Editorial: Seeking Comfortable Places in an Uncertain World (Like Second Life)

Image by iha31 from Pixabay

Oatmeal is my comfort food. A bowl of hot oatmeal, with brown sugar and cinnamon, makes me feel warm and comfortable. (I just had some this morning, as a matter of fact. I am rediscovering all kinds of tastes cooking and baking for myself, staying home and flattening the pandemic curve as we Canadians are being asked to do by our federal, provincial, and local governments.)

Longtime followers of my blog know that my blogging journey has taken quite a few twists and turns over the years. You might have noticed that I have slowed down my formerly blistering pace of blogging a fair bit.

I think it’s normal to have a sort of ebb and flow over time—periods where you write four or five or even six posts a day (I think my personal daily record was eight), and other times when the ideas for new blogposts don’t come quite so freely. Sometimes, you just need some time to sit back, let the ideas percolate a bit, and wait for inspiration to strike. All creative people know this process well.

And you might also have noticed that I am covering Second Life a lot lately. I mean, I am covering Second Life quite a bit more often than Sinespace lately, and I am getting paid to cover Sinespace! So why is that?, I ask myself.

I think one of the reasons that I keep coming back to Second Life, time and again, is that (much like oatmeal), I associate it with comfort. And I find myself seeking out comfortable places more than usual lately, places where I know the territory intimately, know my way around, and where I feel some (weird) sense of normalcy in this atypical, unprecedented time of coronavirus pandemic, when everything in the real world seems out-of-balance and precarious. At a time when gathering in crowds is potentially dangerous in the real world, many people are gathering in virtual worlds like Second Life. I find places like FogBound Blues, Frank’s Jazz Club, and Muddy’s Music Café are more popular than ever.

For example, yesterday evening, I spent a very companionable evening in my favourite SL watering hole, the Pino 1971 bar, where I chatted amiably with the customers and the dancers for several hours while the (virtual) rain poured down in the alley outside, and the (real) rain came down outside my window. I could put aside my worries and concerns about the pandemic and just have some enjoyable, wide-ranging conversations.

I made a new friend, a cigar-smoking, snappily-dressed anthropomorphic wolf in a fedora and a three-piece suit, and we chatted about where he got his absolutely awesome avatar (JOMO) and why, ironically, he didn’t feel a part of the sizeable furry community in Second Life. (I wish I had thought to take his picture. He looked magnificent. I really appreciate those people who put time and energy into their avatar appearance.)

Every so often, a certain favourite dancer he liked would pull out her fans on the red crushed velvet stage, and he would saunter over and enjoy the show, leaving a good tip of Linden dollars to show his appreciation. Then he would come back to where I was sitting, on the sofa near the neon jukebox, to continue our conversation. (It sure beat the hell out of your average text chat with emojis in Discord or on the Second Life community forums.)

I’ve noticed a definite uptick in Second Life traffic on my blog over the past three weeks, and Linden Lab has also reported an increase in both new and returning users to SL. Perhaps others, too, are looking for a place of solace, refuge and escape—a place of comfort in an uncertain, perilous world?

Image courtesy of 1920s Berlin landlady Jo Yardley (source)

P.S. Expect more coverage of other virtual worlds and social VR platforms in the next week, including Sinespace and Decentraland. Don’t worry; I haven’t forgotten you!

Fantasy Faire in Second Life Runs from April 23rd to May 10th, 2020

Celebrating its twelfth year, Fantasy Faire 2020 is the largest gathering of fantasy designers, enthusiasts, role-players and performers in Second Life, and a major in-world fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

So I decided to dress up Vanity Fair in full-blown fairy godmother mode, and go explore the 18 beautifully-decorated sims!

There are 13 shopping regions, with a wide variety of merchandise, some exclusive to the Faire, plus dance and theatre performances, DJ parties, auctions, questing, a Literary Festival, fantasy art, events and role-playing, as thousands of Second Life residents and creators bring their own visions together to help support the American Cancer Society’s vision of a world without cancer.

Fantasy Faire is the perfect time to pick up that winged horse you always wanted!

Fantasy Faire’s extremely talented sim designers do such an amazing job each year. Here are just a few pictures I took in my travels:

If you’ve never been to Second Life before, Fantasy Faire is your perfect starting point! Why not come and join in the magic today? Here’s how to get started for free.

I’ll grant you three wishes!

Vanity Fair is wearing:

Gown and Wings: the Fairy Godmother gown set in dreamy blue by Silvan Moon Designs

Hair Roses: Light blue roses tiara (part of the Ninde gown set, a 14,000 members group gift from PurpleMoon Creations, a store which has since closed down after ten years operating on the grid, but still has a few items up on the SL Marketplace)

Jewelry: Antigone silver and ice earrings and necklace (a long-ago free gift from Kouse’s Sanctum, another store which has closed, but still has a few older items on the SL Marketplace)

Magic Wand: a free hunt prize from a long-ago hunt, I forget where I got this!

Shoes (not seen): Betty ballet flats by Damien Fate on the SL Marketplace

Hair: Meadow hair by Magika Hair

Animation Override: This is a gown AO by Kamilah Hauptmann selling for L$1,000 on the SL Marketplace, which has settings for various sizes and styles of full-skirted ballgowns. I bought this years and years ago and it has certainly served me well, but if I were starting out from scratch, I would purchase the Southern Belle & Woman in Ballgown Bento AO from Tuty instead, as it is only L$650 and has more natural upper body animations.

Particle Effects: Mystic Shower Sparkles in white from FallnAngel Creations (a free hunt prize from their amazing semiannual hunts; this store has since left the grid)

Face and Body Lights: Sometimes you just need a good, strong set of face and body lights to show off a look you’re proud of! This high-wattage version was a freebie from House of Heart, a hair store that has long since left the grid.

Vanity Fair is also wearing:

  • the Kimberly Catwa Bento mesh head
  • the Maitreya Lara mesh body
  • Daria skin by The Skinnery
  • and Realistic eyes in strong green by Miriel.

See you at Fantasy Faire!

A Few Housekeeping Changes, and a Return to My Original Focus

Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash

I have decided that, effective immediately, I will no longer be using this blog as my pandemic diary. While the experiment over the past three weeks has proved interesting, and some people have commented that they liked to see some aspects of the real life of the blogger behind the blog, I also realize that they detract from the main purpose of this blog which is, as the tagline states, “news and views on social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse”.

I will also refrain from writing about the coronavirus pandemic in general, unless it also has something to do with my main focus: social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse.

I will also be taking a few days off from this blog, because I need to take a break.

Question for My Second Life Readers: Where Are All the LGBTQ Meeting Places in Second Life?

Second Life has seen a resurgence of returning users in recent months, as a result of the imposition of social distancing policies, lockdowns, and quarantines in the face of the ongoing public health crisis that is the coronavirus pandemic.

I recently received an inquiry from someone returning to Second Life after an absence, who asked me:

You seem nice and knowledgeable here: I have been on SL 15 years ago or so, and would now like to return and find gay places, ideally catering to bears and chubs. But that’s not a mandatory at all.

I just wondered whether you know a place that’s a little busy – all places I went to were deserted.

Thank you so very much in advance!

Now, this is a puzzler for me. When I first set foot into SL fourteen years ago, I used to frequent any number of gay bars, fun places that were packed full of avatars. Over time, many of those places had closed down.

When I replied that there used to be a couple of spots for bears (i.e. chubby or overweight gay men, usually but not always bearded and/or hairy, hence the name “bears”), but that they had long since shut down, he replied:

Thank you very very much, you’re my star – not easy finding one’s way here nowadays with so many places deserted!

Are there any other places where simply a lot of gay guys go, also non-bears?

Any help is greatly appreciated!

So, I thought I would broaden the question to include spaces welcoming to all LGBTQ folks in Second Life, and throw the question out to you, my faithful readers:

Where are the places in Second Life where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people can gather and meet each other? Please note that I am not talking about the places where you go to have hookups or sex (God knows, those are easy enough to find!).

I will compile all the responses received as updates to this blogpost, and I will keep this blogpost updated as new information comes in about community spots, since they tend to change over time.

Please feel free to submit a comment. Thanks in advance for your help!