capalini Fine Furnishings.” There we playfully threw our avatar-selves onto an extremely tasteful Federal style sofa; then each chose a side of a four-poster bed (and just as when we were children on family vacations, I threatened her with a karate chop if she strayed over to my side.)

Then somehow, we veered off course. The next thing I knew, we were wearing diver’s suits outside a pirate bar. Once inside said bar, Cyn put on a kimono and served Angelique a gin and tonic.

Such is the waking-dream semi-hallucinatory Second Life experience.

Leaving Angelique to nurse her virtual hangover, my next stop was the vast showroom of “Prim Goddess Creations,” which seemed prepared to fulfill my every interior decorating need…as well as needs I never knew I had. Like – what exactly is a “cuddle rug”?

(Leading to the philosophical question: Why do avatars feel a need to cuddle anyway?)

In the bedroom section, I spy a mahogany sleigh bed just like the one in my real life bedroom (except in SL, the bed is made.)

And over there -- toilets! I can’t resist the urge to walk into a bathroom display and touch the handle. It flushes! (Or more accurately, the picture of water in the bowl rotates in a clockwise fashion for a few seconds.)

Very amusing, but does it sell? In all my spying into virtual houses, I have never encountered one with a bathroom – for good reason. A virtual bathroom would only prove a rude reminder of the real life bathroom that one should be cleaning instead trying on that dreamy flowing gown.

So…bye-bye Prim Goddess!

But then I find myself in a store called “Dust Bunny”…

...prompting a glance towards the real life dust creatures forming at my feet. Seems no matter how hard one tries, some things (like housework and Britney Spears) are inescapable. Sigh.

After all my “research,” I conclude it’s easier (and cheaper) to keep my avatar homeless.

Thus resigned, I fly off to a small deserted island I’d scoped out on an earlier expedition; where a creative somebody-I’ve-never-met has turned a lighthouse into their home, complete with a life-sized (and very cuddle-able) stuffed bunny sitting by the bed.

By afternoon’s end, my avatar lies stretched out on a pillow-laden hammock by the water’s edge. All alone, save a small squirrel darting around the base of a nearby tree. It eyes Cyn suspiciously, but I don’t care.

Ah, yes…(virtual) life is good.

(If you made it here, to the end of the article, first of all, congratulations on your perseverance! Secondly, if you look closely in the last snapshot, you'll see the "squirrel" of the article was really a tiny rabbit. But I thought I had just one too many bunnies in my tale, and there is a SL squirrel that I'm fairly certain has been stalking

Hey, it's all pretend anyway!)

(To learn more about Second Life:


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