Okay, so color me naive, but…I don’t get it.

Yesterday, I got a Second Life account.

Now, the reasons I had for getting the account probably aren’t typical. I got the account largely because I’ve heard that in Second Life, users can create their own objects and spaces, and users can use a sophisticated interactive scripting language to attach behaviors to those objects.

I’ve been involved in computer graphics professionally for decades, and I can easily hold my own with the best 2D image editors and retouchers out there. I’ve been using Photoshop professionally since version 1.0.7 and teaching it since version 2.5, and I am, if not one of the best image retouchers in the country, certainly in the top 100.

But when it comes to 3D graphics and imaging, Im completely flummoxed. I don’t know the first thing about texture mapping, or designing 3D objects, or scripting in interactive spaces (save for some dabbling with the old-style text-based MUDs and MOOs, and writing old-fashioned text adventure games back in the day). I decided to get into Second Life first because it seemed like an easy, fun way to dabble a little bit in 3D creation and scripting, and second because so many people belong to Second Life that I thought it’d be easy to find resources online about it.

Now, I haven’t got into trying to create any objects or anything yet. I did explore a little bit last night, though, and color me flummoxed. What’s the deal with Second Life? Is there something I’m missing?

I zapped around on the map, looking for things to do, and from what I have seen so far, Second Life isn’t really a full-fledged virtual environment where you can socialize, interact, and exchange goods and services. Rather, it seems upon my limited exploration to be a virtual version of some seedy Tijuana suburb, as envisioned by professional spammers-turned-casino-owner-wannabes with particularly garish senses of interior decoration. It’s easy to find strip clubs and casinos where you can buy “Linden dollars” with real dollars and then wager those Linden dollars on virtual slot machines, and they do seem to use every underhanded trick in the book (up to and including paying people in Linden dollars to go to their sites and then just sit there, as this boosts their sites’ ranking in terms of number of players active and thus makes their sites stand out on the map of the world), but other than that…

…what’s the point?

I can create a character. I can spend money, if I want, to buy hairstyles and new clothes for my avatar. I can buy vehicles to get around in the world in my shiny new clothes. I can buy entire new bodies for my avatar. And then, once I get this avatar looking how I want, then what? I walk around and look at online casinos and listen to awful hip-hop music?

And what’s with the stores selling four-foot-long cocks for my avatar?