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!