This just in -- that girl is really a dude
October 16, 2006 2:37 PM   Subscribe

People are taking that game way to seriously.
posted by delmoi at 2:39 PM on October 16, 2006

it isn't even a game
posted by b1tr0t at 2:42 PM on October 16, 2006

"... it's more important than that", I know, I know.
posted by NinjaTadpole at 2:49 PM on October 16, 2006

It wouldn't be so bad if the game had anything resembling passable graphics.

wake me when I can jack in...
posted by sourbrew at 2:52 PM on October 16, 2006

Is anybody here on there? Is it any good?
posted by bonaldi at 2:52 PM on October 16, 2006

neckro's one-step guide to Second Life:

1. Be careful. There are a lot of fucking furries.
posted by neckro23 at 2:57 PM on October 16, 2006

That's... impressive. And weird. I've tried to check it out once or twice, but they want a credit card, I think, and a computer that isn't years old, and, well, I just don't care enough.
posted by blacklite at 3:03 PM on October 16, 2006

First person to comment "...but Reuters has been a virtual news agency for years" gets a free subscription to Little Green Footballs.
posted by tapeguy at 3:03 PM on October 16, 2006

I played around with it for a bit. It was sort of interesting, but it's already so full of advertising and crap stores trying to sell you virtual stuff that it was a non-starter for me.
posted by davejay at 3:14 PM on October 16, 2006

Is anybody here on there? Is it any good?

If you ever read and loved Snow Crash, Second Life will be fascinating and addictive for about a week. Then you'll get bored and never open it again.

Most of the people who REALLY get into Second Life (contribute substantially to the economy, build amazing things in the world, etc) tend to be people who are using it as an outlet for certain behaviors or activities that just aren't available to them in real life. Kids who are stuck in small Midwestern towns can become super gothed-out clothing designers that go clubbing three nights a week. Bored housewives without any aesthetic outlet build massive dream homes. Closeted, married men with transgender tendencies dress up like RuPaul and suck off strangers on the dance floor. Lonely and socially awkward people just hang out in the mall and play Tringo with each other. And yes, there are PLENTY of furries. But they mostly keep to themselves.

I study communities like Second Life for a living, and I think it's very, very good at what it does. But it's not for everybody.
posted by xthlc at 3:17 PM on October 16, 2006

i put in my request to be the official bureau reporter for World of Warcraft. This weeks news from Azeroth...
posted by Miles Long at 3:31 PM on October 16, 2006

First person to comment "...but Reuters has been a virtual news agency for years" gets a free subscription to Little Green Footballs.
...but Reuters has been a virtual news agency for years
posted by Pink Fuzzy Bunny at 3:35 PM on October 16, 2006

someone please make a "third life" inside second life so we can get this singularity thing rolling.
posted by dminor at 3:40 PM on October 16, 2006

But Reuters ...

posted by Astro Zombie at 3:45 PM on October 16, 2006

WTF are 'furries'?

After a quick google search...

Furry is a chance to expand ones creative expression, and to participate in different personas. I have always enjoyed that sense of the dramatic, and so I too think that is a fun thing (although I really couldn't see myself as a furry everyday). But, how much they all seem to love each other, how they are connected through their furriness, is a beautiful thing.

And even more bizarrely from the comments:

I sell my skins to both furs and non-furs alike. The tan leopard skin in the article was a custom av for a woman who had no idea furry even existed but thought it would be exotic and sexy to have leopard fur. I sometimes catch flak from furs who think my skins aren't really furry because it isn't toony enough. Just as there are people who hate furs, there are furs who will not have anything to do with non-furs at all and will shun those who do... (don't worry, we think they are nuts too)

There are two things I have learned; The only normal people are the ones you don't know and we are all human under the pixles.

"we are all human under the pixels", I want that on a t-shirt.

Second life really does just seem like a hyper real kind of reality.
I love the web for these things, even though I never have any intention in wasting hours "playing". Metafilter wastes quite enough of my time.
posted by twistedonion at 3:46 PM on October 16, 2006

Second Life is as close as we have gotten to a real metaverse. xthic is right on track though, most current users are there for something they can't get in the real world.

Of interest is ownership of IP and a currency pegged to the US dollar. Also the number of real brands coming into the world means that the idea has some big dollar backers that want to see something out of their investment.

If Liden can keep up ( or catch up) they will do well. If something comes along with integrated voice, better graphics and compression, Second Life will get a run for its money.
posted by daniel9223 at 3:54 PM on October 16, 2006

Dear Linden Labs-

For God's sake, hire some video game developers and get them to overhaul your graphics, physics and scripting language. Your lag times are killing my virtual lap dancing business.

Love and kisses,
posted by RakDaddy at 4:05 PM on October 16, 2006

See, I *told* everyone VRML would be the wave of the future!
posted by felix at 4:05 PM on October 16, 2006

I wanted to try out Second Life, but after I'd customized my avatar something weird happened -- my character flew *into* the ground and started moving underground in some weird direction. I couldn't stop that motion. So I just quit.

I'm not sure I'd invest much in a game that seems to have that sort of major bug.
posted by clevershark at 4:12 PM on October 16, 2006

I found it interesting just to tinker with. For a long time, the people in Second Life were some of the nicest, most interesting people you could find anywhere. The early denizens were extremely intelligent folks who just liked playing with computerized toys, basically. I spent many an evening playing trivia games or Jeopardy.

But then the really weird people started to show up. At first, I thought of it as a 'seedy underbelly'... a few loonies. But it's gotten to the point now that it's hard to find the original type of person at all.

I think the moment I realized that SL had really changed was when I talked with two furries in the Welcome Area (this was where new people started at the time, and it was a fun spot to just hang out.... it later got so unpleasant that they stopped using it, as it gave new people a very bad impression.) We had a long, um, I guess almost an argument, in which they insisted loudly and fervently that they were really furries, not just people playing them on SL. One told me in very great detail about a 'real' werewolf friend he had in real life. They felt very attacked and were trying to rally support from others there when I said that they were just people playing a role in a game. They seemed to think the fur was real. I left that conversation quite shaken, and maybe a little nauseated. I've come to the conclusion since that perhaps the furry crowd LIKES being shunned. Either that, or at least some of them are outright insane.

I have no problem with people who wear cool avatars. There are some amazingly inventive ones. I've seen everything from a life-sized Oscar trophy (this was hard at the time) to a six-inch-tall Darwinian, to a thirty foot spider. I just take exception to those who claim that they are not actually humans sitting behind a keyboard.

I don't spend much time there anymore, but if you haven't checked it out yet, it's entirely free just to log in, fly around, and see what people have done. There's a lot of neat stuff. Worth a tour.
posted by Malor at 4:21 PM on October 16, 2006

Just you guys wait until my new StimShortz0153; are available with the Second Life interface. Available in all sizes: XL, XXL, and XXXL.
posted by maxwelton at 4:22 PM on October 16, 2006

Uh, so much for clever. (So many times have I said that.)
posted by maxwelton at 4:22 PM on October 16, 2006

I did try Second Life, but was turned off by the fact it's an elaborate money making scheme. That's the American way, perhaps... although I don't think Second Life is altogether "american." It supercedes that, or at least it wants to... It DOES want to be the ultimate in capitalism. Build a better mousetrap and the furries will beat a path to your door... or something like that. Not my bag. If I wanted to spend my online time working towards my retirement, I wouldn't be wasting my free time playing stupid MMORPGs.

I wanna be the Reuters correspondent for City of Heroes. The new Faultline is going to kick some major ass. Pocket D has some nice new changes too. If anyone wants to know where the old fashioned badge is or the drowned rat, just gimme a holler. There's gonna be new flight animations and new sitting animations. Cryptic Lounge is tres nifty as are the police band missions, and you just haven't lived until you see alien monkeys beating the ever lovin' crap outta one another over drinks.

...Second What?
posted by ZachsMind at 4:23 PM on October 16, 2006

Malor : "One told me in very great detail about a 'real' werewolf friend he had in real life."

I think the proper word for that is "otherkin". (Because "batshit insane", while technically accurate, just isn't specific enough)
posted by Bugbread at 4:24 PM on October 16, 2006

Is anybody here on there? Is it any good?

Yes, a few times. Not to me, really. I find the weird public/private inversion (people constantly talk to you whenever you are close to them, and you can't use body language/facial expressions to welcome or rebuff them) very difficult to deal with. In RL I like taking my time to decide whether to talk to someone.

It's like New York if everyone had to wear nametags.
posted by emjaybee at 5:48 PM on October 16, 2006

I keep logging in every couple of months, hoping that they fixed the physics and the crappy choppy graphics. If they do that, I'd be all cool playing it more often. Otherwise, it's kinda a toy.
posted by gregschoen at 5:57 PM on October 16, 2006

Why not? Is WoW or Second Life any less real than the Superbowl or the World Series?
posted by empath at 6:25 PM on October 16, 2006

A half-dozen or so months ago my wife expressed interest in finding another computer adventure game we could share. Ultima Underworld and The Dig were great.

So I recently installed the Second Life client on my computer. I do not normally install games software on my computers; I do not normally play computer games.

Anyway, Second Life has come up in the web news this past week and it's suddenly occuring to me that perhaps the overall net vibe on SL was marketing-driven, not consumer-driven.

'cause I gotta say, I was really disappointed with my SL experience. It was a little laggy, but the biggest problem is that it was very boring. Yah, I could fly, and yah, I could look at things. Yawn.

It's not like I had high hopes for the experience, but the difference between the net buzz and my real experience was hopelessly vast. I somehow completely failed to understand the appeal of SL. Either I'm being Pepsi-Blued, or my entertainment metric is wholly incompatible with the SL groove.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:27 PM on October 16, 2006

FFF: it's generally most interesting to creators. The scripting language is quite powerful (although annoyingly limited in a number of ways), and it's possible to create very complex things.

Everything you see in SL was built by residents using the same tools that you have available; you can do stuff just as good or better.

Fundamentally, people like to do four basic things in SL: chat, script, build, and shop. (the shop part didn't happen until much later, and it's rather alien to me, but apparently it's pretty popular.) I always enjoyed the scripting, myself.

One area you might be confused: Second Life is a toy, not a game. It's a giant sandbox. You sort of make it up as you go. There are (many) games written in the scripting language, but they're all optional. At its very core, you could think of it as a glorified chatroom.

I do not, for what it's worth, think you're being PBed. People really do like it a lot. But if you don't care for chatrooms, and you don't like to make stuff, you probably won't enjoy it much.
posted by Malor at 6:55 PM on October 16, 2006

Second Life is a toy, not a game.
+1. Go into it expecting a game, and you're hosed; go into it expecting the best Lego set ever, well, you're a lot closer to the mark.
posted by louie at 7:37 PM on October 16, 2006

I've had an account since '05 but maybe spent a total of 3 hours in it since this weekend. I was really bored and have sworn off WOW forevar. I've been logging in really trying to get a feel for it. I tried There in the past and wasn't really impressed with it. 2nd Life has a lot of potential but it's got a ways to go. On the other hand I feel a lot of people are flocking there because it's pretty much the best thing going on our way to a Metaverse and people are trying to hop on the bandwagon.

I was reading somewhere just yesterday that Linden is in the process of migrating all of the code that runs 2nd Life over to standard protocols and languages and are eventually going to make both the server and the clients open source.

Now when that happens we are going to see some crazy shit.
posted by daHIFI at 7:39 PM on October 16, 2006

The Reuters thing is surely a gimic. They won't keep the dude on that beat for long. And they definitely won't have as much fanfare when they pull him off as they had today.
posted by brendan66 at 7:57 PM on October 16, 2006

Why is SL suddenly all over the news? It has been around for a while now. I'm with FFF: this is a marketing push of some kind.

I looked into it when it first came out, and then a bit later (don't remember when) I remember the "crowning achievement" at the time was someone made a vending machine that sold vending machines, that sold vending machines.

At that point I knew all I needed to.

Note this is coming from a huge online gaming fan. I have played (counts on fingers, stops counting) more than 20 online games and strongly recommend them to people. But SL isn't my thing. However I'm glad it exists, as it obviously is the thing for some people.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:07 PM on October 16, 2006

One area you might be confused: Second Life is a toy, not a game. It's a giant sandbox. You sort of make it up as you go. There are (many) games written in the scripting language, but they're all optional. At its very core, you could think of it as a glorified chatroom.

Aha. I now understand why I don't care about it.

Then again, I'm one of those older net fuddleduddles who believes email is the one great tool. I understand there's also a culture that's grown up on instant messaging, and I can certainly understand how SL could appeal there.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:35 PM on October 16, 2006

Ynoxas, I don't think it's anything deliberate. Linden Labs doesn't doesn't have the money or connections to cause articles to pop up all over the place. (Their VCs might, though.)

Rather, I think what you're seeing is that individual people in the media are finding Second Life, and liking it, and writing about it. And then other people in the media pick it up and go with it. The BBC, for instance, has four entire sims rented... about $800/mo worth. That's pocket change for them, but it gives them a fairly large presence, and ability to advertise to/interact with a lot of people in a way they couldn't before. I keep hearing about celebrities who get involved with it, and I'm sure I don't hear all of them, because I just don't log in very much anymore.

Basically, I think it's passing some critical mass in the media, and the media, for whatever reason, likes it. Virtual worlds *are* pretty interesting to think and write about. The limitations in the system aren't that apparent when you first start, and it is pretty freaking amazing.

There just aren't any other games where you can build yourself a car, test drive it around, and then load up your car with several virtual friends and go tooling around the world. If you get tired of being ground-bound, you can script it to fly instead. Or you can script it to float on water, and go yachting.

You can build a gigantic edifice, and share the building with someone else... perhaps you do the exterior walls and layouts, and someone else does the furnishing, and a third person does a lighting system or the elevators or something. You can all be working at the same time, and immediately see and interact with things they create, live and on the spot. There just aren't ANY other games that are like that, and I think the media is figuring that out.

Basically, they're SL noobs, and in a year or so, I think you'll see the disenchantment set in. :-)

FFF: you never did IRC? Second Life is a lot like IRC, but with graphics and scripting.
posted by Malor at 9:54 PM on October 16, 2006

daHIFI: my guess is that the open source thing will never happen. There's too much real value at stake... Linden currency exchanges for real dollars. LL would never be able to allow third parties into their network as equals, because it would be far too easy to get scammed.

It's pie in the sky wishful thinking. Where the rubber meets the road, it's NOT going to happen.
posted by Malor at 9:56 PM on October 16, 2006

IRC never floated my boat.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:05 PM on October 16, 2006

Ynoxas, I don't think it's anything deliberate. Linden Labs doesn't doesn't have the money or connections to cause articles to pop up all over the place. (Their VCs might, though.)

Considering that Mitch Kapor is Board Chairman, and Benchmark Capital (of eBay fame) has a seat, I have been surprised that they haven't been getting more press earlier.

Articles pop up all over the place when everyone is excited about you. The lack of press exposure until just recently is likely due to the fact that LL got the ball rolling very slowly. Now that they are approaching a million users, and internet properties are more frequently getting billion dollar valuations, it makes sense that they are pushing harder.

The people who really get it see these 3D Virtual Worlds as the next big thing after Web 2.0 and possibly comparable to the world wide web. The Web 2.0 comparison isn't quite accurate - most web 2.0 companies are not capital intensive enterprises, while 3D virtual world companies are. Virtual worlds have potential to get a lot bigger. Unlike the early days of the web, users of environments like SL are conditioned to be good consumers. Hell, you can make decent money downloading public domain images from the internet, uploading them to SL, and reselling them as home decorations.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:39 PM on October 16, 2006

I understand there's also a culture that's grown up on instant messaging

It's probably just me, but instant messaging has always seemed to be a poor substitute for ntalk. How on earth can anybody have a decent conversation if you have to keep waiting for the other people to finish a thought and hit enter before you get to see what they're saying?

Unfortunately, ntalk never seemed to be ported to the PC, so unless you use Macs or Unix/Linux, chances are you've never used it.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:08 AM on October 17, 2006

The Lego set analogy is apt, however it's hampered that, even if you're a low-level paying user, there's basically no space for you to display what you've built, the starter plot of land is 32m x 16m. And the only real places you can build are in a handful of sandbox regions, which coincidentally tend to be the most interesting regions around.

My experience with Second Life so far is that there is really cool stuff hidden here and there, but it's almost impossible to find unless you've already found it on one of your favorite blogs first. There are virtual acres of crap everywhere. You can just take off and float around, looking for cool stuff, but you probably won't find it using in-world means.

The classifieds and event listings are absolutely no help in this, they've been consumed by TRINGO FOR $$$ and SEXY LADIES!! notices.
posted by JHarris at 12:15 AM on October 17, 2006

I just created an account and messed around for a couple hours. All I saw were casinos and strip clubs. I had the nagging feeling that I was about to be scammed in some way. So: yeah, it's not my thing.
posted by sklero at 12:33 AM on October 17, 2006

Sklero, there's lots of that... see above about the place going downhill some. As far as I know, there's still a lot of really great folks, you just have to work to find them. (at one time, ANYONE you talked to would be cool, interesting, and helpful... now it's more like 1 in 4. If that many.) The original Second Life people were some of the nicest I've ever met online, and echoes of that first batch of folks are still there to be found.

What I'd suggest doing: when you first log on, stay on the tutorial Help Island for quite awhile. Once you leave there, you can never go back, so if you've already gone to the mainland... just make another character and start over. If you like your first name, switch back to that avatar when you're done with Help Island. (don't forget to give your other avatar copies of whatever help documents you can do that by bringing up their Profile with the Search function, and dragging stuff onto the 'drop here to transfer' area.)

The mentors who volunteer to teach there are almost always wonderful. Ask them for landmarks to good starting locations. Most of them have a whole library of cool things to see and places to go. I know NCI (New Citizens Incorporated), and the GNU Store are both really good spots for new people... lots of free or $1L utility scripts and useful/fun items.

The sim Stillman has two interesting things in it.... the Freebie Bazaar, and the whole north shore of that sim. It has several recreations of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, and is very attractive. You can get to a sim by name by clicking on the Map button, and then typing the name into the Region dropdown. That takes you to the center of the sim. The Freebie Bazaar is on the south center of Stillman, and the FLW buildings are all along the north side.

What's a sim? When you hit Map, you'll see that the world is divided into square regions. Each region has a name. It's called a 'sim' because, originally, each of the regions ran on one dedicated computer, or 'simulator'. Nowadays, it's usually one sim per processor, rather than one per whole computer, but the basic effect is the same. As you fly around and teleport, the sims hand you off back and forth as you cross the region lines.

SL is pretty safe. There is only one way you can be scammed, to my knowledge. If you give a script 'money' permission, that is, the ability to pay people from your pocketbook, the original scripter can put a backdoor in and take everything. It's an all-or-nothing permission. I STRONGLY suggest never giving money permission to a script unless you can inspect the code and personally verify its safety.

Scripts that ask for permission to animate your avatar can potentially put your pixels in rather embarassing positions, so generally refuse that permission unless you know what it's for. There are many many "dance machines" in SL... you click them, they ask for animation permission, and then put your avatar through a preprogrammed series of animations. I've never seen a bogus dance machine, so it should always be safe to say 'yes' after clicking. If you don't know why something is asking for that permission, it's usually safest to click No. If you blow it, no biggie, the only possible penalty is a bit of embarassment.

The reason there are dance machines is because the SL client supports streaming music, so it's very common for DJs to put on shows; folks show up, dance, and chat. Some of the shows are very good. There's even some live music.

Except for the money-permission issue, you can't have things taken from you, and you can't permanently die. (there are a few 'unsafe' areas in SL where you can be hurt by weapons, but all that happens if you die is that you are teleported to your home location.) You have to volunteer for any transaction, and most merchants are legit.

I'd just avoid the casinos and casino-hosting items... because of how powerful 'money' permission is, those things attract the scammers. And you can't tell what the odds are in any casino, so it's wise not to play any of them. I always shake my head when I see newbies announce that they're going to go spend event prize money on a casino.

You should be able to have a lot of fun without spending much... there's lots of neat toys for free or $1L. The *really* cool stuff is usually quite a bit more, but until you have enough experience to know what's really cool, don't buy anything expensive. :)
posted by Malor at 5:19 AM on October 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

Malor: the media, for whatever reason, likes it

Speaking as someone who knows more mediocre journalists than is healthy (if any of them are reading this, I mean the other ones,) I'd say this is basically because this is the first thing off the internet that more-or-less acts like the internet in movies is meant to, and for which the lightbulb moment is particularly easy. As opposed to, say, myspace, youtube, bittorrent, VOIP, IM, etc - all much more widespread and arguably more significant internet phenomena, but which none of them really 'got' until it had been explained to them by an exasperated teenager.
posted by Luddite at 9:37 AM on October 17, 2006

My impression of the recent SL boom is not that it's an intentional Pepsi Blue thing, but just that: SL is a metaverse-type game. That's an interesting thing, to a lot of people (not necessarily that SL's incarnation is interesting, but the idea of a metaverse where you can make your own stuff). However, a metaverse with only 50 residents isn't going to get any press. SL's population has just gradually risen due to word of mouth and the occassional article. And then you get a feedback cycle: the bigger it gets (in terms of number of users), the more people will decide to write about it, resulting in more people visiting, resulting in more media mentions, ad infinitum. So the reason it's getting as much press as it does now is just that the population has reached a high enough level that it catches the attention of writers looking for something to write their next article about.
posted by Bugbread at 9:41 AM on October 17, 2006

The people who are in SL for monetary purposes need fresh blood.

Obviously, one of those people had some kind of connection with Reuters. I wholly agree with the majority of posts in here: this is market driven, not consumer driven. Second Life is like a visual MUSH.

While textual MUSH systems maintain a loyal following, that following has dwindled. Second Life inhabitants can't just persuade one another to buying each other's stuff forever. They need an influx of new consumers.

Whether they're all scammers or they're all sincere (and I'll admit it's more a bit of both), when I went in there I got the feeling that some things were free but only to whet your appetite and make you wanna shell out bucks for real bling.

That's a great advertising ploy. It's how much of the 'Net itself is designed actually. Media players come to mind, or music sharing systems. Crippleware. Stuff like that. This is also by the way how things like crack are sold. The first one's free...

I'd rather just pay up front and know what I'm getting, which is why I went back to City of Heroes. You can't build there. It's not legos. It is however a very fun game.

Guess it all boils down to what you want from your online experience. You want to have fun, or you want people to try to sell you something?

I get enough of the latter in my offline life.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:28 AM on October 17, 2006

"Second Life is a lot like IRC, but with graphics and scripting"

I'd sign up just so I could beat the unholy shit out of AOL n00bs coming in asking what room they were in.
posted by drstein at 11:25 AM on October 17, 2006

And now WiReD's done an article, and I spotted another somewhere else...

I'm confident we're being Pepsi-Blued (Blown?)
posted by five fresh fish at 7:27 PM on October 19, 2006

I'm confident tech writers just don't have that much new to write about, and tend to cannibalize eachother.
posted by Bugbread at 3:48 AM on October 20, 2006

Plausible, yes.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:16 PM on October 20, 2006

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