Tuesday, April 15, 2008

My Second Life Adventure

As I mentioned in my last entry, I have been visiting Second Life (SL). It is a vast and amazing place. I have found that it can be difficult to meet people on your own without introductions, but I have been trying. Mostly, I have been exploring.

When I realized that most people are not just hanging out waiting for conversation, but have a particular agenda that I am not a part of, I decided to explore. What I do is go to a place with lots of people and check their profiles for places that they have as a favorite and then go and visit. Just right click on them and click profile. Sometimes I might even over hear a public conversation and then go and visit what they are talking about.

It kind of made me feel like a spying outsider, but every time I "spoke," to anyone they ignored me, ignored me and teleported away, or politely said they were waiting for someone else (which I took to mean that they thought I was hitting on them or something).

Saturday, I met up with a fellow computer resource specialist, Lisa, and shared some of the fun places that I had found. We went surfing, and mediated. We practiced some Tai Chi, and checked out some gardens. We floated in a stream under a waterfall and saw the Sistine Chapel (very cool). We even went to a disco that I found that has these cool floating stars.

Then we danced. Dancing in SL is strange to me. You are given a couple of moves that are stored in your gestures folder. Very basic moves that only last about 6 seconds. When you go to a disco, you can click on the hanging dance ball. Then you can choose to animate your avatar with a dance. There are usually seven or so choices. Sometimes the dance moves are just your moves that are stored in gestures and strung together in some sort of weird snippet dance. Others are actual dances that are a complete set of moves all by themselves. There are also couples balls scattered around on the dance floor and you and a partner can click on them and dance together.

Lisa asked if I wanted to dance the tango. I agreed and then magically the avatars got into sync and were dancing together. We were making small talk and then Lisa said something to the effect that her husband was getting jealous. I guess he was in the room. Until then, I was only slightly uncomfortable. Now I am sure she was joking (I think), but it did suddenly make me realize the implications of what was happening. Dancing is a passionate experience, at least it is in the real world. I immediately dropped out of the dance. If I saw my wife dancing the tango with another man (not that neither she nor I can dance the tango in Real Life) I would be more than slightly jealous. In SL, do these same feelings apply? It seemed to me that what was a fun way to pass time, now had many more real world issues tied to it.

Shortly thereafter, Lisa was having battery problems and left the grid and I was alone in SL. So I went to my favorite hangout, Shinda Spaceport, just to look around and check profiles. I had recently changed my profile to say that I wanted to say hello and have a conversation- nothing more. I just didn't like that people might think I was a stalker or something. It also seemed a good idea considering my new realization of the impact of what I do may have in the real world. I plopped down in some kind of virtual tie die bean bag chair and took in the view.

A lot of people in SL have interesting avatars. You have the "Furries," which are animal/human fantasy types and then you have people like shapes with normal outfits and some with outlandish costumes. The Spaceport is an awesome place even if no one is there. It is like you are floating on a rocky platform with stars, planets, meteors, and comets all swirling around you. It is quite beautiful.

Suddenly, a girl avatar comes up and is just standing there. After a minute or so, I decided to just say hello. Amazingly, she responded. My very first solo attempt at communication in a virtual environment! Man, was I totally geeked out!

So, Amelia and I began to have a conversation. It was hard for my to control my innocent excitement at having someone else want to talk to me, but I kept it together. She was dressed in some sort of leather like outfit with buckles on the left arm and left leg. She was like a super hot chick that would hang out at a biker bar and would smash your face in if you said something bad about her motorcycle. An imposing figure, but she wanted to talk to me.

We made some small talk for a while, which is something I am quite bad at, but I stumbled through it, and then she tells me that she likes to visit places where they have combat and avatars "die." I am game for anything and almost begged her to show me.

I have had some experience with this type of game, so I was pretty sure I could handle anything we came across. In the late 90's some friends and I played Quake, which is an awesome first person shooter type of game. Quake was the first game that I had ever seen that allowed you to network and play together against real people. I have the hang of the controls in SL and have visions of reliving when I was almost good at Quake.

We teleport (TP) in and Amelia and I are at a base. The rival avatar group has us pinned down and I have no weapons except some free pistol I picked up at the Matrix. Amelia hands over a shotgun. I am ready except I am causally walking around. She tells me how to run and then we are off in search of people to shoot.

Except we get shot. We get back in world and get shot again. And again. It seemed that we were up against some campers that we could not see. In SL the world around you slowly rezzes in, so that it gives the appearance of fog clearing as the world loads. They could see us, but we could not see them at all. The game was not as fun as I had hoped and Amelia got bored and wanted to chill.

So, I followed my newly found friend hoping to find out other things that I did not know about in SL. She took me to her favorite place and showed me a wonderfully large waterfall. Below was an old clipper type of sailing ship. I flew (I love to fly) down and she followed. She landed on the deck and surprisingly there were dance balls there, the intimate kind of slow dance.

I feel like I am 13 all over again with a world of possibilities in front me and no experience to handle it. One other thing, I don't want any interpersonal contact. I am not interested in that, I have a beautiful wife and family and that means more to me than anything. This is like watching cartoons, but you are attached to their actions, so what does that mean?

Amelia wants to slow dance. I agree out of fear of losing my first SL only friend and I make uncomfortable small talk about the shoot'em up we just had. Then she starts giving me things (related to what we are talking about) guns and more guns, a Naboo fighter, and some other things that I have not looked at yet. I am really starting to get worried.

Now keep in mind, we haven't done anything. There has been no sex talk. These are avatars and yet I feel terrible like I have done something ethically wrong. The whole time I am trying to think of something to get away and save face. I mean, really, I don't want to embarrass myself or upset my new found friend. I just don't want anything further. Maybe I want to back up a step. I finally use the oldest excuse in the world, "It's late and I have to go to bed." Maybe it is not the oldest excuse, but it is all my "out of social interaction practice with females" male mind can come up with on short notice. I quickly get out of SL and feel different levels of guilt and shame, not to mention the embarrassment of having any feelings about something that did not happen in a virtual world. Strange!

So, now I have questions. Have I done something wrong? What are the rules of social interaction in SL? The funny thing is I don't think my wife cares. She thinks I am a techno-dork anyway. The other night I was screaming, "Look I'm dancing!" and "Look I'm riding a killer whale." Amy looked over with that supportive but really low level of interest and said, "Cool." I described some of the odd things I had seen and mentioned the sex position pose balls. She asked me if I had tried the pose balls, like she asks me if I put gas in the car. I was offended. She was barely interested. If she doesn't care, so what? But I care...

Maybe I am making more of it than is really there. It is only a virtual world, after all. I think the most important question of all is, am I a virtual wussy?


Janene said...

Speechless...but I don't want you to make me feel guilty because I never comment.

Sougent Harrop said...

No, you did nothing wrong but you're having those feelings for a reason. You can get caught up in the experiences, even though you might not think so. I'll offer some free advice, worth what you paid for it, if it doesn't feel right then don't do it, you can politely decline to dance on couples balls, there are plenty of places where you can dance solo and get into conversations and stuff.

If you want, look me up in-world, I'll talk to you and can show you a few places you can go to find folks that are interested in talking.

Al said...

Thanks for the comment Sougent. I will look you up. I think you are right, "if it doesn't feel right then don't do it." This is how I have always lived in RL.
The odd thing is that these relationship issues never occured to me. It was suddenly as if in a 2 hour SL experience I realized that things that happen in SL are not only happening there. Probably because of my limited social interaction there.