Making Yourself at Home in Second Life: Tips from One Newbie to Another

Recently I pulled up the fashion section of a Second Life Forum in which Strawberry Singh asked the question, “What do you think was the hardest thing to get used to when you first started SL?” The five or so responses included difficulties with movement, appearance, and modifying clothing.

As something of a newbie myself (110 days old), I readily identified with their early struggles, and I thought of a few more of my own, which I’m sharing in this blog entry. For one thing, I don’t want to forget what it was like to be a newbie.  For another, perhaps other newbies will take solace in knowing that they aren’t alone in finding that SL has a steep learning curve. Along with my “hardest things,” I offer suggestions for making the beginning of a newbie’s inworld experiences a tad easier and, I hope, more enjoyable than it already is.

What follows is a list of the seven hardest things that I’ve experienced so far and how I’ve dealt with or am dealing with them. The list mostly follows the order in which I encountered and overcame (sometimes) obstacles to feeling at home in Second Life.

1.  Finding a comfortable and appealing newbie site for developing basic SL skills: Caledon Oxbridge.  Feeling like an incompetent dork who walks into walls and bumps into other avatars is a very common newbie experience. The tutorials at most “newcomer friendly” islands can really help.  I’ve been through several of them, and Caledon Oxbridge is the one I like best. There I felt most comfortable and learned the most. Its Steampunk setting is charming; there’s something rather cozy about it. For a while I considered it “home” – and enjoyed a  return visit last night, where I took this photo and made friends with a two-day-old avatar.

Caledon Oxbridge - a charming and friendly newbie place

2.  Finding a home – a place you can call your own, where you can land, relax, experiment with clothing, do some searching, read notecards, organize your inventory, entertain, and so on without being interrupted. While I was learning such basics as how to navigate inworld, I interspersed exploring various islands with looking for rentals, something nice but cheap.  Using Search, I discovered that a number of landlords have areas specially designated for newbies at good prices. I finally chose a two-story house for the amazingly low price of L$150 per week at Aztecha, a nice place for sure, but simply too big for my modest needs. While there, I continued to look around and found a much smaller place for the same price at Etopia, where I still live. It’s a beautiful island dedicated to sustainable living. The good news and bad news is that it’s remarkably peaceful – practically no one else lives there (the rentals must be one of SL’s best kept secrets). I don’t know how much longer I will stay, but I do know that I’m not yet ready to invest in owning.

Etopia Prime one-room terraced apartments

3.  Learning the lingo and relating better to the inworld experience: Read Blogs.  To understand SL better, I began reading SL blogs. I’d go to a blog’s archives and start with the first entry to see what I could learn about that avatar’s newbie experiences. I found the following quite helpful: Honour’s Post Menopausal View, which has a refreshingly authentic tone and beautiful photography; Ahuva’s Blog, which reports on her early days in candid and often moving detail; and Daniel Voyager’s Blog, which, among other jewels, includes a highly useful section called “SL Newbies” (look on his toolbar). Note too that the Second Life wiki has a useful glossary of SL lingo.

Reading Tolkien at Peace Park on Info Island (great place to learn)

4.  Discovering how not to look like a noob – An avatar’s look was the main thing that Strawberry Singh’s respondents addressed. Indeed, it is important for many of us, from posture and walk to clothing and hair. I haven’t got it right yet (and probably never will, just like in real life :^), but I do have a few suggestions for those who choose human avatars and want to ditch the newbie look:

  • Learn about Animation Overrides (AO) and get one as soon as you can. I bought one from Amacci, which I’m still not completely happy with (e.g., the walking and standing animations are a tad too “come-hither” – but chances are I could fiddle with it to fit it more to my tastes); besides, it’s not bad either and a far sight better than the wooden walk I had when I first joined SL.
  • Look around for a skin and shape that appeal to you. These often come separately. You can find freebies, but I bought both as a package at Body & Soul  (I couldn’t find a URL for it, sorry) for a very reasonable price. I’ve made a few changes to the shape by changing the sliders to something I’m more comfortable with, like smaller breasts (what is this big breast obsession in SL anyway?).  It’s the Claudia design and works for me right now.
  • There seems to be no end to the interesting hair available, some of it free. For example, I picked up a box of free hair at Amacci (one pleasant style in various colors), as well as a free set of hairbase tattoos (they look like really short hair) that cover areas that hair attachments may not. In the photo below, I’m wearing a hat-hair-braid combination from EMO-tions, whose main store carries the largest collection of hair styles I’ve run across.
  • As for clothing, freebies abound, but only a few of the items I’ve gotten for L$0 have much style (though I am quite fond of some of the free jeans and cargo pants). As Strawberry Singh mentioned, learning how to fit prims (it’s important to learn this term!) is a struggle; it’s definitely an art I haven’t mastered – especially for skirts, jacket bottoms, and even the necks on turtleneck sweaters, as you can see in the Reading at Peace Park photo above :^). In the photo below, I’m wearing a midriff sweater because I couldn’t figure out how to get the long-sweater version of this item (from Awesome Designs) to fit with the brown prim skirt  (hmm, could that be the reason for the preponderance of low-cut pants and midriff tops? probably not).

Trying out a new look

5.  Learning how to build has enriched my SL experience by giving me a sense of how these amazing places and objects are created. After taking several tutorials, I can create and texture such things as tables (even glass tops) and birdbaths (with water) and can arrange objects I own, including prim attachments sometimes :^).  But, really, to make the most of building skills I’d need to own land, which, as I mentioned, I’m not ready to do.  My first lessons in building were the self-paced tutorials available at the Ivory Tower of Primitives, which includes very detailed and pleasantly chatty notecards. These tutorials provided a good foundation for my next building venture at the Happy Hippo, where I learned a lot more; I recommend both, but especially the Happy Hippo self-paced tutorials (leave a donation if you can). Happy Hippo also offers classes, as does New Citizens Inc (NCI) and Builder’s Brewery. It’s also probably smart to learn about scripting (e.g., writing or inserting programs to animate prims); I struggled through one class at NCI, enough to understand the concept, but not enough to do more than drop other people’s scripts into a prim – but that’s something.

A Happy Hippo balloon building class

6.  Feeling like a stranger in a strange land – indeed, I often still do. In real life I tend toward shyness around people I don’t know. Even so, I was (and remain) amazed at how unusually shy (even for me) I am in SL.  Other avatars still scare me – whether  they’re in warrior or preppy outfits, elegantly dressed or frumpy, a robot or a furry – but less so than before. Taking the Sloan Consortium course on “Beginning Second Life” helped a lot (see previous blog). For a while, when I’d enter an area I’d check on who was there (by clicking the People tab) and read some of the profiles to see if I wanted to stick around.  Actually, that’s not a bad idea, but I hardly ever do it anymore. I’m more at ease and happier taking things (or avs) as they come. Being an academic, I remain, on the whole, most comfortable at university sites. I’m particularly fond of DePaul University’s island, about which I may dedicate a future blog.

A view of the village at DePaul University

7.  Finding quality, stylish clothes that I’d actually wear in real life, not too sexy nor too frumpy. I must say that I am having fun trying out offbeat outfits, but I need several stylish ones that I can quickly change into for those more (ahem) refined occasions and for professional gatherings. Putting together such outfits is one of my current projects. So far I’ve found two stores that offer a nice mix of fashions that cater to those who fancy the “come-hither” look and those who seek the more demure look — that are sexy or chic, hip or smart, or an elegant blend: SF Design and MEB Fashions. I also like Izzie’s. I’m sure there are many more SL stores that have clothes that suit my tastes and needs; it’s just that I haven’t found them yet.

Izzie's in autumn

If you’re a newbie and if you feel like it, let me know how you’re doing. Also feel free to share your “hardest things to get used to” in SL and to offer your suggestions – that goes for everyone, newbie or not. Thanks!

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About Lotus Greene

I started the blog called "Educating Lotus" in 2011, shortly after I began exploring the virtual world Second Life. With friends I met there, I migrated my virtual life to World of Warcraft (WoW) and joined an educators' guild. Lotus Greene is my gamer name, one I kept when I started another blog in 2015 called "Not Quite Ignored," which originally focused on the lighter side of news. For a year I didn't blog at all - just didn't get around to it. Lots has changed since then: for one thing I'm now completely retired from teaching; for another, the U.S. political climate has grown darker. I return to blogging with, among other things, the goals of providing "Political News in Brief" every week or so in "Not Quite Ignored" and in "Educating Lotus" occasionally posting screenshots and reflections on aspects of Legion, WoW's most recent and quite exciting expansion.
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