The Unofficial Tourists' Guide to Second Life

The Unofficial Tourists' Guide to Second Life

by Paul Carr, Graham Pond


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Imagine an enormous, breathtaking virtual world to explore, where land can be bought for less than a dollar and new construction is limited only by your imagination. An online tourist destination where you can shop for virtual designer clothes in a shopping mall atop a live volcano, teleport to an underwater gig by U2, before taking a new friend back to your personal spaceship for virtual coffee or...well, you get the idea.

The Unofficial Tourists' Guide to Second Life is a fast, fun guidebook that introduces first-time visitors to the endless wonders offered by this exciting and rapidly developing online world. All of Second Life is here, including:

  • The Essentials. What to wear and how to behave.
  • The People. Finding likeminded souls—or soulmates.
  • The Major Destinations. Must-see tourist hotspots, shops, and shows.
  • Shopping and Nightlife. A guide to the lively virtual shopping scene, and all manner of debauchery.
  • For Entrepreneurs. How to buy land or start a Second Life business.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780752226460
Publisher: Gardners Books
Publication date: 04/20/2007

About the Author

Paul Carr is co-founder of the cross-media publishing house The Friday Project, and founding editor of the award-winning satirical "comment sheet," The Friday Thing ( He regularly speaks about new media at events around the world, and is the author of eleven books.

Graham Pond is a journalist, editor of various online newsletters, and editor-in-chief of He has lived in various European cities but has now settled in London where, like his avatar in Second Life, he can often be found lounging around in an Elvis wig and a skirt.

Read an Excerpt


In the Beginning ...

So, what exactly is Second Life?

In a nutshell, Second Life is a virtual world created by computer programmers; a world that you can enter and explore like any other tourist destination, just by logging on via the Internet. Using your keyboard and mouse, you control a graphical representation of yourself on-screen; essentially, it's the natural consequence of those virtual-reality headsets you may have seen on Tomorrow's World all those years ago. Now, however, you don't need a headset. All you need is a computer and a broadband Internet connection. Then, if your First Life is not proving particularly satisfactory, to hell with it - you need never leave the house again.

Second Life is an online version of the known world, then, which attempts to replicate many of the basic elements of your First Life which shall subsequently be referred to as 'Real Life'. Just as in Real Life, Second Life boasts a large and rapidly expanding population, as new users from around the world log on, interact with each other in the virtual space, and, crucially, create new virtual content themselves. Just as in Real Life, Second Life features men and women, land andsky, day and night, flowers and trees. You can build houses and shops, you can work or play, you can make, save, or spend money, you can hang around in bars, watch bands, go on dates, stay at home, read a book, sit, stand, walk, dance, swim, fly, teleport, buy sex organs ... Ah. Yes, as well as the similarities, there are an awful lot of differences. And just as in Real Life, there is an endless list of activities and opportunities to fill the time between birth and death. Oh, except that in Second Life, death doesn't exist. Or at least not in any significant or lasting way. But more on that later.

Second Life is also like Real Life in one key respect: if you want your life to be worthwhile and interesting, you have to put in a little effort.

Where did the idea come from?

Like many other virtual worlds or massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), Second Life owes much of its existence to the imagination of Neal Stephenson, specifically his 1992 science-fiction novel Snow Crash. In this novel, he created an online 'metaphysical universe' called the Metaverse, in which human beings, represented by 'avatars' (a word borrowed from Sanskrit and popularized by Stephenson), could communicate and interact, for business or for pleasure. The fact that Stephenson envisaged this Metaverse even before Web browsers entered the public consciousness is also worth mentioning.

Second Life is not the only virtual world to take its lead from Snow Crash – there are also Active Worlds, There, Dotsoul, and many others. However, Second Life is currently proving by far the most popular, both with ordinary users and, more importantly, with companies wishing to exploit that popularity.

In Snow Crash, the Metaverse is a giant black sphere which has a circumference over 1.6 times that of the Earth. Second Life, at the time of writing, is not quite that large. But it's getting there.

Philip Rosedale, CEO of the company responsible for Second Life, also recognizes the novel's influence: 'Snow Crash has the closest practical resemblance to Second Life as it exists now: a parallel, immersive world which simulates an alternate universe, which thousands of people inhabit simultaneously for communication, play, and work, at various levels and variations of role-playing with their avatars.'

In July 2002, the journalist Wagner James (who, after changing his name to Wagner James Au, went on to become the 'official' reporter of events within Second Life) wrote an article about MMORPGs, posing the question: where are the games that are not solely about killing orcs and trolls or stormtroopers? It seemed that online games would never be able to reach a mass market unless they could appeal to more than bespectacled podgy white boys who were more at home in a medieval forest or a far-flung planet on some imaginary arm of the galaxy than in the real world. Online gaming was all about killing things. It was all battleaxe or laser. Where was the online world that - well, that was slightly more realistic?

Enter Second Life.

Who created Second Life?

Second Life was created and developed by Linden Lab, a San Francisco-based company founded by Philip Rosedale and originally based in Linden Street, from which the name is derived. The story goes that the idea came to Rosedale in the shower. He envisaged a vast virtual landscape distributed across many servers, which people could then inhabit and build upon. Linden Lab went on to make this virtual world a reality.

So how do you play it?

You don't.

Something you must understand from the offset is that Second Life is not a game. From the very beginning, Rosedale declared that his goal with Second Life was to create a whole virtual society, with a functioning and successful economy. 'I'm not building a game,' he said. 'I'm building a new country.'

The idea of Second Life being a game is something many players - or rather, Residents - are particularly uncomfortable with. This is because, unlike gamers, Residents of Second Life have no particular quest to fulfil. There are no levels to go up and no trolls to slay; there is no Death Star to destroy and no evil to vanquish. The point of Second Life – much like Real Life – is whatever you want it to be, and everything within Second Life is inspired and created by its Residents.

All Second Life really is, is a virtual environment in which Residents can create the world in which they would like to live.


The Essentials

OK, so now that we've dealt with what Second Life is, it's almost time to hop on a plane and pay a visit. But wait! As with any potentially unstable holiday hotspot, it's wise to spend a few minutes learning a little bit about what to expect before leaving home.

In this chapter, we look at some useful advice for the first-time visitor what to wear, how to behave, how to stay safe, how money works, the world's official and unofficial news media, and all that jazz.

First Things First

To get to any new tourist destination, you'll need a ticket. In Second Life's case, this comes in the form of the Second Life software that you'll need to download and install before you can access the world. Fortunately for travellers on a budget, this software is totally free. Eat that, Prague!

To download the Second Life software, simply go to, click the big fat 'join now' link, and follow the instructions. You'll be asked to enter some details about yourself and - excitingly - you'll be invited to choose your Second Life name. On the upside, unlike in the real world, you get to pick the name you enter the world with - no more embarrassing middle names or artily misspelt first names (yes, sorry, we're talking to you, Britnee and Kevan). But on the downside, you have to choose from a list (admittedly very long) of predetermined, often ridiculous surnames, and you can't change your Second Life name later if you realize you've made a terrible mistake.

While researching this book, the authors opted for 'Montag Alacrity' and 'Sweetsweet Mincemeat'. At the time of writing the novelty hasn't yet worn off, but if you see two people with those names lying, wrists slit, under a bridge when you visit Second Life, you'll know we've changed our minds.

The second thing you do, however, says even more about who you are in Real Life and how you want to be perceived in Second Life. The second thing you do is choose your avatar. Initially you are given a choice of twelve ready-made looks, six female, six male, ranging from very ordinary (the girl or boy next door), to very glam (chic or nightclub), to rather exotic (harajuku - improvised Japanese fashion), to alternative (cybergoth), and finally, to furry (furry). Of course once you're inside, you can customize your avatar, or buy or design new parts to be grafted onto yourself at any time, so there's no end to how you can eventually appear; but for a great many Residents, the decision they make on that second Second Life page is the one they stick with throughout their Second Life life. So choose well.

Perhaps the most fundamental decision to make is whether you want to be a human or a furry. The chances are you already know. If the urge to be a furry is within you, you probably knew about it before coming to Second Life. You've probably always known.

You'll notice, when you register, that you have the option to do so as a basic user, or as a paid one. Paid (or 'Premium') users are able to own land, build property, and generally move in to Second Life on a permanent basis. As a tourist, it's best to start off with just a basic account and see how you get on. You might very well hate it.

Having entered your details, and created your account, it's time to download the software to your computer, login, and start exploring. Here we go ...

Arriving in Second Life: Orientation Island

Ever attentive to the needs of tourists, Second Life's starting point (the equivalent of Second Life International Airport) is Orientation Island. This is the place to orientate yourself within Second Life: to learn how to walk, how to fly, how to interact with others, and how to change the appearance of your virtual self (your avatar) within the world. For your first few minutes in the Second Life world (or 'in-world' as you really should call it if you want to look like a native SecondLifer) you'd be forgiven for thinking that someone has spiked your drink. You'll walk into walls, you'll fall off cliffs, you'll find yourself under water, and embarrassingly - you'll walk headlong into other 'newbies' with no idea how to apologize. Even though your Second Life self is controlled through simple keyboard and mouse commands, it still takes a bit of getting used to (the Second Life software provides lots of help on how to use various features, but in short the arrow keys move you around and the mouse is used to activate more advanced features like teleporting, and using objects).

While on Orientation Island, why not take the opportunity to change your clothes? As you'll see in the 'Shopping and Commerce' chapter, there are all sorts of clothing stores to appeal to your inner fashion victim. But even without spending a single virtual dollar you can change your basic clothing, your face, your hair - even your waistline – into something more closely resembling yourself. You can even have spare avatars for different occasions, depending on who you want to be. Montag Alacrity opted to dress a bit like the Fonz would dress if he'd woken up one day without his cool, while Sweetsweet Mincemeat, at the time of writing, is bare-chested, with a skirt and a pink ball-gag.

Then, when you've finished playing and orientating, it's time to get into Second Life proper.

Help Island

Your first stop after Orientation Island should be the equally well-named Help Island. An island designed for newbies to find out what makes Second Life tick - from further customizing your appearance, to using gestures and animations (the cute little bits of magic you can use in Second Life to make yourself dance, or fight with swords or nunchuks, or play chess, or even have really filthy sex), to building your first Second Life home. The fast-evolving nature of Second Life means that any guidebook that attempted to explain all the many possibilities for doing things in-world would be out of date before the ink was dry. However, Help Island is always bang up to date, with Linden Lab employees on hand to answer specific questions. Like any good tourist-information bureau, if you want to get the most out of your visit to Second Life, it's well worth spending some time on Help Island.

Getting Around

There are three main ways to get around in-world. The first is on foot. This is, obviously, a useful way to explore small areas and to meet and interact with your fellow Second Lifers. For people with a good head for heights, the absence of the usual laws of gravity means you can easily fly - Superman style - from place to place. Click the 'fly' button and off you go. Just be careful not to bang your head on any low ceilings. Then again, bang away - it really doesn't hurt and it can be very amusing for others.

The third way is the most useful for those Second Life tourists for whom time is in short supply. It's called teleporting and it allows you to hop directly to any point in Second Life. To teleport, simply use the map or search options in Second Life to find the place you want to visit, and click 'teleport'. Within seconds, as if by magic, you will have arrived. If you have friends in Second Life, you can invite them to teleport to your current location too. No more getting separated or lost!

As you spend more time in-world, you'll find out that there are hundreds more ways to get around, from skateboards and bikes to magic carpets and spaceships.

The Geography of Second Life

Given the ease with which you can teleport around Second Life, it might seem a bit silly to talk about there being any sort of 'geography'. One second you can be standing on the Strip of a virtual Las Vegas and the next you can be in a near-faithful representation of Baker Street underground station in London. But despite time and space being entirely messed up, Second Life can be mapped, like the real world.

The whole of Second Life, taken together, is referred to as 'the Grid', whose daily cycle mirrors Pacific Standard Time. Within the Grid there are various landmasses: three main areas (the Main Continent, the Southern Continent, and Heterocera Atoll), plus various smaller islands again, not unlike the real world (except that you need to teleport to them, rather than taking a plane or boat). Then within those landmasses, there are smaller regions and cities (often called 'sims'), and within those smaller regions there are individual places - buildings, houses, open spaces; whatever.

While many regions are a mish-mash of different types of buildings and activities, others are more coherently themed. Check out chapter four, 'Key Places to Visit', for more on the weird, wonderful, furthest-flung corners of the Second Life universe.


Before going any further into Second Life, a word about its inhabitants. We'll deal with this in more detail in the 'People' chapter, but meantime, the first thing that will strike you when you arrive in-world is the diversity of its population. As you'd expect, all creeds and colours are well represented, but don't be shocked if you suddenly encounter a ten-foot-tall robot with shoulder-mounted missiles, or a goblin, or someone dressed as Superman, or a giant devil with claws and wings. Second Life allows a huge amount of customization resulting in a physical diversity unmatched by any place on earth. Even Wales.

However, despite the diversity of appearance, English – specifically American English - remains the language for the vast majority of Second Lifers. Sure, you'll hear a smattering of French or Italian or Spanislr – or even Klingon (Geeks! In Second Life! Who'd have thunk it?) - but by and large it's the Americans and the Brits that set the language agenda. (If foreign languages aren't your forte, be sure to download the free Babelfish universal translator, for all your SL translation needs, here: The easiest way to get to know your fellow Second Lifers is to read their profile information. This is simply a case of right-mouse-clicking on their on-screen avatar and choosing the 'profile' option. If you want to make new friends yourself, then be sure to update your own profile with as much information as you're comfortable sharing.

Fitting In

One of the first things you'll notice when you start exploring Second Life is how friendly (almost) everyone is. Even the oldest inhabitants are barely toddlers in real years and so people are generally keen to get to know each other and to make friends with newbies. As a general rule, no one will object to you using the 'chat' feature to say hello when you arrive at a new place - in fact, it's the polite thing to do. Chatting is simply a case of pressing your return key and typing your words into a chat bar at the bottom of the screen. Most people will say hello back, and unless they're having a private conversation using instant messaging (IM), they'll probably be amenable to a bit of a chat. Likewise, don't be afraid to use the chat feature to ask for help if you need it.


Excerpted from "The Unofficial Tourists' Guide to Second Life"
by .
Copyright © 2007 Paul Carr and Graham Pond.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
Preface - At the Time of Writing,
Chapter One: In the Beginning ...,
Chapter Two: The Essentials,
Chapter Three: The People,
Chapter Four: Key Places to Visit,
Chapter Five: Sport, Leisure, and Games,
Chapter Six: Shopping and Commerce,
Chapter Seven: Entertainment,
Chapter Eight: Going Native,
Chapter Nine: After Dark:,
Chapter Ten: Useful Second Life Websites,
Recommended Further Reading,
Index of Topics,
Copyright Page,

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