Normally, I pay more attention to when my virtual career as an online journalist began. But this month marked a certain milestone: the anniversary of when I came into Second Life, or "Rezzday." It was fifteen years ago when I first stepped into Second Life.
I had gotten my start into going online with America Online, and stuck with them for a long time, partially because of the easy to remember email address I had. This meant that I was stuck with dial-up. Some online friends were starting to talk about online gaming, notably "World of Warcraft." But one mentioned a place known as Second Life, a virtual world that allowed one to build all kinds of places there. And also to design one's own avatar. My friend would show me the screenshots of their avatar: an anthro lioness whom was dressed up in everything from a Victorian dress to a harem girl outfit.
Finally I signed up with a fast speed service that allowed me to keep my existing email address. I could finally check out the two places my friends were talking about so much. In World of Warcraft, I joined two friends there with Horde accounts, setting up a Tauren druid. But I also decided to give Second Life a try. So on December 17, 2006, I went to secondlife.com, downloaded the client software for the computer I had, then set up an account.
Two decisions I had were the name and the starting appearance. Thinking a bit, I remembered a favorite character from the roleplaying games I did with real-life friends: Bixyl. "Shuftan" was close to the old character's last name, so that's what I used. As for appearance, there were several styles of clothes and hair style and color among several human avatars, and one non-human avatar: the "Furry." As a science-fiction nut, I close the latter.
And with that, I turned the viewer on, pressed the button to log in, and what I saw was a sea of gray and shapes. As the seconds ticked on, the shapes gradually took form and slowly went from grey to color. My avatar took shape before me, and I saw I was on a piece of land with grass, trees, and signs and walkways. The sign near me had blurry words for a while, but after some moments they became clear, "Welcome to Orientation Island," with an arrow showing which way to proceed. Taking a look at the controls, I found those for movement, then for sound and music. The music button when pressed, I began hearing smooth gentle background music, as if in an elevator, with the occasional line, "If you open up your mind, you can build a whole new wor-ld."
Soon after, my friend would tell me she'd gotten a position of leadership in her home community. So that meant less time for us to chat. I didn't know anyone else here, and my friends in World of Warcraft had no such distractions. So for a few months I didn't get on Second Life much, having fun with my friends in the Massive Multiplayer Online Game. The objectives there were more easily defined, and my friends there were often around to chat with and often meet up with for questing together.
So what would have better kept my attention here in these early days?
More friends for one. But I wasn't sure what to do as random exploring
was just showing garishly-decorated residential areas. If I had done an
Internet search for Second Life websites, it hadn't resulted in anything
at the time. There was no Destination Guide of interesting places.
Hamlet Au would later invite readers to give their own newcomer
Several months later, my Second Life friend would get my attention again. The Relay for Life was having their "Relay Walk" with lots of things to see. So I went over, and was impressed with the exhibits I was seeing. I think I saw some of the enthusiasm for the event as well.
My interest once again piqued, I began to look up more about the virtual world after the Relay Weekend was over. I found out about Luskwood, and headed there. The place being a bustling area of people after many sims of little but quiet, it took me a little time to get the gist of how people interacted. But it became my first real hangout in the virtual world, hearing about other places to explore.
Although I had gotten a bushier tail, I was still wearing the starter avatar. Not having a steady income in Second Life, and not wanting to put money in yet, I felt I had to be careful, feeling what I chose would be my appearance for a long time. After a great deal of thought, I settled on the Luskwood Red Fox as my appearance, buying the avatar at Luskwood.
After having had the starter furry for months, it felt like I had finally shed my "baby fur." The Lusk Fox would remain my everyday look until recently, despite suggestions over the years that I get a more recently made one. I've sometimes commented, "several weeks of thought, several years of use." In October, I caught a lucky break, winning several thousand Linden dollars at a Luskwood anniversary party. With this windfall, I got a second avatar for Halloween: vampire bat. It was fun flying around, but after a while it was back to foxy.
Meeting up with people at Luskwood, I made friends as Lomgren Smalls, Caelia Bailey, Hervy, and Kara Nakamori. Lomgren and Caelia, the latter under another name, I would stay friends with to this day. Kara and I would become close friends for the next several months. She would introduce me to another group of friends, notably Blarion and Keli, whom hung around at a less populated, and less laggy place: the Student Travel Association sims, or STA. My adventures with Kara can be read about in their own article written in March 2011.
Looking up websites about Second Life, I eventually came across the Second Life Newspaper. They asked for Reader Submissions, and giving them a few, I was offered a job there. I was thrilled and happy. I now had a steady income doing something I liked, writing, and an office as well.
So one year later, December 2007, I was doing pretty good. I had a circle of friends, a steady income, and a couple places to hang out. Life, or in this case virtual life, was good.
Since then, quite a bit has happened. Much of it has been documented in my stories for the Second Life. I would end up living or hanging out a few communities before ending up at the Sunweavers in Spring 2010, and a few months later going from writing for the Second Life Newspaper to Second Life Newser. Some things however have been given little or no attention in my writings. Sometimes I go about exploring, and other times I'm just relaxing with friends. I've met many new friends. Sadly, I've had to say goodbye to a number. Such is life, virtual and otherwise.
People come here for different reasons, to see the creations others have made, to roleplay in a way simple tabletop gaming doesn't allow, for music and art, to interact with other creative souls like themselves, and more. The result has been a virtual world unlike any other place online. While some individuals have had their time here and departed, others have been coming here to take their place. Perhaps the day-old newcomer you come across today will a year later be a highly successful fashionista, live musician, Relay for Life team leader, or maybe online journalist.
It's your, and my, Second Life. Let's make the most of each of ours.
"If you open up your mind, you can build a whole new wor-ld."
Reprinted (mostly) from 2015 article