Getting Started with Second Life

Welcome to this Second Life orientation site. On this wiki you will find a number of resources to get you started, orient you to the interface, and what Second Life (SL) is and the basics about establishing yourself and interacting in the virtual world.

So, what is Second Life? Second Life is one of the best known of a number of online virtual worlds, consisting of a flat-earth simulation of roughly 1.8 billion square meters (700 square miles), which would be about the size of Houston, Texas, if it were a physical place. First launched in 2003, SL is an example of an immersive, three-dimensional environment that supports a high level of social networking and interaction with information. The SL virtual world is entered through a free client program called the SL viewer. Individuals enter SL as avatars that can take any form the user chooses. In the SL virtual world, residents can explore environments, meet and socialize with other residents (using voice and text chat), participate in individual and group activities, and learn from designed experiences. Built into the software is a three-dimensional modeling tool, based on simple geometric shapes that allows anyone to build virtual objects. These objects can be used, in combination with a scripting language, to add functionality.

Is it a game? While virtual worlds, such as SL, with their three-dimensional landscapes and customizable avatars, seem similar to popular Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs), they do not adhere to the traditional definition of a game. Virtual worlds, like SL, are more focused on socializing, exploring, and building. As a result, there is an active educational community in SL. Over 300 colleges and universities have “builds” in SL where they teach courses and conduct research. A number of organizations, such as National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, National Institutes of Health, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and National Public Radio, along with museums, educational groups, and a host of other government agencies, stage regular events, seminars, and workshops in Second Life.

And what happens in Second Life? Live sporting events, plays, meetings, seminars, research presentations, and musical concerts are all regular occurrences in Second Life. For many people, SL is about socializing as a different you. There is no charge to create an SL account, it's free. Though you can spend money there. The Second Life economy is based on the Linden dollar (L$) as the unit of exchange (~240 Lindens = $1). Linden dollars can be used to buy, sell, rent or trade land, goods, or services.

So, who is there? Second Life demographics (as of April 2013) show that 60% of the population is 30 years or older, with the users over 44 years of age being the heaviest users on average. There is a close to even gender split among residents (57% male, 43% female), and more than 55% of the SL citizens come from outside the United States. Though Linden Lab does not make usage data public, estimates have it that there have been 36 million accounts created and the active userbase is roughly 600,000 people. According to Wikipedia, $3.6 billion dollars was spent on virtual goods over Second Life's ten-year history and more than 1 million people visit SL monthly.

And what is an avatar? You enter the virtual world of Second Life as an avatar, which is a virtual representation of you. Your avatar can be human in appearance or you can come in as an animal or a robot, or anything else you prefer. Avatars are personalized by altering shapes, size, skin, hair, and clothing. They can be enlivened with animations to simulate facial expressions, posture, and gestures.

How do I get started? Just select the "Creating Your Second Life Account" page from the left-hand navigation column and let's get going!