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Friday, June 28, 2013

Newbies invade Second Life © – Stareyes Galaxy Reporting ...

Do you remember the day you first rezzed in in Second Life ©, entering a madhouse chat area full of avatars, all in varied stages of confusion? Do you remember how difficult it was to get started, and once you did, how humiliating it was to realize that regardless of how you had learned to use the interface and to interact with avatars, you still were a newbie? While the entrance into Second Life for newbie avatars has improved, they still face similar challenges as we more established residents did back in the day. I went out to prey on unsuspecting newbies to get their first impressions on Second Life.

User statistics [1] show that signups for new avatars exceed 10 000 daily. Where there are about 30 000 to 60 000 users online at any given time, these statistics mean that a significant portion of avatars online are less than a day old. As to what purposes these avatars are created, one can only surmise the reasons. However, in info hubs there seems to be a constant flux of migrants, some new to the online virtual world experience, some transferring from other platforms such as IMVU.

Newbie avatars, in any case, face a culture shock entering Second Life. I had the opportunity to stalk new avatars in the hope of pinning them down for an interview. This was not an easy task, as you will soon see!


The first difficulty is that of getting the attention of a new avatar. They do not know how to respond to instant messages, and rarely react to local chat. Even if contact is achieved, they tend to teleport away very quickly, which brings us to the second difficult task – retaining their attention long enough to obtain answers to a few simple questions. I found many new avatars eagerly editing their appearance, wearing vendor boxes in the middle of their torsos and their hair backward, etc. It was even difficult getting them to listen to helpful advice on how to deal with newly bought items and how to try on clothes. Consequently, the interviews were brief and perfunctory.

I met Salbagoth at the Zebrasil InfoHub. He was up in the air editing his appearance.

SLE: Hello, sorry to bother you up there...
Salbagoth: Hi!
SLE: Are you genuinely on your first day in Second Life?
Salbagoth: How did you guess?
SLE: "Age 0."
Salbagoth: I really don’t know *bleep* about the game, just trying it out. Nothing much to say really, I just try to mess around with my appearance!
SLE: Yes I can see that. Have you done other virtual environments - and on starting Second Life, how do your first impressions compare?
Salbagoth: Nope, I haven’t done other virtual environments, so nothing to compare it with.
SLE: Do you think getting onto SL is easy - or difficult?
Salbagoth: Well, as I said, haven’t really done anything yet, seems to be so many things to do but I actually don’t even know what I want to do really. As I said, I’m just curious what’s this all about.
SLE: So, you don't have specific goals. Do you think you find interests here that correspond to your first life activities?
Salbagoth: Well, when I logged in, in a minute or so I accidentally teleported to a metal bar and I like metal so... it`s possible.
SLE: I wish you all the best in SL. Thanks! Have a great day!
Salbagoth: You too!

Another early attempt at interacting with a Newbie happened at Pooley Stage Info Hub. I met Sashkee, who told me she experienced a language barrier, being Russian. She apparently used a translation program, so we could converse a bit.

SLE: Did you start on Second Life today?
Sashkeee: Yes, I started playing today.
SLE: I see you have found some clothes at least. Have you met anybody yet, besides me?
Sashkeee: No!
SLE: Do you like Second Life, on your first day?
Sashkeee: Yes.
SLE: What do you expect to find here?
Sashkeee: Friends :)
SLE: Do you know how to find people?
Sashkeee: No :(
SLE: Do you know how to use "Search" in your Second Life Viewer? For example, "Search" "Places" - type in "Russia", you find Russian Federation (102,142,20), and Moscow Island (234,174,25).
Sashkeee: Thank You :))
SLE: Nitshevoo :) I wish you a great experience in Second Life! If you need any help, just contact me!

Cilla408bby was at HelFell info hub, frantically trying to rezz shopping containers on the ground where it is not allowed. I took her to a sandbox and guided her through some of the basics.

SLE: Where did you get that hair?
Cilla408bby: I don’t remember. I’m so new at this it’s kinda crazy, lol!
SLE: Really your first day?
Cilla408bby: Yup! Ugh - I don’t know what to do. Where do I find other clothes? I think I may as well quit, I don’t know what I’m doing, lol!
SLE: This takes a bit of patience. Please don't quit. I was frustrated in the beginning!
Cilla408bby: OK, I’ll try, lol.
SLE: Are you getting the hang of it? Did you understand the search function in the inventory?
Cilla408bby: Kinda... Where do I find dresses?
SLE: Ah, that is another question. Let's get you to speed with opening the boxes first!

We then went through the process of rezzing a box on the ground, opening, it, and copying to inventory. Cilla was able to actually put on some clothes, but she wanted more, so I took her to a few places and showed her how to buy from vendor panels.

SLE: Now that you have been a few hours on Second Life, how do you feel about the experience first getting "online" - what is your first impression?
Cilla408bby: Well, I was thinking it’s way more realistic than IMVU and [more] confusing, lol!
SLE: Do you think you have the patience and interest required to stay in Second Life? (I could see you getting frustrated, opening the shopping bags :)
Cilla408bby: Yeah, now I think so.
SLE: What do you think Linden Lab would need to improve, in terms of the getting into Second Life experience?
Cilla408bby: Well, more people like you – lol - and instructions!
SLE: Aww, thanks!
Cilla408bby: :)
SLE: What do you aim to accomplish in Second Life? What is your "life goal" here?
Cilla408bby: To make new friends.
SLE: Do you think it will be easy?
Cilla408bby: Maybe, but I’m not sure.

Finally, I met JoseFernando82 at Moose Beach Info Hub.

 SLE: New here?
JoseFernando82: Yes... Just passed some basic tutorials. I haven't edited my avatar yet. I saw a tutorial about avatar editing.
SLE: Fine, DON'T! (Proceeds to take a picture.) It seems like you have a sensible start, reading tutorials and all. Do you have other experience, on virtual worlds?
JoseFernando82: No. Just started with Second Life. I don’t know of other virtual worlds. I heard Second Life is the best one from a friend.
SLE: What do you expect to find here?
JoseFernando82: I don't know yet. First I will explore! I like roleplaying and music. And I love sailing, maybe I can do it here too.
SLE: Do you know how to use search?
JoseFernando82: Haven't tried it yet, but will do.
SLE: On your first impression, do you think you will stay?
JoseFernando82: Oh yes. This world is calling for exploration!

I was so intrigued by these newbies that I decided to make a newbie alt for myself and explore the first rezz-in experience for a new avatar. This is her report:  

“From the secondlife.com front page, I clicked on ‘Join now for free’, and chose a basic avatar style. There were some major language options to do the login process, which I found welcoming. I then entered my login information and downloaded the latest version of the SL viewer. Logging on, I clicked on the TOS and… appeared as a very grey sketch on top of a greenish hand emblem in something that looked like a Greek temple with Stargate-style portals depicting themes. I had heard of tutorials, but no such advice was offered. On my upper left corner, I saw a number of destinations in a box, and on the screen, a few other avatars. One was editing her appearance, another was just standing there. Nobody was talking! I was getting warning messages of everything I attempted to do, even on sharing the landmark with Stareyes. She couldn’t teleport to ‘Destination Island’, as apparently nobody can! Once we newbies are out of there, we are destitute. Clicking on the ‘Linden Realms’ portal, I was quickly teleported away from the temple, and a message showed on my screen about finding a place within that area. I clicked on a map pictogram next to some crystal-looking symbols and got a red circle on it as well as a red arrow on the screen. Following it I was able to walk to a red beacon. Upon finding it I received another task. Apparently this task also hinged on finding stuff on the map. I had to leave at that point, maybe to come back later.”

I may have been too hasty, contacting avatars who just had started their journey in Second Life. I might have had better success striking a conversation with some that had stayed a couple of days, but then, they were not quite as frequent visitors to the info hubs as the 0-to-1-day-olds. Imposing a barrage of questions on avatars that are frantically trying to get oriented might have been just plain bad form – one of these was so frustrated she offered to give me her password to help sort her appearance out, and another asked for my real name. I discovered that incoming avatars are equipped with varied backgrounds, and that Linden Lab has already furnished them with a much better basic appearance than what most veterans had available a few years ago. Many view Second Life as a “game”, maybe as a reflection of their gaming background, or as a result of SL’s game-based orientation tasks. Taking all this into account, I would advise new avatars to approach Second Life as a virtual environment of discovery and interaction instead of as a game, to exercise patience in learning, and to take advantage of the various tutorials available on the Second Life main page. In addition, there’s no hiding your newbieness, so be bold and approach more experienced avatars and just ask about anything that is puzzling you. Most of us love to be of help!

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