Note: Â This article was originally submitted to the Metavese Messenger, a now defunct Second Life newspaper, on November 18, 2005.
Fleep’s first avatar…
The First 30 Days
by Fleep Tuque
In October, a friend of mine posted on her Live Journal asking if anyone had heard of this Second Life thing and I remembered having an account in the beta, but due to lag I didn’t really play with it. Then I came home that evening and saw Second Life profiled in Newsweek magazine and thought, “I should check this out!” And on October 11, 2005, Fleep Tuque was born, in all her Barbie doll body glory.
On the very first day, I spent two hours trying to customize my face so that I didn’t resemble a freak. Then some friendly neighbors took me to a number of interesting places; the Prim Library, a public sandbox, and the Blue Stone theatre. As we settled in to watch a movie, I marveled at the ease with which I was able to view this streaming media in an online environment that looked and felt and sounded just like a theatre.
I work at a large state university in Ohio, teaching faculty how to use technology to enhance teaching and learning both inside and outside the classroom. I spend hours on the phone, helping distance learning students watch short video clips from as far away as Germany, and I thought about how sterile and visually unappealing the online format is for those videos when compared with the gorgeous textures and interactive environment that is Second Life. Already I’ve given virtual tours of Second Life to people in my department and it has sparked a new and exciting conversation about the future of distance learning and gaming as an educational tool for our students.
I also purchased one of the first few plots of First Land in Acontia, but within days, the land was snapped up by enterprising young noobs and before I knew it, a large revolving “JESUS IS LORD” sign was floating near my little prefab house and structures dotted the landscape. I had contacted a number of people from my online communities and dragged them over kicking and screaming to come experience this great new thing I had discovered, and together we managed to purchase, finagle and trade up for a sizable chunk of land with which to practice our fledgling building abilities. The Church of Starship, Eschwa Welcome Center, and the Temple of Eschwa now decorate our land, welcoming other new members and residents to explore their creativity.
I’m fascinated by this place. I’m fascinated by the possibilities, by the people, by the creativity I’ve seen, and the enterprising spirit that seems to have taken hold here. I’m also somewhat disappointed to find so much commercialism and pornography. Give people a blank slate, a blank new world in which they can be anything and build anything, and it’s sad to discover how many of them choose to replicate some of the most negative aspects of real life – unequal and demeaning sexual relationships, anything-for-a-buck capitalism, and seemingly endless strip malls and what looks like for all the world to be urban sprawl with little attention paid to creating a peaceful and soothing environment.
Fortunately, I’ve also found places of respite from those aspects of Second Life which seem depressing to me. I stumbled onto the Brainiacs and promptly signed up for the Brainiac Education Exchange Program (BEEP) and took my first scripting lesson. I discovered the memorial for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and was touched by the outpouring of emotion I saw there. And I’ve worked with residents in my sim to form the Acontia Neighborhood Association so that we can collaborate and work with each other to make our little noob sim an interesting and exciting place.
In the future, I plan to learn more about the stories of those residents who have managed to impact the development of this world for all of us, and watch closely as the economy and political activity on Second Life continues to evolve. After only a month, I see potential and promise here and I finally can fly around without banging into walls and landing on my face too often. My next task is to understand the players and people who have shaped Second Life, for better or worse, so look for upcoming profiles of the famous (or infamous) residents who have made their mark in the next issue of the Metaverse Messenger.