“So you just figured you'd come here, to the most hostile environment known to men, with no training of any kind, and see how it went? What was going through your head?” — Dr. Grace Augustine, Avatar
Apparently Dr. Augustine was correct in her forewarning of the Avatar world. It’s true that new technology and futuristic concepts can be enticing, but like Jake Sulley, I didn’t expect the Avatar world to be so menacing.
The first part of my Second Life Experience was creating my own “Avatar.” The website allowed me to create my own first name and gave me a choice of last names like “Forsythe,” “Millet,” and “Dominicanus” to select from. The name I chose was Orabora Alectoris. My account was activated through my e-mail, and I was able to visit tutorial pages on how to get started— how to customize my appearance, how to connect with friends, how to find interesting places to teleport to, how to shop in Second Life, and how to create a home.
When I first launched into Second Life, it took me to a welcome screen where a few other “Avatars” were. It displayed their name, and asked if you would like to add them as a friend. My first friend was Plume Pexie. The first day playing, I spend most of my time designing my Avatar and feeling comfortable in my new life, visiting the different clothing and physical appearance options. The second day, I signed on an received a message from Plume saying “lu ^^” in which I replied “hello.” Apparently, she was speaking some kind of weird Avatar language because I did not understand anything she was saying.
I decided to explore what kinds of destinations I could transport to the next few times I entered SL. The destination network included almost every social scene— mall, movies, games, nightclubs, amusements parks, concerts, and even brothels. I entered a destination called “Hyannisport.” I soon realized I could chat with others through a chat at the bottom, even people who I am not yet friends with. I could also speak with people through the chat and hear their voices. The experience of visiting new random lands almost seemed like a joke, and a forum for haters. In one realm, people began shouting things out in the chat like “Bitch” and “Who hates Niggers here?!” Then they started speaking in weird voices and telling African American jokes. When I said “Hello everyone I am new here.” Someone replied, “I hate new fags!” After this frustrating experience, I signed off for the day, feeling severely comfortable in my virtual life.
I decided to work on my appearance the next time I entered Second Life because I felt like I had already visited different destinations and added a lot of new friends. I became pretty frustrated with SL again because changing my clothing was a difficult experience. It seemed as if the website had a lot of bugs that made it complicated to undo what you were already wearing and the new items I chose to wear looked as if they were incomplete on the body, as if part of my old clothes were still there. I gave up on my appearance and started to work on my gestures. I learned to fly, bow, laugh, and make all sorts of other gestures. The next day I signed on and tried to IM a few of my friends, but none of them were online so I could not send any IMs. I decided to add more friends and sign off for the day.
On my last visit, I decided to go to a new destination, so I teleported to “Project Donate,” hoping it would be a more peaceful forum. I added a new friend, “Chet Abrastraza.” I checked out his Second Life profile, in which he wrote, “I am just exploring the virtual SL world. SL reminds me very much of AOL chat rooms back in 90's except we have avatars and voice.” In comparison, his Real World profile said he was from the seacoast region, and his occupation is a project manager. I also added another friend named “the pink moth Schism Modan,” who was 7 months old. None of them replied to me, so I decided to walk around and visit this new destination. It was friendlier, and each area was marked with a different donation project, such as Project Unicef, where you could click to donate money to. It also announced who was currently donating to what cause, and how much they donated. I realized today how hard it was to make money (what the game calls L’s), and that it didn’t seem to be so much of a game or a social networking device. Overall, my virtual life reminded me of The Sims 3D game. I didn’t feel like it was very interactive, and it simply felt as if I was walking around and just watching others make gestures and movements in different lands.