I’m not a gamer. Really. I’m not. My closest experience with gaming was watching my husband play Final Fantasy while I was on maternity leave a few years back. I think I once experimented with Civilization (ok, fine, DDR too) and maybe raced (more like crashed my way) against my husband a couple of times on Gran Turismo…and I know that my kids are not allowed to play Tekken. So there. That’s my overall gaming experience.
So now there’s this Second Life thingie that everyone is talking about. I’ve always known of it, but I was never compelled to go there. It’s for geeky gamers and I certainly am not one. Fast forward several months later and I am listening to a panel discussion with folks from Cisco and IBM and still discussing it days later on and offline on how to use it in marketing communications. Yeah. Since when was corporate and gaming used in the same sentence? Yes, it’s one of the many exciting tools now available to me as a marketing professional, another place to reach and interact with my target audience in addition to all the other social networking sites, blogs and wikis plus community events.
It’s exciting, yeah. The blogs, the wikis, the social networking sites, I can handle. I can spell. I can write and if I make a mistake here and there it’s alright. Bloggers are allowed to change their minds. But I am NOT a GAMER (see paragraph 1). And now I have to somehow learn Second Life or get left behind (of course it’s not a MUST…at least not YET). What was it gonna be?
Because I’m a true Digerati Wannabe I said hell no, I’m not getting left behind so off to Second Life I went, forgot about all the horror stories my boss told me about and created my avatar. I am Liqisaqa Laryukov. Please don’t ask how I came up with that name (Pig Latin and a suggestion from the site, I think).
So. This is The New Social Networking Medium, eh? Social Networking Sites on Steroids?
I flew around and stumbled upon a couple of “people.” I went in there thinking I was going to do the social networking thing (meet people) but something strange happened. I wasn’t in the mood for any “networking” at all (which, of course, I didn’t realize until after I left). A couple of people were following me and maybe they were trying to talk to me but I felt like I was being stalked. Because in real life, if you walk away from someone and they keep following you anyway and they don’t say a word, that’s kinda how it is. You’d think that person was creepy and you’d have no interest whatsoever in talking to that person. And then a few minutes later I encountered a half-something (horse-like creature) and half-man thing who said hello but really, I was just creeped out that I “flew” away.
I told my boss about my experience the next morning and he — after much laughter — reminded me that none of that stuff was real. I’m like…DUH of course I know none of that stuff was real, and yes, I was probably over-reacting by not talking to the other avatars. But the thing is, I’ve been conditioned to do my social networking online the LinkedIn/MySpace/FaceBook/Friendster way. I don’t “connect” or “add” anyone until after I’ve checked out their profiles. I don’t blogroll anyone unless I really like what they say. And before I believe in what someone says on a particular subject, I’ll probably Google or check their credentials/experience on LinkedIn first.
I’ve always thought I was forward-thinking enough to interact with other people online and not have irrational fears about stalkers and such, but as this experience proved, irrational behavior (it’s not real, so what was I so afraid of?) isn’t always so apparent.
But in my defense, considering where I’m coming from, social networking the SNS way, going into Second Life, where avatars come as any creature you can imagine in all shapes and forms. So in deciding whether I want to interact with Half-Horse Man, that decision was based on limited factors such as my cultural bias against his appearance (he reminded me of this creature from Filipino folklore) and my current state of mind (I was creeped out). There was nothing else to base my decision on like a profile or a blog post. Just this freaky looking thing that reminds me of childhood nightmares.
Which brings me to this discussion I was having with my boss and Christian Renaud about whether Second Life (and similar ‘verses) will replace social networking sites as we know it. And to summarize my comment on that post, there is room for both synchronous and asynchronous social networking and I believe that one actually enhances the user experience in the other. Going back to my initial experience, I would probably let my guard down a little bit just knowing that I can always check the information on anyone I see/who approaches me in that universe.
And looks like Christian agrees and goes on to say: “there is a broader need for internet reputation that follows you across services, including virtual worlds.”
I couldn’t agree more. We could go on and on about internet reputation and OpenID but that’s probably for another post so I’ll just say “I agree with Christian.”
So now that I’ve actually experienced Second Life, how do I see it now? Sure, I will definitely come back to Second Life again but probably won’t be wandering aimlessly around like I was the first time (at least until they come up with a profiling/reputation system). I think I will use it to enhance my offline and online networking experiences — check out a SNS connection’s creations on SL, participate in SL events by “reputable” “real-world” companies like Cisco, IBM, Wells Fargo, just to name a few, and maybe learn to create new things.
Does anyone have any beginner’s tips on Second Life? Any islands I should visit? Where do I set up camp? Is there a real estate office?
Oh. I also tried out Wells Fargo’s Stage Coach Island. Unfortunately it doesn’t support OS X so there goes playing with it during non-business hours. Maybe they’ll let me play with it at work.