I just dug out a dusty Second Life account that I created 13 years and 7 months ago. I can’t believe how time flies. Back in the days, I fell in love with Second Life. I’ve heard about this virtual world and thought it would be some kind of a game. Of course, interested in all kinds of games, I had to take a look. The reason why I stayed for a long time was that I discovered that it wasn’t exactly something you could call a game. I soon discovered that it was a virtual world where users could show off their creativity and make connections.
Back then, I got an avatar that I was able to customize. But this virtual world offered all tools to create objects or things in the world yourself. You wanted to build a house? Don’t worry, just learn how to do it. Whatever would come to your mind, if you wanted to, you were able to create it. Yes, that even included the possibility to create your own clothes. Like I said, you were able to do anything in this virtual world. Before I discovered Second Life, I already had experience with 3d tools, and apart from that also a little bit of basic experience with certain programming languages, and guess what, that experience turned out to be an advantage.
Second Life had an in-game economy and I became part of it. I didn’t just create stuff for my own entertainment in this virtual world, I actually started to create a little empire and sold stuff to other users. It was a fun time. I was able to learn new things or improve existing real-world skills in the area of graphic design, scripting, and maybe even a little bit of managing. I’ve met so many creative people in this virtual world with the same or different interests, and I would even argue that Second Life played a huge role in improving my English because such a virtual world where different users can connect is basically something you could call pen pals 2.0.
Second Life got a lot of negative critiques back in the days and it sure did have some scandals. But it’s been like that back then, and it’s still like that today when we talk about the press. They usually take subjects and only look for the negative things and highlight them in their stories. A lot of niches became victims of the media industry, Second Life was no different. The media is looking for scandals and do prefer to cover them over “boring” normal or legit things that happen. Headlines and articles about scandals simply give more clicks. It’s called sensationalism.
I always thought, “Sherlock, if you grand a large amount of people the ability to play god in a 3d environment, you sure will have some people among several thousand that do strange things”. They highlighted all negative aspects of Second Life but barely mentioned the positive ones. For example, the fact that this virtual world allowed normal people to connect with each other, learning from each other or working on something in a virtual world together (from building architecture over creating entire clubs where people could dance, chat and listen to music together in a virtual environment, to name just two examples). Like they almost always just cover negative things in the real world as well, and barely the positive happenings.
World of Warcraft got a lot of negative critiques as well. It was mostly about turning humans into addictive zombies. What I missed was foresight, the idea that games like World of Warcraft of virtual worlds like Second Life maybe even helped a lot of people. I kid you not. It’s a fact that. Back in the days, when my depression and anxiety symptoms were still severe, these things helped me to keep my marbles sorted. There was a time where I haven’t be able to leave my apartment. Normally, that would have excluded the possibility to socialize too. But it didn’t, because both World of Warcraft and Second Life allowed me to do so. Differently than in the real world, but it allowed me to speak with people, play or work with them together.
During that time I met quite a lot of healthy people that just wanted to enjoy these worlds for entertainment reasons. And what’s so wrong with it? There are worse things, like the passive activity of watching TV and losing brain cells while doing so. But apart from people who entertained themselves or became creative, it didn’t take a long time until I met people online that enjoyed these worlds for an additional reason. I met people who had similar issues to mine. I met people who had been prisoners in their own homes, people with disabilities, or other issues that prevented them from leaving their homes on a regular basis.
I don’t think I’ve seen the mainstream press covering things like that very often. To be fair, some journalists came to that conclusion, there have been some pieces and it’s even been studied but you get my point, negative press always makes a better front page. That will never change.
Talking about myself, I get very nostalgic when I log back into Second Life. It’s like that when you made a lot of positive experiences with something. It helped me a lot during bad times. It kept me going during hopeless times. It taught me a lot, it allowed me to discover my creative side. As I said, it allowed me to learn new skills, and expand or improve pre-existing skills (Photoshop, 3d applications, scripting languages, communication skills, analytics, management, team skills, and so on). And I am not alone with it. This should have been covered far more often because this is what Second Life has been about for many people, including people with disabilities and those without. The real truth about it is that it has been and still is a virtual environment that allowed people with diverse backgrounds to come together despite the fact that they live far apart.
Today, I surely won’t find the time anymore to become an active user of Second Life again. I also don’t need it as a “therapy” anymore. There also has been a huge shift in my interests and Second Life doesn’t play a huge role in that anymore. But with the time and interest I have, I still log back in once in a while (every few years), for a short nostalgic trip through this world. I’ve done that recently. I knocked my Second Life avatar into shape because a lot of things changes (mesh engine) and the old one looked outdated.
I thought it would be fun to do so because I like screenshot art or in-game photography and Second Life is a paradise in these matters. So, once in a while, if I have nothing else to do or no other ideas, I can shoot some cool screenshots for my blog. It’ll be rare, but it could happen. At least I’ve done it now because the screenshot at the top basically shows my Second Life avatar. Honestly, I absolutely love how the graphics in Second Life improved since I last logged in, it’s gorgeous as you can see in the screenshot. I might really capture some artsy screenshots a few times a year. Let’s see.