A very strange, enchanted boy

There was a boy; a very strange, enchanted boy.
They say he wandered very far, very far;
over land and sea.
A little shy, and sad of eye,
but very wise was he.

And then, one day;
one magic day he passed my way.
And while we spoke of many things,
fools and kings; this he said to me:

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
is just to love, and be loved in return.”

Twenty personal SL questions, my sartorial darlings; that’s the theme of today’s Monday Meme, and I’m feeling pretty introspective and thoughtful today, so this should be… interesting ;-)

When and how did you discover Second Life?

I first learned of it quite a while before I joined. I remember an article on the BBC website about Duran Duran being the first well-known band to play a gig inside a virtual world, and I was intrigued as to the logistics of this. I’ve seen Duran Duran live in concert a couple of times (they put on a damn good show) and so, curious, I decided to investigate. I looked up Second Life, and found my way – somehow – to what I now know was the map view. Since that was all I found, and there was nothing to tell me I needed to download a viewer, I thought that was all there was to it. So I pretty much closed the browser and forgot about it.

ETA: I just found the actual article that I read. It’s dated 8th August 2006, so I can say that’s the exact  date when I discovered SL. I finally signed up on 24th June 2007. Duran Duran still have a presence inworld (four adjoining islands) and members of the band (notably Nick Rhodes) often log in to interact with fans and the otherwise generally-curious. I attended the exclusive premiere of the TV Mania album (written by Nick Rhodes and Warren Cuccurullo) back in March 2013, and it was awesome to be among the first to hear those tracks, and that they chose Second Life for the premiere.

Then, back in 2007, Daros and I were chatting elsewhere and he mentioned Second Life. He’d just got an account and was raving about how amazing it was, how different it was from other ‘games’ where you’re restricted and guided as to where you can go. I joined up a few days later (Skell is still ‘older’ than Daros, because Daros’s first account was on a different name, but then he decided to change it), but at the time I only had an old laptop with integrated graphics. Remember, this was 2007, so the height of style was YadNi’s and those Freebie Warehouses that we all laugh about now :p It was also pre-mesh and pre-Windlight (for you newer avatars, that’s the gorgeous glinting water and fluffy clouds) and yet still my poor old lappy couldn’t handle it.

I could. not. move. It was molasses everywhere. I tried so hard, because I really wanted to be inworld with Daros, but it was no good. Taking just a few steps was an exercise in futility, and I was frustrated as all hell. So it had to wait for around five months until I had the money to buy a new, more powerful desktop computer, and then I was up and running.

Did you know about virtual worlds before or was this your first experience with them?

This was my first experience with visually-oriented virtual worlds, but not my first experience with using my imagination as I navigated a player-created space. Daros and I were avid MUSH roleplayers before we got into Second Life and, to me, text is still my favourite way of roleplaying. I’ve noticed that things such as fights and battles, for example, lose their magic when all you’re doing is either bashing buttons on a weapon HUD, or trying to type a response to someone who is more interested in bashing buttons on their own weapon HUD, while trying to dodge the blows at the same time. A typical SL roleplay with a weapon-basher in the vicinity usually runs thus:

Assassin very slowly and quietly begins to remove the blade not letting it touch its shealth …getting ready to pounce…slowly breathing in and out

Il Capo draws his sword.

There’s an itch between Skell’s shoulderblades, and he dives out of the doorway, both blades raised

Fred Resident bumped you.
Fred Resident bumped you.
Fred Resident bumped you.
Fred Resident bumped you.

Yeah, not so fun, huh? This is what a text-based MUSH fight can look like:

If the soldier had expected Skell to pull back, he’s mistaken. Oh no, if anything that goads the little bastard even more, and he laughs delightedly. Oh, so it’s a dirty fight, then? All the better and, as he lunges forward again, both blades slash out before him at shoulder height. A long leg snaps out, the toe of Skell’s boot slamming up into the soldier’s crotch before slamming back down to the floor as he dances back with another mad little laugh. Now that’s got to hurt…

And that’s just one pose from one participant. Best roleplay fight I ever had, that one XD So yeah, slight digression there, because although SL is visually beautiful I still think text-based MUSH-style roleplay knocks it into a cocked hat.

Has Second Life met your expectations?

In everything other than roleplay, I think it’s exceeded them. But then, coming in when I did, back in 2007, what we had even then was incredible. Over the years the leaps and bounds that have happened to make this place so amazing are nothing short of mind-boggling.

If you could teleport back to the first ten minutes of your avatar’s slife, what would you tell yourself?

“That freenis? So not a good idea.”

Actually, that’s the flippant answer. The more serious one would be to tell myself not to get involved with a certain group of people that I, naively, did get involved with a few months into my SL. It’s all water under the bridge now, but back then I was very innocent to the unbelievable amounts of manipulation that some people try on in SL and that was my very first taste of it. It took me a few years to wise up to the manipulators (I’m that nice guy who chats to anyone, regardless, and so those people tend to see me as easy meat) but these days people like that get short shrift from me.

How long did it take you to master avatar flying and driving vehicles inworld?

Flying took just a few minutes, although I did a lot of crashing into walls because old laptop = horrendous lag. Driving… ha! That’s something I’m still mastering. I can manage a motorbike well enough, because with that I can drift and the road forgives me, but anything wider and I’m running through hedges and into peoples’ prize prim petunias XD

Do you have a mystery alt?

I have a few ;-) I have a couple of store inventory mule and texture mule alts, I have one that I created just to keep my name when single names came out, I have roleplay alts. Interestingly, of the ones that aren’t just inventory mules, each one has his own personality. It’s like this alt focuses on one part of my personality, whereas this alt focuses on another. It’s both fascinating and bizarre. I put it down to the fact that I love to write, and – while these avatars are all, essentially me –  by the same token they’re also sort of characters of me, too.

Is your SL avatar a reflection of you, or someone you wished you could be?

Well, I wish I had his money when it comes to shopping! This is a question that could be answered differently, depending on how you view it: purely physically (as in avatar shape, age, gender, etc) or esoterically (as in creativity, ability to do things one can’t in RL). If you speak to Skell in SL, you don’t get an avatar; you get me. You get my words, my thoughts, my feelings. A good friend once told me that you only have to let someone talk for long enough, and if you really listen you’ll know who they are. She didn’t mean that you’d know if they were really male or female, fat or thin, young or old; she meant that you’d know the person. For all its simplicity, it’s one of the most profound things I’ve heard in SL.

Yes, of course Skell is wishful thinking. Who wouldn’t want legs for miles, an unlimited wardrobe, and the ability to make something out of nothing? But under all that, he’s still me.

Is there an individual you met in SL that inspired you in your RL? How?

I would put Daros forth for this, but I didn’t meet him in SL. We met before SL, so technically he doesn’t count for this question (although he counts everywhere else; he quite literally is my inspiration).

So the one person (the only  person) that I actually met  in SL who inspired me in Real Life would be my old friend Æble. Indeed, it was she who came out with that quote about listening to people. Æble was the one who inspired me to meditate, and who got me thinking a lot. She was also great fun and a fabulous fashionista in her own right. Sadly, she no longer logs in very much, and I miss her.

Do you feel it is easier to create stronger bonds/relationships with people you meet inworld as opposed to the real world?

Well, as I’ve already mentioned, I’m that guy who talks to anyone. But I’m also that guy who is very  wary of getting close to people. I’ll happily chat away in IM or in person, but I don’t do the ‘strong bond/relationship’ thing. The very fact that I can tell you I’ve only ever called three people ‘friend’ in SL should speak volumes. Not about the other people that I talk to, whether on a random or more regular basis, but more about how I shy away from getting too involved with anyone.

Having said that, Daros and I met online. We’ve never met IRL (we live thousands of miles apart) but he’s been my closest and dearest friend for almost ten years now :-)

Did you ever imagine or believe people could fall in love with someone they never met before Second Life?

Absolutely. As Berry said in her original post, people used to fall in love with penpals. And, as Æble said to me, if you let a person speak (or write) for long enough, you know them and their heart anyway. Physical attraction is one thing, but a deep connection of two minds is the real magic of a relationship.

How has your perspective of dating changed (or not) since you started playing Second Life?

My own personal perspective hasn’t changed, no. SL is its own peculiarity when it comes to romantic relationships. We’ve all had ‘that friend’ (or known someone who did) who is a serial bride, falling from one failed marriage into another. Sometimes I’ll browse the Lifestyle and Relationships section of the SL forum when I’m a bit bored and fancy something to read, and it’s like a neverending soap opera. Drama, cheating men, wives who turned out to be husbands… it’s enough to make my hair stand on end and thank Philip (O blessed Codpiece!) that I already have someone to love.

How has your perspective of employment changed (or not) since you started playing Second Life?

That’s an interesting one. Maybe not of employment, but definitely of making money. I guess there’s a parity with RL if you consider creative outlets such as Etsy, where people can sell things they enjoy making as a hobby, but I do love the possibility that other people like things that spring from my creative well, and they like them enough to buy them. I also like the fact that (if I wasn’t a lazy sod and actually applied myself to making more things in SL) it would be perfectly feasible for me never to have to buy another L$ again. Well, that doesn’t count tier, but for spending money? Sure, if I really worked at it, I could support myself in SL, and that’s something I love about this place.

Name three things in both your lives that overlap each other significantly.

Creativity. In RL I love to write and sketch, and in SL I make stuff. Hrm, what else? I suppose my general gregariousness, in that I’ll talk to anyone. Oh yes, and a healthy dose of bullshit-detection ;-)

If you could live your life more immersively in a virtual world, would you? (Kind of like the Matrix)

Oh hell, YES. Can you imagine not having the work commute and being able to work from home via SL? Or being able to sit around with a bunch of friends from all over the world (which, sure, you can do now, but maybe actually eating and drinking with them) in a dinner party scenario? And what about those times you’ve lounged on an SL beach with waves lapping at your feet, the perfect music playing, and you feel as if you really are  on a beach vacation? If you could live more immersively, you would  be on a beach vacation!

There have been times when I’ve left Skell logged in and sleeping when I’m asleep in RL, just because Daros is on and I wanted to still be there with him, or even when he’s not, purely because I felt so… comfortable  inworld that I didn’t want to shatter the moment by logging off.

How do you think behavior changes for people if they’re inworld vs in real world? Why do you think that is?

I think we’re not constrained by what other people might think of us if they were to see us, and that’s one driving force as to why so many people feel more comfortable interacting in a virtual environment. We all make snap judgements about others, based on how they look (just catch yourself next time you see an avatar type that makes you go “WTF?!” and you’ll see what I mean) so having that removed, and having the ability to be our ideal selves – be that as simple as ‘losing a bit of weight’ in SL, losing a considerable number of years over our real life age, or being a completely different gender – leaves us free to let our minds  speak for us, untrammeled by our bodies. It’s incredibly freeing.

How has second life consumerism changed your perception of spending habits, the value of money, the need to be “bleeding edge” with fashion?

I’ve found myself side-eyeing Skell as I’m trying for the 40th time to get into a packed, limited-to-100-copies sale event and wondering what the hell  I’m so bloody frantic about. Sometimes I give in to that need (because hey, it’s fun) and sometimes I just shrug and think, “Meh, not worth it.”

But if there’s one thing I won’t do, it’s try and calculate how much money I’ve spent over my seven years in SL, because it would horrify me. We are talking literally thousands  of pounds, from shopping to tier, from renting before we got land of our own, to various tipjars and god knows what else.

As to being bleeding edge with fashion, you know what? You don’t need  to have that latest 100-copies-only item in order to be bleeding edge. The original punks were bleeding edge with safety pins, old bits of plaid, and holey sweaters. You can be bleeding edge these days by digging deep and making fashion from some mesh, some sculpt, some clothing layers, etc. It needn’t cost the earth, and it most certainly doesn’t come from putting on all the latest stuff, in exactly the same look as the designer put together! The best bleeding edge fashion comes from play. From putting this with that, trying something else, adding that thing there, and thinking, “Hey, that looks interesting/fun/daft; I’m gonna go all-out with this!”

Do you think virtual worlds like SL drive and redefine human interaction or do they narrow and limit it?

I think they drive it, because in places like SL text is the main method of communication. Yes, we have voice, but I think most people still prefer text. And, with text, you have to really work  to communicate, as it’s devoid of the nuances of body language and emphasis.

If technology progressed tomorrow to allow you to send emotions to people the way you’d send text or voice messages, would it enrich your SL experience or infringe on it?

Hrm. If it was optional (ie: you could choose who you gave emotions to and received them from) I’d be interested. If it was mandatory, I’d probably hit the Quit button so hard you wouldn’t see me for dust. Can you imagine having some of the drama llamas in SL spewing hateful emotions  at you, along with their hateful text? That would be enough to outweigh the good that I might find in such an ability!

Name three skills you attribute to having learned or honed in Second Life alone.

Heh, this is like one of those “how can I make my mundane real life skills look good on a CV?” kind of questions, so let’s see…

  • 3d Mesh Modelling
  • Photography
  • Fashion Design

;-)

If your grand kids googled your Second Life Avatar’s name, would they be intrigued, disgusted, proud or something else?

Not that I’ll ever have any, but they’ll probably just see, “Did you mean Skull Dagger?” XD

(Google ‘Skell Dagger’ and you’ll see what I mean.)

Bloody hell, I got wordy with this. Sorry for the lack of pics interspersing all the text (ETA: I added a few, just to break it up a bit, but I don’t have time tonight for a full credit list. This look will be blogged tomorrow, so come back then if you want credits!), but I did warn you I was feeling kind of thoughtful and introspective tonight O.o

Have some music (and a wonderful video) –

6 thoughts on “A very strange, enchanted boy

  1. Oh lord, just thinking of the drama llamas spewing hate emotions at us would totally make me quit forever, ugh that would be tragic. Also, now you have me intrigued and I may have to do some light reading in the Lifestyle and Relationships section of the SL forum, lol, sounds entertaining.

    • Yeah, it’s a rather horrifying thought; enough to make you shudder and wish you’d never thought it!

      That forum section reads just like an agony aunt page in places. Yes, you get the “X looking for Y” kind of posts (plus some brazen “looking for a sugar daddy” posts from people who appear clueless to the fact that anyone who’s going to lavish money and gifts on them might be expecting something more than “I can log in once a week, for half an hour and we can chat then” from them) but it makes for some interesting coffee time reading.

      And then, if you read for long enough (which I did when I was sick last week and didn’t feel much like doing anything else) you begin to see the same patterns of relationship behaviour spring up time and time again. It’s slightly sad to see how many people are so desperately lonely in their real lives that they’re trying to find The One in SL :-/

  2. I understand the connection of sleeping with your lover in Second Life. I went through a serious bout of stress-induced insomnia a few years ago and sleeping with my (then) partner definitely helped me to be able to finally, sweetly sleep. I even kept my laptop on the empty side of the bed so if I awoke, I could just glance over and see his arms were still around me. Gawd, how I hated falling asleep before a rolling restart and awakening logged out!

    • Oh man, been there and done that with the waking up to find you’ve been logged out thing. It’s kind of a pit-of-the-stomach dropping moment, just for a second.

  3. Skell, I really enjoyed reading your post; I agree with you on most every item and appreciate your sharing your perspective on these very important questions.
    SL is quite an adventure – and may we continue to enjoy it for a long time to come!

    • Thank you! I was a bit worried that I got rather wordy, because I tend to ramble when I get my teeth into posts like this.

      *raises a glass to match your toast, and nods* Here’s to many more years.

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