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Extra Lives: Second Life (Part 1)

#2987 on the list of things I’ve never understood: the draw of MMORPGs. I’ve had acquaintances get hooked, I’ve had good friends get hooked…I’ve even had girlfriends get hooked. I’ve never played.

They don’t sound fun to me. I’m all about story, I guess. I like knowing that something is going to happen to advance the plot, as a result of something I did. I like to feel a climax coming on. I like saving Hyrule. I like defeating Dr. Wiley. I like adjusting the camera to see under Princess Peach’s dress. But people do love these online worlds; so much so that they give their time, their money, and, in a few cases, their lives, to remain immersed in them. Obviously there’s just something I’m missing.

With Extra Lives, my latest gaming experiment, I intend to play an assortment of MMORPGs to determine, at last, if I’m missing out anything that might be doing me some good. There are no ground rules, except that I will not, at any point, spend real-life money. If there is a free trial period, then that is the length of time I will play. If it’s free to play, I’ll shoot for 10 days…with the caveat that I may bail early if I find the experience to be particularly horrible.

We’ll start with Second Life, as its freeform, social atmosphere should ease me into the genre, without assuming I have knowledge of how to kill gnomes or organize a battle party.

Day One

- The first order of business, before we are even asked to download the game, is to create a character. Sometimes character creation can be a lot of fun, but with Second Life…well, it’s just a few clicks and radio buttons. Everything is pre-constructed. My hope of creating a character that resembles me even slightly—if that’s what I wanted to do—would be unfounded. You’re not generating life; you’re moving into prefab housing.

- Even more limiting are the options for black players. It seems that Second Life believes black people fall into two categories: Aaliyah, and Tom DuBois.


- At least Uncle Tom is dressed to impress. I’ll pick him.

- Next we need a name. We get to type anything we like for the character’s first name, but his / her last name can only be selected from a shockingly limited drop-down menu.

- I suppose this is meant to prevent players from using their real names online, but shouldn’t that be their choice? Also, with such a tiny pool of surnames to draw from (twenty or so?), you’re bound to run into cyber-blood relatives all over Second Life. That’s not a social network; it’s a family reunion.

- Oh well. What to call my character? Let’s keep alive the spirit of racist limitation by naming him Nipsy.


- Helpfully, the drop-down menu contains the perfect surname. Nipsy Hansome, welcome to Second Life.

- There are a few other things I’m asked to enter. A birthday, for instance, to prevent those under 18 from registering. (Unless they know how subtraction works.) Eventually I’m asked to check my email so that I can confirm my registration. I rush to my mailbox to find a letter waiting for me.


- Oh well. I guess Second Life isn’t in any rush to introduce Nipsy Hansome to its loyal inhabitants. (Maybe I should have picked a white guy.)

- A game or two of Multiwinia later and I’m about ready for bed, but, hey, I might as well check my email and see if maybe it’s there yet.

- It is. I’ll play for a few minutes tonight after all. The email includes some further information:


- …and, honestly, none of this stuff really sounds all that much fun. It tries to make the game sound adventurous and exciting, but this is nothing I wasn’t able to do way back on the NES. Well, except for the job fair and college lecture, which doesn’t really appeal to me anyway; somehow I think I’d benefit more by attending those things in real life than by sending Nipsy.

- And what’s with #4? If anyone actually had a choice between those two, wouldn’t it be no choice at all? I live in an apartment; what a dumb choice I made! Granted, mansions in Second Life are probably cheap enough that I can put one on my Visa card, but unlike a mansion in real life, I won’t actually own anything tangible and I’ll still need to pay it off. What fun!

- I skip the rest of the email. I don’t want to read reams and reams of help files. I don’t care how complicated the game is. If I have fun, then I’ll decide to do research; I don’t want to do research before I even know if I’ll have fun.

- My files are downloaded, my account is active, nobody’s asked for my banking information yet, and Nipsy is positively aching to loosen that tie of his. Let’s boot up Second Life.

- The first thing I see when I log on is a dialogue box telling me the following:


- Oh. Well, that’s good. It looks to me like Nipsy is fully dressed, so I have no idea where his clothes are “downloading” to.

- The controls are pretty easy to get used to. The arrow keys move you around. If you type anything, it’ll appear on screen, which is how you have conversations I guess. While you’re typing your avatar also acts like he’s typing, even though he doesn’t have a keyboard, so if you just stand around watching conversations it’s sort of like watching a group of friends have intermittent heart-attacks.

- I play around with my options and end up, completely accidentally, removing all of my clothes. I have no idea how I did that, and my clothes seem to have vanished for good, so I walk around the newbie area asking for help. Unfortunately none of the hot female avatars are interested in conversing with a naked Nipsy, and I can’t help but feel I’m making a very bad first impression.

- In time a friendly woman in the form of a porcupine takes mercy on me, and brings me to a clothing store, where I choose army pants and a white t-shirt. These are free, which is good, because I have no money. The porcupine explains to me that I’ll need money before long, and I can get it either by purchasing it with my real-life credit card, or by getting a job. Nipsy, however, makes somebody a very special offer instead:


- Zazolina, bless her heart, asks me to go away and leave her alone. Why? Maybe she still remembers me as that naked screaming guy.

- I keep at her for a while, attempting to make my first Second Life friend. This is supposed to be a social activity, right? But she tells me she’s busy trying to decide on a new appearance. This is probably wise, as her current creepy hairline reminds me of Beetlejuice.

- Around and around I walk, trying to talk to people who walk away from me. The only ones who talk to me are the other newbies, who have no idea how things work and keep asking me how to get jobs, or hear the music, or other such things I don’t understand either.

- Hmm. So now what do I do? What IS there to do? Helpful folks wander around answering questions, but the fact is that I don’t know what questions I’m even supposed to be asking. What are my options? I could ask where a bar is, but what good is that in a video game? Everything else I can think of is similarly useless in the virtual world.

- This sucks. I guess I’ll hit on chicks.


- Or Transformers.

- Poor Nipsy; alone in Second Life with nobody to turn to. The girls don’t want to talk to him, the boys are homophobes, and the transforming robot is away from the keyboard.

- It’d be nice if the game gave you some suggestions of potential goals. Buy a house, win a contest, plant a garden…anything. Just some hints to get you on the right path. There is definitely such a thing as too much freedom, and Nipsy has it now. He has nothing to do.

- I have him panhandle for a bit, but nobody wants to give him money. I don’t know why; I promise them I’m a homeless veteran who just needs a little change to get back in his feet…but nobody’s buying it.

- Somebody does, however, give me a list of locations of “money trees.” Now we’re talking. The list contains caveats about the likelihood of money trees being picked over until there’s nothing left, but, like a letter from heaven (which this might be, as I have no idea who gave it to me) it’s given me direction.

- Tomorrow, Nipsy Hansome, you are going to track down some money trees.

Day Two:

- If I’m going to make any friends in this game, I think I’ll have to pay more attention to my appearance than “whatever the hell default looks like.” I return to the shop that my porcupine friend brought me to yesterday. This time I’m in it to win it. This time I need an outfit that just screams “Nipsy!”

- Not literally, though. That would probably get annoying.


- “Nipsy!”

- I went the cowboy route, although for some reason the packaged shirt looks like it’s from a bootleg Flash costume.

- And I love the fact that my hat is two sizes too small. Did I walk into the toddler department? Oh well; I look great. If there’s sex in Second Life I am about to have so much of it.

- I start thinking, though…if all of these clothes are free, then what’s the point of earning / buying / stealing money at all? I guess maybe there are special accessories or something you can pay for…or maybe it’s just so you can buy a mansion or apartment (I can’t decide which!) of your own. Oh well; I’ll track down some money trees. I haven’t found anything I want to buy, but maybe when Nipsy is bloated with cash the options will just sweep him away.

- First, however, I need to show off my hot new outfit. And isn’t it about time people met me when I’m not naked and in a panic?


- This girl in the big green dress was just standing all alone in front of a giant mousetrap. If she’s not begging for a ride with this cowboy, I don’t know who is.

- Actually, she’s not begging. She’s not begging at all; she’s waiting for a friend. I inform her helpfully that when her friend arrives, I will join them, and we can all go somewhere fun. She informs me politely, in return, that that is not going to happen.

- Apparently these two are going to meet here at a given time (I presume) and decide on a restaurant.

- Hmm. A restaurant.

- In a video game.

- A restaurant. In a video game. Where you probably have to pay for the food.

- With real money. In a video game.

- It’s probably bad form to ask why anybody in their right mind would pay to watch their avatar eat food, so I ask if she wants to make out instead.

- She doesn’t, but she thanks me for asking. Nipsy, you dog.

- I’ve decided now that I want to see this restaurant for myself. In the help plaza someone tells me that I can open up the search pane and type whatever I like, and then I can teleport to its location. A search for “restaurant” brings up many locations, including one called The Lobster Claw. Only the best for my electronic black cowboy in an itty bitty hat.


- I’m trying to get somebody to treat me to a digital lobster dinner, but nobody’s biting. Not even SweetMandy Kline, who’s just millimeters away from flashing Nipsy his first nipple.

- Apparently she can’t come with me because she needs to stay in the help plaza and work. That’s your professional outfit, sweetheart? You’re on the clock dressed like that? If I didn’t already suspect you’re a forty-year-old shirtless fat guy, I’d be disgusted.

- I do manage to find a female newbie, named Roxy Ronas, who has a very short skirt, absolutely no idea how anything works, and hasn’t yet learned how to move. Why, that’s just my type. I chat her up for a little bit (“Hiya, peachpuff.”) and ask her if she’d like to come to the Lobster Claw.

- She doesn’t know what that is, but wants to go somewhere fun. I search for “fun” and the search pane recommends some beaches we can visit. She agrees (go Nipsy!) but doesn’t know how to get there. “That’s okay,” I tell her. “I’ll go there and teleport you.” After all, that’s how my porcupine friend got me to the clothing store.

- I teleport to the beach, where I immediately realize that I don’t know how to teleport her. I seek help from a topless woman (as we all should):


- There is no reply. Nuts. I just teleported away from my first friend (or at least the first person who let me talk to the side of her head) and now I can’t get her back.

- I figure somebody must be able to help me…


- Roxy who?

- Yeah, to hell with my pre-teleport love. Nipsy has plenty to keep him occupied right here.

- I do find it interesting—though not surprising—that all of the female avatars are…well…they’re sexy.

- And I don’t mean “not ugly.” Or even “attractive.” I mean sexy. They dress like sluts, they have long legs, they have perky boobies, they have dangerous hairstyles, and they pout at poor Nipsy like they want to have coitus with him RIGHT NOW. If I were ever transported into a world like Second Life, I’d spend every day masturbating behind a tree.

- Doesn’t anyone just want to look…normal? Or friendly? I mean, okay, some people should want to play slutty girls. Some. And some guys should want to play big meaty muscle guys. Some. But why is NOBODY dressed conservatively? How come even the experienced mentors in the help plaza want to flash me a slice of thigh? No matter where you go in Second Life, you’re in the middle of a hot body contest.

- Actually, take that a step further: Nipsy’s found himself in the middle of an orgy. All over the place women and men are kissing, cuddling, grinding.

- I take a seat to investigate more closely.


- After about 40 seconds I am told, “move nipsy.”

- Maybe I’ll strike up a conversation with somebody who isn’t paired up with anyone.


- Or maybe I’ll just watch two young people dryhump.

- Before too long I’m joined by a fellow miscreant, who is either exactly as directionless as I am or much more excited by the idea of polygons grinding crotches.

- It’s the latter. I ask him if he’d like to go somewhere else with me, perhaps that Lobster Claw restaurant. Maybe I’ll sit with him and we can discuss the game, and find some interesting things to do. Maybe I’ll actually have a conversation in this so-called social world.

- But he tells me nobody likes him because he looks like shit, and he walks away. Did I just meet a depressive gangsta? What’s wrong with this place?

- I resort, eventually, to standing in the middle of the beach and shouting for people to join me at the Lobster Claw. Nobody is interested. There’s a brunette standing alone by a picnic spread, and I ask if she would like me to feel her up. She says no, she would not.

- Refusing to miss out on the Lobster Claw restaurant, as it’s the closest thing I’ve had to a goal yet, I decide to go there alone. I don’t have any money, but maybe I’ll just fill up on bread.


- Poor Nipsy. The restaurant is unstaffed and nobody is around to share a conversation. He never did look for that money tree, either, and his trip to Orgy Beach was disappointingly stroke-free.

- Tomorrow we’ll try a new approach. For now, Nipsy will just steal the fire extinguisher and get the hell out of there.

About this entry


I think I just wet myself a little bit from laughing so much at this post. I just knew that was what Second Life would be like! You chose an excellent spot to sit on the beach. Maybe that’s what you should do tomorrow - go back to the beach and annoy the couples?

There’s a new MMORPG which is very similar to Second Life, except that you’re a footballer, and you get to do things like pay to go to a virtual gym and workout (beats WiiFit any day, I reckon) or buy fast cars with your vastly-inflated Premiership pay cheque and then smash them into walls. That’s what I’m told anyway. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the bugger to work on my PC. It’s called Football Superstars I think.

I await Part 2 with bated breath.

By Ben
January 10, 2009 @ 12:44 am

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God, I love you, Phil Reed.

I tried Second Life for about 10 minutes as I couldn’t stand the streaming nature of the graphics. I’d be flying around and suddenly a building just appeared in front of my face. It was very distracting.

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By Jonathan Capps
January 10, 2009 @ 2:43 am

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Looking forward to more…

Marleen's picture

By Marleen
January 10, 2009 @ 2:58 pm

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This was excellence in a can marked awesome.

I can’t wait till you take on the likes of Warhammer, Star Wars and Warcraft.

By Karl
January 10, 2009 @ 7:48 pm

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Lmao. I was chuckling so much reading this. It sounds so rubbish yet so appealing at the same time. I wanna annoy people and try to be a player like Nipsy! I honestly think badgering everyone and winding them up would be the only appealing thing for me to do on this ‘game’.

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By Muz
January 11, 2009 @ 8:19 pm

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