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Title: Information Week Blog Address: http://informationweek.com/blog/main Author: Mitch Wagner (among others) From: La Mesa Blogging since: 1996 Post Date: April 10, 2007

Post Title: Ten Fun Things to Do in Second Life that Aren't Embarrassing if Your Priest or Rabbi Finds Out

I get frustrated hearing people talk about how Second Life isn't entertaining or that it's only useful for advertising to "freaks, furries, ageplay perverts, and prank-loving adolescents." I decided to put together a list of things to do in Second Life as a resource for people curious about the game and something I can point to next time I read one of those misguided attacks. I don't really blame the people who think there's nothing to do in Second Life. One of the areas where Second Life is weakest is in introducing newcomers to the world. The user interface is confusing, and, worse, once you've got that mastered, it's hard to figure out what to do. The newbie is confronted with an array of cybersex areas, online casinos, and sleazy make-money-fast schemes. But, once you get past that initial barrier, you'll find plenty of things to do in Second Life.

1. Talk to other people. I interviewed one Second Life skeptic who dismissed SL, saying it's just a chatroom with graphics. But that's actually one of its strengths. The 3D nature of Second Life allows me to suspend disbelief and be somewhere else, not at my desk staring at a screen. I can chat in Second Life for quite some time, exchanging jokes or having deeper discussions with friends.

2. Dancing. Here's how it works: You send your avatar off to an SL dance club or bar. There's music playing -- it's streaming audio that plays over your PC speakers. Everybody hears the same music. You click on a "dance ball," and away you go -- your avatar starts dancing, with all the other dancing avatars. Sure, it looks silly, but that's part of the fun. And while you're dancing, you're engaged in text chat with the other dancers around you.

3. Building and creating things. People spend huge amounts of time in Second Life building and scripting houses and furniture and especially clothing and avatars. Users write scripts to control how the avatar moves. They create vehicles to drive or fly around or through Second Life.

4. Doing business. You can make real-world money in Second Life. But that's not what I'm talking about here. Most of the people in business in Second Life aren't making any significant amounts of money at all. Business is a game in Second Life.

The amounts of money changing hands are pretty small. You can buy a nice suit of clothes in SL for about a buck and a quarter. You can buy a house for less than ten bucks.

Doing business in Second Life has many of the same benefits that it has in the real world. To do business, you have to talk to other people. In SL as in RL, you have to find a place to sell your stuff; you have to advertise it and market it; you have to deal with customers.

Consider a Second Life dance hall: Somebody built it (more likely a team of somebodys). They employ DJs who are spinning music over streaming audio. The dance hall will employ hosts and hostesses to make guests feel welcome. There are often people who work security, to guard against in-world pranksters known as "griefers." All these people are building community by talking and working together and having fun. The employees -- DJs, hosts and hostesses, and security guards -- are mostly in it for fun, role-playing at having jobs.

5. Shopping. With all those people building clothes and avatars and vehicles and things, Second Life has plenty of shops, and you can while away many pleasant hours committing SL retail. I like to do it alone, but many people do it with friends, same as shopping in the real world.

6. Role-playing games. The Second Life variety of RPG is half improvisational theater and half reenactment (like Civil War re-enactors in real life). Players behave and move in character and interact with each other. Examples: Midian is sort of like Sin City or Bladerunner with vampires and hellhounds. The activity in Midian sometimes involves cybersex, so be warned. Roma is a reenactment of the pageantry, holidays, and gladiator combat of ancient Rome. Tombstone recreates the cowboy town of Tombstone, AZ, at the time of the gunfight at the OK Corral.

7. Other kinds of games. You can find WoW/Everquest-style fantasy games in SL, as well as shoot-'em-ups, and even quidditch, from the Harry Potter novels. The other night, while wandering around SL, I found a delightful bowling alley, with one of those futuristic space-age signs that were so popular in the real world in the 1950s.

8. See the sights. Sightseeing is one of my favorite things to do. Just wander around Second Life, exploring and looking at all the beautiful things users have built. How do you know where to go? Well, you can ask people. The SL search tool, which is part of the software client, has a list of popular places, along with their coordinates. You can also search on keywords. When you're going somewhere, don't take the most direct route. Wander and look around a bit. Or just click places on the game map at random and see where you end up.

9. Sailing. The Nantucket Yacht Club and other in-game venues offer sailing in Second Life. Capture the virtual winds and cruise around the world.

10. Surfing. You can get a virtual surfboard in Second Life and hang ten on the digital waves.

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