I first entered Second Life on Wednesday, June 21, 2006. Some college friends and I had met up the weekend prior and we had remarked to each other that there needed to be a better way for us to get together more often. Somehow the subject of meeting in a virtual world came up. After doing some searching, Second Life was mentioned as a possibility. It had recently stopped requiring credit cards for basic membership, so it seemed worth checking out. Little did I know what was going to happen to me.
addicted from the first log-in
I bought some land last night. Or at least I think I did. Last night I found myself handing someone about $1.60 for a piece of virtual space in a computer program run on someone’s network. I have just become a resident of Second Life.
My name is Niko Donburi. I reside at Tyta 248,116 in the Second Life. I am a virtual personality. This is my blog.
Yeah, that’s Niko Donburi 1.0. Back then custom skins didn’t exist and prim hair was but a rumor. My how things have changed over the years. Now I can get a photo realistic skin, hair so real it the strands will blow in the wind and a new body shape for just a couple of dollars worth of Lindens.
But I’m not posting this to talk about how my avatar has changed appearances over the years. I’ll probably get to that sometime in the future, but right now I want to talk about land. Or rather, the lack thereof. You see, I held onto that little piece of 512m2 in Tyta for years, finally getting rid of it in 2010 when I decided to let my premium subscription lapse and my account turn into a basic, not-land-ownable account. I had become a freebee. One of the reasons that I did this was because I was able to use another parcel of land, Koryo, as my music studio. Over the years I would terraform it from on open, flower covered field with virtual wildlife to a lighthouse, a castle and most recently an overgrown glass observatory nestled in between virtual trees in a rolling estate. It was my home, the place I always started from.
When I logged in this time, however, I found myself facing an empty, abandoned green plain. My home was gone, returned to the “lost and found” folder of my inventory. Not only my property and belongings, but all of the surrounding property was also barren void of trees and bushes. No more virtual flowers or sakura blossoms blowing through the virtual breeze. Just a bumpy lawn where sculpted gardens once surrounded a medieval castle in the background, the land painstakingly terraformed to provide a beautiful scenic landscape. The setting for my first machinima. It was gone, all gone, and I had no idea as to where it might have gone or when it left.
I right clicked on the parcel to find out if it had been sold but only learned that it had been abandoned and was no longer available for purchase. The owner of the land, Elwood Abernathy*, one of my longest and closest friends in Second Life, had evidently shut his estate down and left the virtual world. I was shocked, to say the least. Elwood and I had met each other in person at the 2007 Second Life Community Convention in Chicago, and of all of my virtual friends he was the one my wife enjoyed meeting the most. He had been a fan of mine from the very beginning and was kind enough to let me squat on part of his land without pay. I knew that Elwood had spent and made literally thousands of dollars in Second Life over the years in his role as a virtual landlord, handling parcel rentals for residents who wanted their own piece of virtual property but didn’t want to purchase it. I had often asked him why he bothered, he said he felt a sense of obligation to help his fellow residents.
I scanned through the hundreds of names on my friends list and shot him a quick IM, hoping that he was either logged in or would get my message via instant message. There was no response. I checked through my bookmarks and found his blog, and from it learned that he had thrown in the towel:
Well I am back without the tier cost. There are probably many renters upset with me, but hey, I gave what I could for 6 years with low tier costs for new residents and old residents alike. I never intended to make a profit, and I didn’t, I just wanted to have fun and meet people. But one too many complaints, from a resident who should know better, because she is not a noob, telling me the sim performance was unacceptable and I had better do something about it etc. etc. etc. She was paying 1 linden a prim on the mainland. Let her rent an island for 4 linden a prim? One too many contacts with concierge chat only to be told to file a ticket, and I had enough. So there is Dee Linden recovering three sims of land, all abandoned now, with 50 % of the land all around on the continent abandoned, as far as I can tell. The stats I read say 11% of the mainland is for sale, but just fly around and check to see all of the abandoned mainland it is way more than 11 %. If the lindens don’t care, neither do I. So I am back without the tier, participating in second life with a free account, like I should have done all these six years and having a GREAT TIME. I haven’t spent one linden in this game since Thanksgiving.
Logging in and finding my home gone after six years was, to put it mildly, a bit disconcerting. But it was nothing compared to the shock I was to get a few hours later.
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* Yes, for those that might be wondering this is the same Elwood I sing about in The SL man (a parody of “The Piano Man” by Billy Joel):
Now Elwood, he’s a friend of mine
we met at SLCC
He’s logged in every night but he say’s it’s alright
’cause it’s better than watching TV
He knows Second Life can be an addiction
one that’s not easy to face
since you don’t leave your house
and a click of your mouse
logs you right back into this place.
La, la, la, de de da
la la, de de da da da
Sing us a song you’re the SL man
Sing us a song tonite
We’re all in the mood for a melody
just make it about Second Life