Sunday, March 23, 2008

Choices and Consequences

With rights and privileges comes the responsibility to use them sensibly and with consideration.

In SL, as I've before mentioned, you can look like anything you want. I - along with the majority of residents, I expect - rather enjoy seeing the level of creativity and originality (or, if not originality, then humor or all-round coolness) displayed by the way people choose to present themselves. I've seen walking popsicle sticks and talking dragons. It's lots of fun!

But of course, there are limitations. While there are a multitude of places where you are free to roam and mingle, the fact is that, depending on what you choose to look like, there are some places you may not belong as long as you look like that. If you choose to dress like a robot, for instance, you really don't belong in an ancient Roman-themed role-play sim, and probably oughtn't go there. If you go there anyway, you're likely to be removed. This can't fairly be termed "discrimination", since you choose what you look like in SL, and can change anytime or go somewhere else (options which aren't always available in RL). Someone's wish to build an area where everyone is exclusively medieval does not impinge on your wish to be an alien.

Being a kid in SL likewise places some limitations on where I can and should go. There are, shall we say, certain "adult-themed" places in SL where it's just plain wrong to take a child avatar. I think the vast overwhelming majority of SL residents, including kid avs, knows and has no problem with this. The remaining few - well, I have my own opinion of such people, and it's not a flattering one. In any case, not only is it just plain wrong to take a child avatar to those places, it's actually against the SL Terms of Service - something the wayward robot in the Roman sim doesn't have to worry about.

It's not always so cut-and-dried, either. There are other places where kids aren't welcome, for less-than-obvious but equally valid reasons. Perhaps it's an RP sim, perhaps not. There are some people who simply can not tolerate kid avs, and get highly (very highly) irate whenever they see one. They are just as entitled to their opinions as I am to mine.

I've explained how I came to be a kid av. I don't think I adequately explained, though, just what a surprise the whole "kid subculture" was to me. I had no clue it existed when I was looking around for my Twain-esque shape, and only found out about it by piecing together clues I found at the shops I visited. There's shops, malls, clubs, and other venues pretty much dedicated to kid avs. There are specific places kids tend to gather and hang out.

SL kids are a cagey bunch, though, and they have a right to be on edge. Certain tabloid news stories in some countries have exposed the fact that there are individuals in SL who choose kid avatars for less-than-innocent and frankly disgusting purposes. I don't think I have to worry about running into such people, and I'm pretty sure they're few and far between. The problem is, when people see a news story about kid avs being used in SL for such things, people often come to think of ALL kid avs in SL that way. It's gotten to the point where often, many (perhaps most) "normal" adult avs will simply refuse to talk to or acknowledge kid avs at best. At worst, they harass and grief us. A lot of the kids who have been here a while have counseled me against hanging out at too many "normal" adult places, for concern that I'll be ignored, griefed, or worse. It seems to me an awful, awful shame that just about anyone can be anything they want to be, and hang out anywhere they want with anyone they want with confidence - unless you choose to look like a kid, in which case you're pretty much limited to hanging out with other kids if you want to have that same feeling of safety. It just seems a bit unfair to me. Perhaps that's another one of the reasons that I stayed a kid av, after my original purpose had been fulfilled.

But I'm a very foolish person. Unless there's an obvious reason I shouldn't, I don't feel reticent about going to a place that isn't a designated kid place. I'm glad for it, too, because I met some of my closest friends by going to non-kid places. My goal is not to start trouble, though - if I'm someplace and a resident explains that my presence there is not wanted, I leave. SL is huge, and there's lots of places my presence is accepted.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

"That is not dead, which can Eternal lie..."

I figured I'd take a post and talk about one of my favorite SL hangout places. It's called the Shrine of Cthulhu, in Park sim on the southern mainland. Admittedly, it's not a kid-centric place. But, I am a big fan of H.P. Lovecraft, the author to which the Shrine is dedicated. And the owners certainly don't mind having me around.

The Shrine is owned and operated by Taliesin Morgath. He and his partner SandyZ Flores (congrats, you two!) are also big fans of H.P. - maybe even more than I am, if that's possible - and I think they've done quite a decent job in lending a Lovecraftian atmosphere to the place.

As it currently exists, the Shrine is a series of buildings, each depicting a scene from one of Lovecraft's short stories. Each "exhibit", as it were, contains a portrait of Lovecraft which, when clicked, will give you a copy of the particular story depicted in notecard form (yes, the whole story!). Of course, things often change, and Taliesin is often building a new addition or replacing some old ones. If I know anything about him, it's that he likes to build. And he builds well and fast.

The Shrine is also home to the Cthulhu Club, a sort of gothic-themed dance club, and a similarly-themed mini shopping mall.

Sandy and Taliesin are the first adult friends I made as a kid avatar in SL. Although their Shrine certainly wasn't made with kid av's in mind, and although I'm not goth, they've really made me feel welcome there. They invited me to a party the very day I met them, in fact. And such of the group members as I've met so far don't have a problem with me either. Curiously, this puts my experience at odds with some advice I've been given about adults by other kid av's that have been in SL much longer than I have. That advice, and related stuff, will be the subject of my next blog post.

For now - check out the Shrine!

Shrine of Cthulhu

Friday, March 14, 2008

Why be a kid in SL?

Since I'm regrettably lacking in the creativity department (now and then, anyway), I found myself at a loss for what to make my first blog post about. No, that introductory post doesn't count. So, I decided to check out some other SL kids' blogs and see what sorts of things they posted about first. By and large, they've usually got some kind of entry about why they're a kid in Second Life.

It's a viable question. In SL, you can be anything - male, female, black, white, or purple; you don't even have to be human. You can be an animal. Or something that is a cross between human and animal. You can be something else entirely - one of my favorite "disguises" is as nothing but a set of floating, rotating cubes. The sky's the limit, really. So, given that sort of freedom, why would an adult decide to be a kid? Allow me to step out of character for a minute and tackle this problem.

There may be as many answers to this question as there are kid avatars in SL (and there's probably more kid avs in SL than you think there are); I'll tell you how it happened with me. I started out as an adult human, like everyone else in SL. I did some wandering and exploring and bought various items and objects to change the way my avatar looked, experimenting with different appearances. I settled on one eventually - a Civil War-era Union officer (the Union Forever!). Of course, I remained open-minded about changing it.

One day, I came upon this unique (and free) vehicle - an old-looking wooden raft, with a makeshift sail, a tent, and a couple of barrels on board serving as seats. It was very Mark Twain-esque, and that appealed to me. I rezzed the thing, got on it, and spent an hour sailing around the incredibly expansive Mainland Waterway. It was calm, soothing, and unbelievably fun - to me, anyway. I had dreamed of getting ahold of such a raft and doing something very similar in RL, ever since I was a kid. Suddenly it occurred to me - wouldn't this look much cooler if my avatar was, indeed, a kid? I kicked around the idea for a while, and finally decided to drop some money on a (somewhat unconvincing) kid shape, and a cheap and bland kid "skin". I found that my adult clothes automatically shrunk down to fit my new shape, so I considered myself set. Off I went! I've said the shape and skin weren't all that great, but they were close enough to lend the desired illusion.

I noticed while shopping certain ads for kid-avatar "groups" within SL, and eventually I began to inquire about them. I found kid-centric places and sims, and visited them, and met many people who also chose, for whatever reason, to be kids in SL. I made friends with many of them - more friends than I'd made whilst having a "normal" adult avatar; so, I decided to stick with my new appearance, and that was pretty much that. I was encouraged to find a much, much better shape and skin, so I don't look so plastic anymore. There are shops which sell clothes geared towards kid avatars, but I mostly buy regular mens' clothes - they fit just as well.

There are certain advantages, and some perceived disadvantages, in being a kid in SL - I'll get to those in another post. But, I will say that being a kid doesn't limit me to places and groups exclusive to kid avatars. I belong to one active group, for instance, in which I am the only kid; but I feel accepted and welcome there all the same - I consider all of them good friends. So while I must necessarily avoid some things because of my choice of appearance, I don't feel that I'm missing out on anything I'll regret. I have my fun!

Well, that's enough for now. More to come later.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cody's Second Life.

I'm Dakota Tebaldi (call me Cody). I'm an 10-year-old avatar on Second Life. That is, my avatar kind of resembles an 10-year-old boy. I actually joined Second Life in early February, which I suppose makes me a little over a month old, SL-wise.

So, I'm still a newbie. But I really enjoy SL; I've seen and done some amazing things, and I like to tell other people about them - but you know, chat isn't that good a way to tell a detailed (and sometimes long) story. So, I decided to shamelessly steal an idea from some other SL residents and start a blog. Here, I'll be sharing stories and pictures of some of the things I do, the places I go, and the people I meet. I might make some completely unrelated posts, too - I'm all random like that sometimes. My blog, my rules!

I'm just as new to blogging as I am to Second Life, so you'll have to pardon my dust until I find a groove. Hopefully I can catch onto it as quickly as I (seem to have) caught onto SL.