The further misadventures of Ryszard Etzel
February 12, 2007
Just a few days short of Valentine’s Day, Diane and I finally got Ryszard and Ailsa to meet. We teleported them from their respective locations, and they met on the ALA Arts InfoIsland. After engaging in some “meet cute” banter, they wandered around on some nearby islands with virtual spaces for libraries and library/information science schools. They then went to the Toyota Scion dealership, where avatars can purchase their very own Scion for 300 Linden (roughly $1, depending on the current Linden/Dollar exchange rate). Ryszard and Ailsa also visited a home dealership, with a variety of unfurnished houses ranging from approximately 500 to 7,000 Linden (roughly $2-$25). Neither avatar has the premium membership, but it never hurts to look.
I made a few more observations based on the wanderings of Ryszard and Ailsa yesterday. Ryszard had never interacted with another avatar before, so I had to do some Instant Messaging (something of which I’m not a big fan). Diane and I were sitting just a few feet away, so the experience of typing a message that would take one second to say felt a bit disorienting. Perhaps something like Skype would enhance the illusion of real interaction, especially if it had some kind of voice-changing capabilities. Diane and I also had to keep track of our avatars, who initially acted clingy. However, with the large and small maps at our disposal, we found each other rather easily when needed.
I feel more comfortable navigating Ryszard around Second Life. Besides teleporting to and from different locations, he has also learned how to move objects and open doors with ease. Despite a number of similarities to the real world, the economic, social, and political situation differs quite a bit. Unlike the real world, no one actually “needs” anything in Second Life. There’s no struggle for necessities, such as food, clothing, and shelter, or medical care. One can fall from great heights or splash into deep water, but no one has to worry about broken bones or drowning. Being a vagrant (like Ryszard and Ailsa) carries no stigma, and one can remain looking quite healthy and clean quite easily. In fact, it would take some effort to dirty oneself up.
Only aesthetes who worry about their online persona need think about money. Fortunately for them, they can act as benefactors who lavish their avatars with the finer things in life for very little real-world money. However, the cost of things is a bit off-balance. Houses and cars seem cheap, but clothing looks like it could add up. One can buy a Scion for 300 Linden, but I saw t-shirts at one store for 50 Linden (probably “designer,” but still…). If a new Scion costs $15,000, that means a designer t-shirt would cost around $2,500. Or, put another way, a designer t-shirt costs $50, and a new Scion would cost $300. I haven’t learned much about the details of the Second Life economy, but some people can make pretty good money.
Unless I have a really original idea that people might buy into, I plan to abstain from doing business in Second Life. However, at the very least, Ryszard should have a decent wardrobe. He might meet avatars of other professional librarians, and he will want to look presentable to them. Acquiring a house and car remains a low priority, but Diane and I might do something with those if time allows in our non-digital realms.