I just logged into Second Life before writing this to check on my avatar, Omega. He was where I left him, sitting at the bottom of the ocean off the coast of the digital landmass called Caledon. He stood up expectantly when I checked in; it’s been a while. About 20 days my time. I’m not interested in doing anything – I’m busy writing at the moment, so really it was just to check Omega was still there and nothing interesting was happening on the sea bed. He was, and it wasn’t. I told him to sit back down, then I logged off.
I signed up for Second Life a couple of months ago, just to have a look around. I was stress-bored at the time; too busy, not sure which overdue task to complete next, distracted and therefore procrastinating with dedication at my desk. I wanted a computer game, but a cerebral one. Cerebral because I’m not a high-speed game-jockey. My mind is slow and my body aches; I prefer to take my time. I knew about Second Life. For a moment there, it sounded like an interesting proposition. Takeo, my friend, makes art in Second Life and writes about it in his first. I thought I’d take a look.
I knew I wasn’t going to do much because Second Life isn’t free. I can’t manage money in this life so there was no way I was going to do anything exciting in another one, if it comes at a price. Pity, we build the technology to create a second life, you think we’d make it utopian. No financial worries. Maybe that's third life. Or maybe Nirvana also runs on the dollar.
Anyway, there I was, proud controller of avatar Omega. I enrolled him in a college to learn all about how to live a second life. Of course we had to do it together. I learned to walk, run, jump, sit down. Turn around. New members seemed to be popping into existence all around me. This was some kind of digital birthing clinic, the avatar maternity ward. I couldn't concentrate so I found a dead-end alleyway and went down there to focus on fixing the appearance of avatar Omega. I’ll admit, he portrays a slightly better physical condition than I do in first life. And I said I wasn't going to do that.
Once I’d got my bald head sorted, my tan the right shade and my skintight lycra pants and shirt stretched over my pixelform, I ventured back out into the academy where I was learning basic motor skills. (Already avatar Omega and I are interchangeable – this is powerful stuff). An avatar called Lisa Calamity said hello. I know her name because it was floating over her head in yellow text. I assume she is a woman because she was wearing women's clothes. Is that naive? I know she said hello because it came up in an instant message box.
Pity, we build the technology to create a second life, you think we’d make it utopian. No financial worries. Maybe that's third life. Or maybe Nirvana also runs on the dollar.
We exchanged first impressions – it was a bit strange, we should probably be getting back to work, we’d both been in existence the same amount of time – about 10 minutes. She wandered off to look at some information, and I was reading about how to separate the camera from the head of avatar Omega in order to get a wider view of things. The place was like a freshers fair. It was called Oxbridge College and there was a distinct air of the varsity about it. Display tables and posters told you how to pick things up, and collect useful things that you might need later.
The next time I saw Lisa Calamity, she was levitating in the distance. I tried out the teleport device and shunted myself into a garden on the outside of the hall. When I came back in, I tried the flying lesson. So that’s how she did it.
After half an hour of this I was getting bored. Lisa had fallen into a trance, it seemed, just standing there, hands hanging limply, head bowed. When I got closer to her, a message appeared advising me that Lisa Calamity was changing her appearance. I thought I ought to avert my eyes. But then again…
I gave up waiting for Lisa who was obviously deeply involved in some wardrobe situation. First life was pressing me into action, and I needed to think about what to do with my avatar. I came across a couple of others who had been abandoned, looking much the way Lisa did but with messages like ‘Digby Landsratter is logged out.’ What a way to leave your avatar. So vulnerable to some digital abuse.
I couldn't just exit and leave Omega in no-avatars’-land. Fortunately I found some free accommodation in Oxbridge College Halls of Residence; a sofa, nice rug, and a cracking fire in the hearth. As long as the door was open, it was yours to use. It had gotten dark outside so I settled down for the night, slightly disturbed that there was no lock on the door. I logged out. It was Friday afternoon in the real world.
Perhaps, while I was gone, avatar Omega would be mugged, or invaded by dirty squatters. I didn’t want gatecrashers at my party of one. Perhaps like a naughty teenager he would throw his own party in the absence of his god-like master, things would get out of hand, pixels would get broken.
By Sunday the whole thing was bothering me. Avatar Omega, just sat there, staring at the fire, or worse, the floor, with nothing to do. Had I created a pet that needed constant attention? Did I have the time to give Omega a fulfilling second life, or crucially, the inclination to tend his needs? Whose second life was it anyway, mine or my avatars? And that business with no lock on the door. It was beginning to become an issue. Perhaps, while I was gone, avatar Omega would be mugged, or invaded by dirty squatters. I didn’t want gatecrashers at my party of one. Perhaps like a naughty teenager he would throw his own party in the absence of his god-like master, things would get out of hand, pixels would get broken.
I logged back in. No parties, and no damage, so far as I could tell. I didn’t want to stay, and I didn’t want the worry, so I decided to delete avatar Omega. Could I find a delete button? A menu item to call time on Omega? A sort of Quit, But Forever option?
And could I do that anyway, even if the option presented itself?
For my peace of mind, Omega lives at the bottom of the ocean. He sits. I hope, when I’m not there, things scuttle and swim past to keep him amused. In any case, it keeps him off my mind. I don’t have room for Second Life, and I regret the creation of Omega. So I just log in occasionally, make sure he is still there, untroubled, and log out. It seems a waste of binary code, but I can’t Undo.
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