Such egalitarian beginnings have created a medium for acres of virtual innovation. There’s Nakama , an anime-inspired urban wasteland of purple-and-pink high rises and J-pop flowers that feels like a cross between Akira and Fruits Basket. Or Walleye’s Acropolis Bowl , a functional candlepin alley with pool tables, gaudy patterned carpeting, and a mini-arcade that includes Q*Bert. Or Taco , a vivid place with a tortilla-topped gazebo and a chocolate-river-flowing candy factory where Oompa Loompas and googly-eyed taco shells celebrated Second Life’s third anniversary. There’s also Midnight City , a moody Manhattan-like shopping district of funky shoes, lustrous street lamps, and taxis stands where avatars buy skin tones, lingerie, and breasts. And let’s not forget Mai Tais Beach Club , a rump-shaking beachside joint located in Little Italy that blares Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie.” There, an avatar named Gale Giles sometimes invites her peers to dance, explaining how to get one’s body wiggling. “All you have to do is touch the machine (it’s attached to my bum),” she informed me. (I declined by teleporting away.)
“Content creation is exceeding the ability to actually consume it,” says Fleck. “So if you go in there starting right now and you decide to spend all your time, full-time, in Second Life wandering around, checking things out, participating, you cannot see it all and consume it all.”
Business is booming
Tripper Tapioca is the sort of girl who hangs out not only at beef stands, but also in vacant parking lots and abandoned tenements. But then her game crashes, and I’m left alone. Zephyr Heights’s unofficial police officer, Barry Rawley, finds me and shows me around a local flea market where he hawks Aerosmith T-shirts for $45L a piece (“[I]’ve probubly [sic] sold around 2-3 of them,” he types, “they aren’t that popular”). Tapioca returns and teleports me to the second floor of an empty warehouse, a weather-beaten, shadowy room that’s littered with drained beer bottles and furnished with cinderblock seats. In the middle of the floor are three card tables stained with bloody handprints, scarred with skull-and-crossbone logos, and decked with revolvers: this is where Zephyr Heights’s co-owner Sirius Gateaux holds rounds of Russian roulette every Thursday.
Zephyr Heights has a few recurring pastimes other than skating. There are boxcar races, water-balloon battles (Tapioca says that even though you can’t get wet, “It’s still fun: they knock you back”), and Russian roulette for Linden bucks. Gambling is a huge hobby in Second Life, as is sex. At any given time, the Linden-calculated list of SL’s 20 most popular places is almost completely made up of casinos and “adult” playgrounds. And one SL game, Tringo, a combination of bingo and Tetris, proved so popular in-world that it’s now available externally for Game Boy Advance.
Tapioca tells me she’s been a Second Life citizen since October 15, 2004. “I used to play The Sims online, but it started to get boring,” she recalls. Stizzy’s, her skater product line, started accidentally. “I was just messing around with the building tools and decided to make a bike.” That innovation led her to tinker not only with virtual skateboards, but with real-life ones as well, through the customizable Canadian Maple decks site, Board Pusher.