Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice
Second Real Life

Catie Osborn | 28 Sep 2010 12:58
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They could tell that I was a newbie because of my avatar's outfit (and mercifully omitted noticing the way I kept running into walls and people.) They offered me assistance in decking out my avatar, which I accepted with some suspicion. Why would two random strangers go out of their way to help a random player change her shirt? There had to be a catch.

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After the make-over, they gave me a tutorial of the basic editing and game play techniques, even including files to help my character walk and move more realistically. I was convinced that one was going to be a computer virus that wiped my drives, but there was nothing malicious about anything they showed me, only a fascinating glimpse into how in-depth Second Life was for the more serious player. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore and I asked why they were treating me so kindly. K looked quizzically at me (by typing /lookquizzically) and said "Why wouldn't we? We were all new once, and this is a very in-depth game. If we can help people, why not take the time?"

She then went on to tell me that in real life or RL, she lived in England and W lived in North Carolina. They were married in SL (but not RL) and then she casually explained that they were vampires and that they like to emulate their favorite characters. Or something. I stopped listening after "vampires," honestly.

Great. I'd been recruited by a vampire cult. I was nearly ready to crack a Twilight joke when the dynamic changed to something for which I was entirely unprepared.

K hastily signed off, something about a cat on a refrigerator in RL, and left W and I alone. He transported us to a small lounge and we "sat" on a small couch while I waited to see if this was going where I thought it was going. Instead, I heard a deep sigh come through my speakers. "Listen. I don't know if you're going to keep playing this regularly or not, but if you are, do you want some advice?" I /nodded.

"No matter what you do, don't get involved in the romantic stuff."

I wasn't sure what he meant, so I asked him what the hell he was talking about. There was a pause and then:

"Dude, K is in love with me. For real. I know to you this might just be a stupid game, but to people like her, this is real. I don't know how to explain it. This is where she goes to be happy, to feel loved. We met through a chat and I thought she was a pretty cool girl so we kept talking and stuff, and last year she asked me to marry her. I said yes because I didn't know what else to do."

He explained that in real life, K lived as a shut-in, isolated by both a crippling physical disability and a mental disorder that made her anxious and uncomfortable around groups of people. Her family refused to take care of her, so the only interaction she had was through the computer. Once a week, a visiting care service came to stock groceries and provide basic care needs, but K was left on her own most of the time. To her, Second Life was the place that she went to interact with friends and her virtual "family."

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