I’m always on the lookout for what’s new. What’s new out there? In there? Beyond here and there? And so it was that on one gloomy winter day in February 2008, as I was skimming through a trade journal to catch up on new methods in my professional field (instructional design), I came across this blurb for an article in
The e-Learning Guild‘s Learning Solutions e-Magazine:
Give Your e-Learning Some (Second) Life: Simulation Made Easy
By Bill Brandon
Second Life offers a flexible, low-cost environment for building simulations, and it presents few, if any, barriers to entry. This week, read about the real Second Life and its potential for many different approaches to learning, from a current part-time in-world resident.
Being a lover of both graphics and words, it caught my imagination: corporations training employees in what looked like a fun, colorful environment! And one that requires no travel! Despite my inability then to grasp the notion of a virtual world like Second Life, and setting aside my fear of those strange concantenation of letters, numbers, and symbols they called SLURLs, I had to find out more!
I couldn’t believe my eyes! Had I been under a rock the past four-plus years? I mean, I’m one of those who waited in line to get the very first of The Sims games!
So, with my usual “relaxed pace,” I RUSHED into Second Life. I had to see what I thought was a 3D version of The Sims.
I barely remember SL’s Orientation Island. I don’t think I even landed on Help Island! I just chose an avatar style (cybergoth–see photo above–because I still thought this was a game), and headed out to find all of these new-media corporate training sites.
Wham!! If you’ve already joined Second Life, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, well, try to imagine your first day as a new-born in First Life. Sorta overwhelming, believe me!
I soon discovered SL is not a game; it’s a whole new universe with as much variety and as many mysteries as First Life. (Some people call their earth-based physical-world existence “Real Life”; I prefer “First Life,” because which one is more real?? Hard to say!)
So, I plunged into SL not knowing what the heck I was doing or where to go. (That SLURL concept became even more unfathomable once I got “inworld”!)
Fortunately, because I’m a ‘Net nerd, I found this wonderful blog that offered a beginner’s guide to SL. I’ll always be grateful to Natalia Zeminov’s The Mermaid Diaries, and I always urge my friends to go there before they go into SL.
Following Natalia’s suggestions, I checked out some newbie-friendly places and learned the basics of functioning inworld. And that’s how I found out SL was vastly greater than a fancy web-conferencing site! And how I discovered there was a pretty cool writing community in SL.
Within four days of entry I:
- Had totally abandoned my search for training venues in SL (and never did make it to that SLURL from the e-learning pub)
- Had abandoned my cybergoth avatar for one that looked more like a human — but was skinnier, younger, and cuter than my First Life self
- Was exploring three land parcels that supported writers
- Had met another avatar who would become a great friend and partner in the Story Mountain Center for Writers we’d eventually build
And then I began to realize the prophetic nature of the name I picked for my avatar. Because you have to create a name before you step foot inside of SL, I had no concept of its importance — it’s as impactful and long-lasting as the name you got at First Life birth.
I was in an impulsive mood when I joined SL, so I rapidly scrolled through the list of last names provided by Linden Lab (creator of Second Life) until I was at the Z’s. Now, you have to choose one from their list, so being in a hurry, I scanned the Z names on my screen, thought Zerbino was fine, and clicked to choose it.
Then I learned I had to create my own first name. It could be anything, I was told. Well, I sure didn’t want to waste more time outside of SL, so I thought to myself, How about A to Z–just think of a name beginning with A. And the first word that came to mind was Alas, as in “alas, the day is done”–not as in “Alice. ”
I typed in “Alas,” clicked the button to give birth to Alas Zerbino, and embarked on journey of discovery that won’t end until I’ve found all the writer-related stuff in Second Life–from A to Z.