Second Life Sketches

August 19th, 2006 | researchmaterial

I’ve spent seven months, on and off, zooming around Second Life. What you have to understand is that it’s empty. It’s estimated to be around 32000 acres in size right now, which commentators have compared to the size of Boston MA. SL’s population is a matter of contention, but you’re probably looking at around 200,000 people. Now, according to the 2000 census, there are 589,000 people in Boston. Consider that for a second.

The other night I spent an hour jumping around SL — something to do while sick and yet not wanting to leave the keyboard in case my head cleared up enough to write, you know how it goes. Didn’t see another person. I’d been, entirely by accident, jumping into empty places. Occasionally the “avatar radar” in the mini-map would show one or two green dots on its edges — other users outside my field of vision. Most often, the map showed no pings at all.

I tell a lie. I jumped to a house I wanted to look at, and there were people fucking in the basement. That was the first.

Otherwise, it’s been jumping into a series of empty, abandoned clubs. It’s eerie, the way this place can seem so utterly fucking desolate sometimes. Like the 80s image of a city after a neutron bomb — buildings still standing, all humans exterminated. You have to wonder what it feels like sometimes at Linden Labs, SL HQ, looking at this vast virtual universe they’ve generated, and a third of the population of fucking Boston logging in once a week. Some days, it must feel like they threw a universe and no-one showed up.

Part of this would seem to be down to the way Linden Labs makes money. If you want to own land, you need to buy a full account, as opposed to the free one most people use. The full account is a negligible amount of money. Where LL make their money is on land. It costs you a monthly sliding tariff to own land, the fee size dependent on how much land you own. They tax you, basically. Therefore, to generate more money, LL need to generate more land, adding new islands and continents on to Second Life. However, if you find you can’t pay the fees, and you can’t sell your land on, you’re allowed to simply abandon it. And that’s how you end up with a simulated world the size of Boston with nobody on it.

I’ve been playing with the buying and selling of land a little, and today turned some cash which I used to buy three small chunks of land that were sitting in front of Integral Castle — that being the warrenellis.com/the-engine.net official meeting place on SL, at http://slurl.com/secondlife/Rogla/174/120/124/ — which is to say, Integral Castle, Rogla (174, 120, 124). Switch your music control on if you go in, I’ve got an old Apparat Programme podcast streaming to that location at the moment. So now I’ve committed to a large snowy mountain base, I need to start thinking of things to do with it. I’ll be dropping a notecard in there later, I think. And probably getting rid of the fucking flamingos and the weird black pulsing cock-thing someone left at the front door the other day.


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  1. You can find Warren on Twitter: @warrenellis