Later, I would learn that Snoopy’s behavior and Jrdan DarkeS’s response is called “griefing” — SL jargon for the act of abusing other denizens. As I soon discover, most residents are consistently affable and helpful. Linden Lab makes it that way by imposing “community standards”; residents can be suspended or expelled if they violate “the Big Six” rules on intolerance, indecency, harassment, assault, disclosure, and disturbing the peace. To keep track of in-world miscreants, Second Life has created a “police blotter,” which enumerates daily offenses, along with official Linden-sanctioned punishments. On any given day, you’ll see something like “Date: Monday, June 26, 2006/Violation: Community Standards: Indecency, Mature Content/Region: Ahern/Description: Obscene group name and charter/Action taken: Suspended 3 days.”
It took me a while to learn to control my avatar. I’d press the wrong key and end up descending into what appeared to be solid ground . . . sinking, sinking, sinking. Apparently, my steep learning curve isn’t unusual. “Someone was asking me what Second Life was,” says Boston-based video producer and video-blogger (a/k/a “vlogger”) icon Steve Garfield, who set up an SL account in May to attend a Harvard Berkman conference in both real life and Second Life simultaneously. “I’m like, ‘I went to go check out this conference center, and I fell in the water, and I walked around on the bottom of the water, and I flew out of there. Then I bought a Devo hat and it took me a half-hour to figure out how to put it on.’ ”
“When I have a few minutes of down time, I’ll hang out at the Welcome Area and people are like, ‘So now what do I do?’ says California-based podcaster Eric Rice, whose Second Life double is Spin Martin . “That’s a really, really broad question. I guess it’s probably a little like going into the Wild West in the old days and going, ‘So now what? This is the Promised Land? A big field?’” he says.
"LEGOS ON ACID": The environment is constructed entirely by its 300,000-plus residents
Many citizens do regard the limitless territory as akin to a land-rush opportunity. “I see it like New York in the early ’80s,” confesses 25-year-old Allston resident and former Honeypump promoter Ben Sisto, who plans to open an art gallery in Second Life. “A lot of artists settled in the Lower East Side because the rents were cheap, even though there was a heroin addict in their bushes. I feel like Second Life has that same opportunity: the rent’s ten bucks a month.”
And that was Linden Lab’s mission. “Philip Rosedale had this vision of what Second Life should be … he always wanted to create a place that everybody could participate in and be whatever they wanted,” says Linden’s Fleck. “You might argue that’s a utopian mentality, but it was more about equality — just saying, ‘Here, give everybody the same thing and don’t create privileges for people or entities that come into Second Life.’”