The thousand natural shocks

Here’s a picture of me at the Three Lions Pub, a popular virtual hostelry.

Me at the Three Lions

Apart from getting a new shirt and trousers I haven’t customised my avatar at all, so my appearance is exactly the same as about a million other guys wandering around the grid. I look nothing like this in real life of course – what would be the point in recreating my current less than perfect physique when I can revert to the svelte frame I last enjoyed 20 years ago? The pose reminds me of those days too – when I was a student I rented a flat across the road from a pub with a beer garden, and spent many a happy summer afternoon passed out on the tables.

Three points to note:

  1. The Three Lions seems to be one of the better-known destinations in Second Life. I’ve read about in in several online guides, and I vaguely remember seeing it mentioned in a newspaper article a few months ago too. Despite this it was pretty much deserted when I was there on Friday afternoon. Maybe all the regulars were out at a real bar.
  2. That pint of lager on the table is for decoration only. As far as I could tell there was no way to buy alcohol at this establishment, which must be bad for business in a pub. Obviously virtual intoxication isn’t as appealing a concept as the real thing, but even so it must be possible to write a script that would produce some comedy “drunk” effects, like staggering around, increased aggression and other avatars looking strangely attractive. I’d buy that for a dollar.
  3. I am wearing no shoes. In keeping with the whole “recreate my youth” theme I’ve been trying to find some footwear that resembles Converse All-Stars, thus far without success, so I’m going around barefoot. This has no adverse effect on my feet at all, whatever type of terrain I traverse.

The last point is the most important, since it illustrates what I think is the fatal flaw in the Second Life economic system: the cost of living is essentially zero. Residents can exist indefinitely without eating, drinking, buying new clothes or paying for somewhere to sleep. All spending is discretionary. The whole layer of productive economic activity supplying the staples of life just doesn’t exist, and without it there is nothing to support the flimsy service economy that passes for commerce on the grid.

What is needed is some sort of tamagotchi-style feeding and nurturing system, where neglecting your avatar has negative consequences. Failing to spend enough money on food would lead to emaciation and eventual death, clothes would wear out and fall apart, and not buying or renting a place to live would get you busted for vagrancy. Avatars would get old and sick, and ultimately die.

Recreating real life to this extent might seem to undermine the whole point of Second Life, which is to get away from the frustrations of this mortal coil. I can’t help thinking though that a life without pain and misery wouldn’t be very interesting at all. Maybe that’s why I’m such a fun guy to be around.

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