By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
But I wasn't happy as a foxy-wolfy thing, even if the suit was kind of cool. So I completed my tutorials, adjusted my body image to look roughly like the RL version of me, thighs and all, and brought up the search window. I typed in "fashion." Hundreds of shopping centers popped up in the results, featuring everything from stores dedicated solely to sexy fairy costumes to NFL pro shops to vintage shops. I nearly wet myself right there in my ergonomic office chair. This was way, way better than NorthPark Center, and no parking hassle.
I used my startup 250 Linden dollars to buy a distressed pair of black jeans that look a whole lot like my favorite pair of Express pants in RL and splurged on a wild, hot pink ponytail. Where to now? To try to get laid, of course! After all, this was supposed to be like the real world.
Actually, that hadn't been my first inclination (I kind of wanted a martini), but when I searched for the most popular locations, something called !SEXYLAND FREESEX MONEY NUDE popped up. I'd be doing my readers a disservice if I didn't check that out.
Uncomfortable about explaining to the company IT guy—whom I suspected would be interested in such things—why I was eating up bandwidth wandering around a virtual sex farm, I waited until I got home to check out !SEXYLAND FREESEX. As my RL man of the hour looked on in horror, I played with some free-floating animation balls—pink for girls, blue for boys—that, when touched, caused my avatar to grind and wiggle in a variety of uncouth positions. On the screen next to me, some guy's avatar seemed to be having a pretty good time with an animated log, assuaging whatever fears my RL boy might have had about the likelihood of his girl getting addicted to Second Life lovin'.
Pumped up about saving the seals and suspicious of any animation balls that would cause me to become intimate with nearby flora, I joined a Dallas-Fort Worth networking group and found one of the few virtual versions of North Texas, a sparsely furnished hub created by some technology students at the University of Texas at Dallas, complete with generic, boxy architecture, not unlike RL Richardson itself. Fresh off a RL vacation to the U.K., I decided I'd go to England instead.
In a region called "Li'l Britain," I found a dance club and a handsome bouncer named McCloud who joined me in dropping it like it was hot. We grabbed two animation balls—"drop it male" and "drop it female"—and our avatars were suddenly grinding away. As I rubbed my denim-clad booty against McCloud, he swung his uber-beefed, tanned arms up in the air like he just didn't care. In the meantime, we chatted in a SL instant message in the corner of the screen.
I asked him about his job as a SL bouncer as he gyrated his crotch into my lower back and learned that in his RL, he's a 22-year-old Englishman with a steady girlfriend. The bouncer gig is just for a few extra Linden dollars a week. He had to interview with Li'l Britain's owner, and now he's in charge of making sure nothing gets out of hand in the area. Which it periodically does—something I learned from a go-go dancer who called herself Ikey.
"We get a lot of racism comments," she said, gliding across the floor in a pair of furry high-heeled boots while McCloud continued to feel on my upper thighs with his virtual man-paws. Apparently I'd just missed a round of screaming, hollering racist viciousness, something that seemed incredibly silly considering there are as many races in Second Life as there are colors that can be displayed on a computer screen. Since there's no requirement that anyone look like themselves in RL, I couldn't imagine insulting anyone else too effectively. But I guess a blanket shout-out of racial slurs is bound to get somebody riled up. People are, it seems, just as capable of being idiots in SL as they are in RL. I should have known better than to be surprised. So I just kept dropping it like it was hot, all the way to a strip club called Fantasy Ranch.
You've probably been there—it's a strip club in Arlington as well as a strip club in Second Life, run by a RL exotic dancer who goes by "Stash" in-world. I met Stash, who lives in Irving, in the DFW group. She makes about 40,000 Linden dollars a week as a dancer and escort. Sexually oriented businesses are one of the biggest money-makers in Second Life. Buxom and blond, Stash IM'd me, "In RL and SL, men will be men."
I soon learned the DFW group was experiencing a minor crisis. The group's founder, a guy named Silicon, hadn't logged into SL in more than a month. Earlier they'd had plans for building a virtual West End, maybe a Deep Ellum. But without their fearless leader, everyone felt a bit lost. The last anyone heard, one of Silicon's relatives had taken ill, and that was it for the group's founder. So if you're out there, Silicon, come back. SL Dallas needs you. We gotta get on that virtual Deep Ellum—if you haven't heard, the real thing isn't rocking so hard these days, and I'd rather have a virtual Shiner in a virtual Gypsy Tea Room than nothing at all.