Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sex and the Single Avatar in Second Life I


Love is the answer, but while you are waiting for the answer, sex raises some pretty good questions.

Woody Allen

 

           There!  Once again I’ve shamelessly caught your attention with the word “sex”.  (See my earlier story about “Sex in Second Life (SL)” to see how I did it the first time.)  Since I first started writing about nudity in SL then moving along to BDSM and bouncing into sex resorts, I’m learning that there’s a lot of sex inworld.  (If you’re wondering how this all happened check out my story about how I write.)  I mean I think there may be even more sex in SL than in Real Life (RL)!    

          When I first started blogging about SL I thought that sex in SL would be an occasional aside, nothing too big.  Boy, did I ever get that wrong.  (Significant Other claims not to be surprised.)  So, being the investigative journalist that I am (apologies to 60 Minutes) I’ve decided to write about it more regularly in a series entitled Sex and the Single Avatar in Second Life. 

          Don’t worry, as my friend, Glorf Bulmer, would say, this won’t become that kind of blog.  (Anyone desiring that kind of titillation should check out Literotica instead.)  I’ll try to blog monthly about what’s going in the world of sex in SL.  I’ll do my best to be informative and, as always humorous.  As Bette Davis once said, “Sex is God’s joke on human beings.”  But, for anything else, like I just wrote, check out Literotica. 

          For now, I just want to go over how much sex is in SL. There are a lot of places dedicated to it, all sorts of practices, and, of course, people merrily engaged in sex. 

          What kinds of places?  Well, there are clubs like Exxotic Pleasures and Cleo Beach.  Dancing and music with rooms off somewhere where people can go and do what people do when they’re all alone in a room with furniture programmed for a variety of sexual experiences.  (Not to mention the freely available pose balls.)  Large numbers of BDSM dungeons do business across the grid.  Then there are resorts such as Turtle Coast and The Island of Bare Naked Angels.  Many of these require nudity and come fully equipped for whatever sexual experiences or preferences are desired.  Then there is the recently opened SL adult continent, Zindra. 

Finally, no discussion of places associated with sex in SL would be complete without talking about the stores.  Shopping for sex in SL has a couple of additional twists not found in RL.  For example, one can go and replace one’s sexual organs complete with a HUD for whatever options one may need.  And, of course what avatar would be complete without birth control, Viagra, or pregnancy test kit?  Who knew? 

Clothing, furniture, BDSM equipment, restraints are but a few of the other accessories available for purchase inworld for those with the necessary Lindens.  (Although, many of these items are freely available in SL as well.) 

          Sexual practices?  Everything from the missionary position to whatever one can imagine or script is possible.  It’s wonderful what can happen when the laws of physics can be ignored.  Then there’s BDSM.  In fact, I think BDSM may be the largest lifestyle community in SL based on my informal, unscientific survey.  For those who are either too tired for intercourse or merely curious, there are sims for those who are feeling a bit voyeuristic.  And, of course, I can’t talk about sex in SL without at least mentioning the practice of collaring. 

As for the people?  They come in all shapes and sizes with all types of practices, straight, gay, BDSM, swingers, and group enthusiasts to name just a few.  For some, sex is a totally uninhibited experience inworld.  I ought to know.  I walked by some of them while they were going at it.  Others are more private.  Engaging in whatever they engage in behind closed doors.  Some are shy about meeting new partners.  Others work as escorts.  Interestingly, when I visited a recently opened sex sim, I noticed many avatars roaming about who were just one or two days old. Makes me think that some aren’t as daring as me when it comes to walking about inworld. Many people are join into groups around whatever their particular interest may be. 

Sex in SL also goes beyond the grid.  Both Barnes & Noble and Amazon sell many fiction and non-fiction ebooks about sex in SL.  (Although, admittedly, most of them seem to be by the same author, Misty Crimsonlay.) Some are about the social aspects of sex in SL, others are memoirs, and some are simply erotica that is SL themed. 

          So what’s this all about?  Besides the sex?  Finding out more about the people and communities that make up SL.  SL is about more than just builds and role playing.  Just as sex is part of everyday life in RL, whether people admit it or not, sex is part of everyday day in SL as well.  I just think people may use the anonymity of SL to experience things they might not otherwise in RL.  Hey guys, do you really think that there are real women behind all those good looking female avatars in SL? Or, that RL women aren’t checking out what it’s like to ill-mannered and rude for a change? 

          In future stories in this series, I’ll write about these different aspects of human sexuality in SL.  And, yes, I do mean human because as many continually remind inworld there’s a real person with real feelings behind that avatar we’re interacting with. 

          I welcome anyone who would like to share their experiences or opinions of SL sexuality with me.  I’d like to include these in my future stories in this series.  I look forward to hearing from you! 

As always, I’m grateful to all for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.

Below are a few pictures of the places I visited for this story.  And, no, there is neither nudity nor activity of a sexual nature contained therein.  If you want to see that then you’ll have to go there yourself! 

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at webspelunker@gmail.com . 

     If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.


Photo No. 1 Turtle Coast


Photo No. 3 Exxotic Pleasures

Photo No. 4 Cleo Beach

Photo No. 5 Zindra  

 

 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Second Life and the Great Recession IV: Looking for a Place to Live?

Ninety percent of all millionaires become so through owning real estate.

Andrew Carnegie
 

          As my regular readers know, I occasionally take a look at the economic situation in Second Life (SL).  I know, I know. Real Life (RL) is depressing enough with all its economic problems these days.  Why go looking for them inworld? 

          Besides the argument that I’m a masochist (frequently made by Significant Other, and assorted RL and SL friends which is not true despite my recent visits among the BDSM community) I do this because I firmly that RL economics, The Great Recession in particular, affects SL and may ultimately decide what happens there. 

          So, when my friend, Lindal Kidd, recently blogged about the current glut of land inworld and the consequential falling prices for rentals, I decided to drop by and see what was going on for myself.  I haven’t blogged about The Great Recession and SL since last year so the timing was appropriate. 

          I meet Lindal as she is conducting a class on SL land for another resident.  (Lindal is a very good instructor and I encourage anyone wishing to learn more about the inner workings of SL to either read her blog or to attend her classes.)  Lindal deftly moves between my questions and those of her student.  (This woman has definitely mastered multitasking!)

          The interview begins with my question about what is causing the price of rentals to fall off. Lindal cites the ready availability of Linden Homes at the low end of the market (I must confess to being an owner of one.) and the purchase cost of land being down at the high end of the market.  She sums it up as definitely being a buyers’ market. 

          Lindal continues her explanation by highlighting three things that Linden Lab (LL) has been doing over the past year or two. First, LL created Linden Homes and the land for them.  (That’s the beauty of virtual worlds, slap on a few more servers and, voila, new worlds.  Too bad, LL doesn’t put the same resources and time into improving performance.  But, I digress.)  Next, they created the adult continent, Zindra.  Finally, LL created the themes areas of Nautilus City and Bay City.  What all of this means, according to Lindal, is that there’s a lot more land in SL.  (Looks like Spain and Las Vegas weren’t the only ones to have overbuilt recently.  At least they can blame the banks.  What’s LL’s excuse?) 

          Meanwhile, the number of avatars using all this land did not increase observes Lindal.  In fact, she notes, the number of avatars during this period went down some resulting in too much land and too few people.  (Anyone remember their ECO101 classes about supply and demand?)  To compound all of this, Lindal adds LL offered Homestead regions to estate owners and sold a lot of them.  (A SL friend of mine, who will remain nameless for his own protection, told me once of being invited to one of these sales sessions and of being pounded to buy more land but no one ever spoke to him about what he might receive in exchange in terms of service and performance for all the land he’d already purchased let alone if he bought more.) 

          About this time, Lindal goes on, LL realized their mistake in making these offers too attractive and changed the price/performance ratio in an effort to compensate which, in other words, meant that the land area to resident ratio deteriorated.  (For the non-tekkies out there, this is the equivalent of the US Federal Reserve printing money to inflate themselves out of their debt problems.  Forgive me Adam Smith!)  In the meantime, Lindal says that cheap land on the Homesteads drew off many mainland renters with the subsequent downward pressure on rents there. 

          Now here’s the part where I get up on my soapbox for a bit.  The parallels with what was happening in RL at the time are startling for me.  Only because in a virtual world like SL, I wouldn’t have expected this type of economic gerrymandering.  (OK, call me na├»ve.)  Take a look at my recent story about whether or not SL is viable as a civilization and decide for yourself if this type of behavior on LL’s part helps or hinders the question. 

          About this time, Lindal’s student has left and she and I arrive at her property, Masocado Resort.  It’s located on the mainland where she owns about three-quarters of a region.  Not being a scripter herself, she purchased the necessary scripts.

          Lindal describes Masocado as a “Miami style condo resort”.  The build contains seventeen units of which eight, or 47%, are currently rented.  Typically, only two residents ever seem to be onsite at the same time.  She tries to have a sense of community across the rentals and tenants have ranged from furries to members of the BDSM community. 

          Lindal doesn’t make a profit on her investment and would settle for breaking even. She says her losses are covered by the entertainment portion of her RL budget. 

          We go to one of the available units and I see an impressive ocean views from floor to ceiling windows. The rooms are large and are unfurnished.  Many amenities come with a rental (a lot more than I have in my Linden Home) and the cost is a bit less than a Linden Home.  Lindal’s blog has a detailed list of features and prices.  Her property is well worth considering for any resident thinking of getting a stake inworld or upgrading from what they have now.  (No, I don’t get a commission or any other form of remuneration!  As always, I look for places and services that I feel are worthwhile for my readers.)  Lindal says this is a typical path for many property owning residents in SL.  They begin with a Linden Home, move up to a place like hers, and, finally, buy a parcel of land and either build or buy a house of their own.  Hmm, I wonder if I’ll go down that path? 

          My last question for Lindal is does she believe that The Great Recession of 2008 has had an impact on real estate in SL?  She says that she’s been thinking about to answer that question as she prepared for this interview. 

          Lindal believes that there are two schools of thought here.  The first is that people have less money and therefore spend less of it on SL.  The second is simply the reverse that people want entertainment and escape in bad times so they spend more money in SL.  (Not as crazy as it sounds, during the Great Depression many people went to the movies.)  She did research on the Web looking at blogs, forums, posts, and economic articles.  Lindal came away with nobody knows. 

          Lindal does believe though that the Great Recession is less of a factor on SL’s fortune than other things such as LL’s business decisions.  She also cites SL’s age (getting close to ten years) and the normal growth curve for new things.  She feels it’s leveling out these days as SL matures. Which for me means that the inflection curve can’t be too far behind. 

          I cheat and ask another question.  I ask Lindal what she thinks of SL’s future.  She answers that SL will be around for quite some time yet until someone else develops a very superior form of virtual world. She doesn’t think SL will grow but will either remain static or shrink slowly.  (Those big, open sims may get even lonelier.) 

          Lindal says that SL appeals to a certain type of person and they are not a large segment of the RL population.  She supports her contention by saying that it takes a lot of effort to learn and use SL with “fluency”.  Lindal ends by saying that we can recapture our youth inworld and that is very appealing. 

          Our appointed time draws to a close and I take my leave.  I thank Lindal for her time and depart. 

          Thinking back on Lindal’s and my conversation as I write this story, I can’t help but feel that SL’s economy leaves a lot to be desired.  It’s is neither open market nor is it a command economy.  It reminds me more of a banana’s republic’s from some cheap nineteenth century comic opera.  As Lindal said, SL can be around for a long time.  The question is will LL permit the type of open economy that will permit it to thrive and grow.

As always, I’m grateful to all for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.

Below are a few pictures of some of the communities I’ve visited inworld, which at the time seemed a little humorous.  I hope you find them that way too! 

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at webspelunker@gmail.com . 

     If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.

Photo No. 1 Lindal Kidd

Photo No. 2 Masocado Resort


Saturday, August 11, 2012

STEAM 7: Back Among the Steampunks


If some animals are good at hunting and others are suitable for hunting, then the Gods must clearly smile on hunting.

Aristotle


Recently, after my attempt at humor inworld, one of my oldest friends in Second Life (SL), Perryn Peterson  (That’s in terms of how long I’ve known him and not how old he is!) reminded me that the semi-annual STEAM: The Hunt was coming up.  This would be STEAM 7. (STEAM is an acronym which stands for “Steampunk Travelers’ Event, Adventure & Megahunt”)  

          I had to admit time has escaped me since I’d last written about a Hunt. That had been in last September.  Real Life (RL) technical and health issues had kept me away from STEAM 6 in March and I didn’t want to miss this chance to catch up with events.

          I meet Perryn at the recently renovated Laughing Gryphon House in Mieville Doyle Victorian Steampunk sim which is also the starting point for the Hunts.  We settle in the comfortable armchairs in an atmosphere comparable to a nineteenth century London gentlemen’s club (I’ll explain some other time how I happen to know what one of those looks like.) and begin our interview about STEAM 7. 

          Perryn has been running Hunts for over three years now and reminisces about how fast time has flown. 

          STEAM 7 will run from September 1st to 30th as the autumn one typically does.  As usual the Hunt has a subtheme to main steampunk one.  This time it’s “Time & Space” honoring H. G. Wells.  Participating merchants will try to incorporate this concept into their gifts to the hunters.    

          Speaking of the merchants, Perryn estimates that there will be about one hundred and forty for STEAM 7 including some hunters like Glorf Bulmer who are now merchants themselves.  Several dozen merchants are new to the Hunt which Perryn believes is a real plus to the increasing popularity of the Hunts.  Unlike when he first started the Hunts and had to “scour the bushes” looking for merchants to participate, he now has to “beat them off with a stick”!  Sounds like things are looking good in world. 

          From the Laughing Gryphon the hunters will first visit the shops of two other Hunt organizers, JoseDiego Silverspar and Wyvern Dryke.   

          Other participating merchants include Mayah Parx of Epic Toy, Janeel Kharg of Ankh Morpork, Noddigton Schmooz, Moggio Morigi, Albus Weka, Villain Baroque and Lexx Bondar.   

Lexx Bondar will be participating in her third Hunt.  (STEAM 5 and STEAM 6 were her earlier forays.)  In the past she has contributed gifts such as a steampunk jetpack and a single seat airship. While Lexx hasn’t made up her mind as to her gift for STEAM 7, she’s leaning towards either a steampunk submersible or a steam powered rocket ship.  Sounds like fun either way!  Lexx enjoys making gifts that hunters will continue to reuse and enjoy.  She sees her sales and traffic go up with each Hunt and feels Hunts are a win-win for everyone. 

Villain Baroque has been participating in the Hunts since STEAM 2 and it is his favorite hunt inworld.  H. G. Wells happens to be one of his favorite writers and will be preparing a special gift based on the “Time & Space” theme.  It’ll be a "Wells Musical Timemachine".   A Steampunk Musicplayer that walks the listener  through the decades from 1860 to 2012 by playing a song of this time, a song somehow related to "Time" like "Beatles - Yesterday" for the 60’s or "Bill Haley - Rock Around the Clock" for the 50’s.  Sounds like another winner!

          Perryn also talks about the sense of community that is built among the hunters who comment on how wonderful the group is, how they’ve made friends, and how friendly and helpful everyone is. 

          Then there’s the business aspect of the Hunts.  Perryn says the merchants are seeing increased traffic and purchases.  Group membership also sees increases after the Hunts. 

          Perryn highlights the poster for STEAM 7 which was done by a new artist, Tattoo Lane. 

          At the risk of editorializing (Why not? It’s my blog after all!), I must say the STEAM: The Hunts are fun events well worth the time.  I’ve met hunters who have do the entire stretch and others who do parts.  All have enjoyed themselves and plan to come back in the future.  I’ll be in and out over the course of the month.  (Perryn, sorry if that keeps some away!) 

          See you there!

          I thank Perryn for his time and assistance and take my leave looking forward to visiting with the hunters and merchants in the Hunt next month.  I would also like to thank Lexx Bondar and Villain Baroque for taking the time to reply to my queries. 

As always, I’m grateful to all for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.

Below are a few pictures of some of the communities I’ve visited inworld, which at the time seemed a little humorous.  I hope you find them that way too! 

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at webspelunker@gmail.com . 

     If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.


Photo No. 2 Perryn Peterson


Photo No. 4 Refurbished Main Room


Friday, August 3, 2012

Humor in Second Life


Humor is reason gone mad.

Groucho Marx

           

After I wrote my last story speculating about whether or not Second Life (SL) could ever be considered a civilization, a friend dropped a note saying I’d gotten awfully serious all of a sudden. She had missed my humor.  (Some of my readers are really loyal!)   

This got me thinking about humor and SL and about the inherent humor contained in SL.  (Don’t worry, this is not going to be a very serious story.  Or, at least I don’t intend it to be.)

Think about this.  About forty years ago, Allen Funt of Candid Camera fame, directed a film called What Do You Say to a Naked Lady? which recorded people’s reactions to encountering a naked woman in unexpected, everyday situations.  It was a little controversial (guess why?) and became something of a cult classic.  Now, flash forward forty or so years to SL and guess what?  One can bump into naked women, not to mention men and assorted other creatures, all over the grid.  Is this any less funny than Funt’s opus?  If a movie can be funny then what about an entire virtual world?

How about a few other examples of humor in SL? 

Let’s start with a few of my past stories. (It’s my blog, I can plug my own stories!)  Remember Sex in SL?  I wrote about the use of birth control and Viagra inworld.  People loved it and thought it was hilarious.  All I did was call out what was already there.  (Alright, maybe I did a little digging but you get the idea.)  Then there was my Interview with a Mad Scientist.  (I’d like to see 60 Minutes top that one.)  Or, how about Live in a Box?   Only in SL could that one be funny. 

How about some of the avatars that residents present themselves as inworld?  Vampires, nekos, and furries to name but a few.  I mean no disrespect here because I have friends in all categories, but I have to admit I’m amused by the variety of personal representations chosen inworld.  And, let’s not forget some of the lavish costumes worn by some of the more conventional avatars. 

Here’s a controversial recommendation. What about griefing?  Yes, I know it’s bad behavior, unethical, and illegal in a few cases.  But, you have to admit there’s something funny about the sky over a too serious news conference being filled with flying phalluses

Finally, if all of this is just too New Age for you, SL has a traditional comedy clubs just like Real Life (RL).  Kickstand\’s Comedy Club has scheduled comics, open mic nights, and has comedy films every day.  There’s something for everyone!  

Alright, some may say that these are just examples and they may be humorous by themselves but they don’t make SL any more of a humorous place than RL.  (I have an opinion about RL and humor but I’ll save it for another time and place.) 

Let’s just stop and think about that for a minute. We’re talking about a place where grown-up’s (calendar-wise if not mentally) go around playing dress-up as virtual avatars.  They have fictional back stories and get into all sorts of situations.  Just look at me and some of the situations I got myself into!  There has to be humor in all of this, right?  If there isn’t then I obviously don’t know humor when I see it. (Don’t say it!) 

In closing, I submit SL is a humorous place.  A very humorous place.  Why?  Well, at least for me, SL makes me happy (Don’t worry, I have a perfectly well adjusted RL too.  Significant Other insists on it.), and I’ve been known to smile and laugh while inworld. That has to be humor.  Let me put it another way.  Who goes into SL to be unhappy? 
           
As always, I’m grateful to all for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives. And, for all the humor that they with me and others! 

Below are a few pictures of some of the communities I’ve visited inworld, which at the time seemed a little humorous.  I hope you find them that way too! 

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at webspelunker@gmail.com

     If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.