SL 10/31 Wandering, Chatting, Making Friends

[Contextual note: For the introduction to this blog’s switch to musings about Second Life for a while, see Virtual Adjustments from 3/16.]

Wandering around SL these past two days, things seem pretty empty as usual. An unexpected discovery was that in the Help Island starting area, though, there are generally lots of people – and clearly many who are not, actually, just starting out. Had a very nice conversation with someone who liked my new name (I knew it was a good idea to change names [EDIT: My first SL avatar, Saiph, was created in 2006, but her name sounded too much like “safe” and started to annoy me). Didn’t quite figure out what he was doing there, but it seemed to be the same as me – just hanging out, bored, looking to do a little people watching. There’s a lot of watching to be done there – great costumes and folks making jokes and saying hi etc. Some certainly know each other, and it is clearly a meeting place.

That area has a lot of public chatter, so it’s pretty good to just get a sense of how people are in this world. It’s limited, of course, and it seems there are certainly specific enclaves of folks doing specific things, but plenty who just hang around. Quite a mix of languages, although English dominates, of course; but today there was French, a little German, and some Spanish. Mostly just things like, “anyone speak ___?” and “oh, yeah, people usually use English”. No real conversation in those languages as of yet. Yesterday there was a bit of Portuguese, as promised, but just “anyone speak Portuguese?” I answered, “I can read it, does that count?” – to no response, however.

Getting used to the interface in here is complicated, although I’m getting better. I’m still grudgingly accommodating the chat interface – it’s just so much less smooth than WoW, and it makes me cranky. S. discovered how to open multiple chat windows, though, so that helps a bit. Moving is less burdensome now, and although I’m still unsure how to find “friends” with the map, I have figured out how to use the map in general to get around.

Sitting on a fence with my pal Rolf.Conversations with S. and others in world led to some thoughts and discussions about interaction here:

– Longer response time in chat and correcting typos are definitely not the habits of the “digital native” – conversation with one lad in the help area made it clear he wasn’t all that young – he corrected his spelling, even simple errors, a lot. Of course, for all I know he’s a 14 year old boy, but I highly doubt it. For example, he said he had studied Sanskrit, yoga, and Buddhism – topics that are rarely the purview of the pre-adolescent.  He also had the capitalization, corrections, and careful typing thing going.

– These habits are, of course, related to spending a lot of time chatting. If typing is a more formal thing for someone, then chat typos are likely annoying. I remember correcting typos a lot when I first started in WoW; I do so only rarely now.

– S. pointed out that people like us, with experience in other virtual worlds (VWs), are different than those with little VW experience overall, even though we still come off as new in SL. The difference between our newness and general newness might be confused with being a digital immigrant, although…. I guess he and I both *are* digital immigrants…. not sure how that experience thing is going to intersect here in general.

– The lad in the starting area said he assumed I wasn’t new because my outfit is so cool – hurrah! Although someone did try to give me “better skins” – no comment other than that, just passed me the items and said, “better skins”. I didn’t take them – it seemed a bit odd to take a skin from a stranger. Odd and somehow too intimate. I guess I’m not “sexy” enough with my Bella, heh.

Like other virtual social spaces, SL is clearly a place some people go to simply be around other people. Since, distinct from WoW, there aren’t pre-set things to do, it seems that conversation with strangers is more the way it was in The Sims Online: expected and common in areas with a decent number of people. That was the real reason people played that game in the first place. I suspect that the more people that are around, the more likely folks are to start up random conversations with strangers. I still have no idea what enclaves with specific activities like the mini MMOs I’ve read about are like. I’m not sure I want to get into all that at the moment, but I still feel as though I should find someplace in world where *something* is going on. It’s still really empty, really slow, and feels quite random.

On the other hand, when there are people I know coming to hang out and chat, it becomes a lot more fun. Even just sitting on a wall was great fun today.

On a design note, New Babbage is amazing. Such cool places – albeit rather empty – and designs. Lots to buy, but also some areas for entertainment like a “new music showcase” with a stage. Found a cool place to lounge in there. I’m not sure that level of complexity is something we want to go for on our island, but it certainly serves well for inspiration and examples. Very London-like, of course, rather than the green grassy default. Steampunk is definitely hip right now. If we can come up with a cool quest, i think folks are going to have a blast in our study. It’s really dark in New Babbage, though, which is atmospheric, but I can hardly see outside. Might need just a little more light for our purposes.

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