My Newcomer’s Guide to Second Life

Photo by Ella Brightside
Me and Ella relaxing on the Basilique Pier – Photo by Ella Brightside

Please meet my friend, Ella Brightside. I know Ella from the non-virtual world and she has recently migrated to Second Life. She’s only five weeks old, but she already has a blog, a Flickr, Google+ and a Pinterest board – and… Ella recently became acquainted with Phototools and took all the photos in this blog post! How awesome is she??? 🙂 Please, show Ella how welcoming we are to Second Life newcomers!

Observing Ella’s migration inworld, I have become profoundly aware of the challenges facing newbies; challenges that most of us with years of experience inworld have now since long forgotten.

So, I was excited to read about Strawberry Singh’s Monday Challenge this week where she asked people to give their top five pieces of advice for newbies to Second Life. I think it’s a super idea!

To be fair, Ella has a leg up on most newcomers to Second Life. First, I gave her a good idea about what to expect – so regardless of how hard things become, she trusts me and sees a light at the end of the long tunnel of challenge ahead of her. Further, I can introduce her to people, give her advice on how to do basic things, point her to my favourite stores and places to visit, and give her a place to call home and rez things – all the things most newcomers would might take months figuring out.

So for all of you who are not Ella, but are still very new to Second Life, here are a few pieces of advice that have served me well:

Ella and me smelling the flowers
Ella and me smelling the flowers

1. Stop and smell the flowers

Because the Basilique is featured in the Linden Lab’s Destination Guide’s Popular Places, we receive many visits from newbies. Sometimes I’ll watch them as they explore the sim.

I often find that people seem to be in so much of a hurry that their screens must be a blur of motion! Perhaps it’s how people behave in video games, out of fear of being killed, but don’t worry! That’s not going to happen in Second Life!

Relax… there is so much to see in one place. Every single step offers a new angle on what you might see. Chill out and stay a while… there are people to talk to and sometimes conversations take a few moments to develop. Slow down… and you might just stop being a moving target.

There are so many times I’ve reached out to say hello to someone new only to have them teleport only seconds after I say hello. If I didn’t know any better I’d have developed a complex years ago!

I also recommend finding a “home base”. Find a place you feel comfortable, landmark it, and return to it from time to time so that you can meet some regulars before moving on. Some people need to see you twice or three times before they reach out to you, and you’ll feel more comfortable reaching out when you see a few familiar faces.

Me and Ella dancing - Photo by Ella Brightside
Me and Ella dancing – Photo by Ella Brightside

2. Speak up

While you can easily spend hours, days and weeks alone in Second Life, one of the best opportunities that Second Life has to offer is engagement with other people.

I can appreciate that conversations can feel sometimes daunting to enter. I can understand that people chatting together sometimes seem like they’re super close.

In my experience however, people are welcoming to others that make an effort to enter a conversation. Sometimes they will go out of their way to include someone they see on the fringes.

You’ll never know what new experiences, opportunities and doors will open up to you until you say “hello”. I assure you, no matter how shy you are, the benefits of saying “hello” to strangers in Second Life far outweigh the risks!

Ella and me at Silky's Cafe
Ella and me having breakfast at Silky’s Cafe – Photo by Ella Brightside

3. Find a friend

There is no question, that my time in Second Life would have been considerably shorter if I’d not have found friends with whom to chat, spend time, laugh, explore and build.

When I try to think of anything I’d rather do in Second Life alone than with a friend, I can think of several (sorting inventory, trying outfits, tedious tasks that just need to get done, and sometimes even shopping). I don’t prefer to do these things alone because they are more fun alone. Rather, they’re just more efficient.

If you want to add more fun to pretty much any activity however, having a friend to share your time and experiences with will dramatically improve your enjoyment of Second Life. You will learn more about yourself by chatting with a friend you trust for a few hours than you might learn after spending a day by yourself. Alone time is sacred, but time spent with friends is the spice of Second Life.

Me and Ella at the Bar Modern at the Basilique
Me and Ella at the Bar Modern at the Basilique – Photo by Ella Brightside

4. Adjust your mentality towards spending money in Second Life (aka don’t be a cheap skate!!)

You don’t need to spend money in Second Life to have fun, but doing so can greatly enhance your enjoyment of it.

Virtual doesn’t mean “free”. Nice things cost money inworld, and the sooner you get your head around that the sooner you’ll become a contributing member of the Second Life economy. Most people wouldn’t think twice about spending money for one night out a month, yet strangely, people seem to lose all perspective when they consider spending Linden dollars.

While it’s not a common practice in many “games”, spending money inworld is as normal as it is in the non-virtual world, and considerably cheaper too. Living in one of the most expensive cities in the world like I do, a night out in London will easily set me back at least £65 (or $108 USD – if you include one person’s share of dinner and drinks, a theatre ticket and public transport – nothing extravagant!!!). That’s equal to L$27,000. Just think about what you could buy for that? You could have all the things!

Yet, people will hum and haw about spending L$1000 on a decent skin they’ll wear every day for months in Second Life. Seriously, if you are really that concerned about spending $3 on something like that, then you might have bigger things to worry about!

Despite that access to Second Life is free, all of those nice places to visit didn’t materialise out of spontaneous goodwill. These places were created by people who reached into their pockets (virtual or otherwise) to rent land and to buy buildings and materials to bring something into the world. That’s why so many sims have donation boxes, so that they can crowd fund their endeavours. If you like a place you visit and see a donation box, drop at least a 100 linden into the bucket to show your appreciation. Which brings me to… giving back.

Ella and me at the Bar Modern - Photo by Ella Brightside
Ella and me at the Bar Modern – Photo by Ella Brightside

5. Give back

This last one can’t be expected so much from newbies, but it’s something to keep in mind as anyone spends more and more time in world.

Way back in 2007, when I was a newbie of very few days, I was approached by someone who, from appearances alone, I would have likely never talked to in the non-virtual world.

After exchanging a few words, he probably took pity on my newbie state, and dumped boxes and boxes of clothing, hair and shoes into my inventory, just to get me started. It took me days to try it all on, and probably about a year before I stopped wearing it. He was a creator that made stuff as a hobby and just wanted to help me out. His stuff wasn’t spectacular, but did it ever help a newbie out! To this day, I remember that kindness, and a few years ago I sought him out and paid him a few thousand lindens to return the favour… Of course, he sent it right back to me 😉

The most valuable thing you can give in Second Life is your time and generosity. Life is so much richer when you move beyond consumption and start contributing. It really doesn’t matter what you do, whether it’s raising money for a charity, or helping out with a cause, or building a sim and leaving a huge chunk of it open to the public. Do something selfless and contributive to make the virtual world a better place.

11 thoughts on “My Newcomer’s Guide to Second Life

  1. Great advice Canary, especially #4, don’t be a cheapskate. It took me a while to adjust to the relative value of L$ but eventually I got it through my head that tipping a performer or venue L$5 wasn’t appropriate.

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    1. Hey Bear, that is an interesting one isn’t it? When I first moved to the UK, I used to convert pounds into Canadian Dollars so that I could figure out what things really cost. Overtime though, it became cumbersome (and just a wee bit depressing). Now that I’m accustomed to thinking in “pounds”, I never convert in my head anymore. With the Linden Dollar – the difference is so vast and it looks so much bigger than it is (L$27000 sounds like so much more than $108 USD) even with the L in front of it. I can appreciate how easy it is to get confused.

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  2. I love your last two points: when you’ve invested money and time in SL, you get more out of it and tend to stick with it.

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    1. Yes, you’re right, and that’s the same with most things. The more you invest in anything the more attachment you tend to have to it, and that applies to time and money. One of the ideas I’ve had (and it’s not unique) is for LL to give everyone a 512×512 plot of empty land that they need to visit to keep. And on that land, perhaps a few signposts that provide a few optional but simple instructions: 1. Buy some Lindens (with a link to the buy Linden’s page), 2. Get a house (with a link to some cheap homes for sale on the MP), 3. Get some furniture (with a link to the MP search page for “furniture”) and so on. Provide people with a few steps on getting set up. Have them invest a wee bit of cash just to get into the habit of doing it. From there they’ll quickly realise: “Oh, I can get a house for $1!”, which should start them off down the road to being involved in the SL economy, AND it gives them something to spend first few days in SL with – money and time invested – possibly more retention?

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  3. oh man! I remember freebie beaches! I’d go and get tons of freebies and be the big shabazz! I knew I was Hawt! 😉 I always give back too and even included the part about going hands in on charity events is such an enriching experience. Great post! And I wish I had half of your friends photography ability! >.< !

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    1. Heh, I think I might have spent the first year in SL without realising I could upload real money into it. Back then the only way I was aware of making any Lindens was camping! Do you remember camping??? I too was a beach bum – there were so many freebie bikinis back then, it was easy street!

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  4. Thanks for the great advice Becky and for all of your help in getting going in SL. I definitely would not have realised how to get going with skins and shopping and AO and …. everything really … for ages without your hand holding. It’s been much more fun having this help and you’re so right… I think if I was still in a sandbox somewhere rezzing stuff and being approached by people hawking their wares, I’m not sure how keen I would have been! It must be very difficult for other newbies who don’t have help to transition into SL – I will remember that, and hope to one day help out a newbie in their hour of need 🙂 Great post!

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