I Avoided Second Life Drama and Met My Real Life Fiance Instead (Comment of the Week)

Sylea Sygall Aplonis Ember in SL and RL

Second Life social drama and negativity can drive people away, as illustrated by last week's Comment of the Week, but in response, Sylea Sygall offered her own very contrary perspective, which is just as worth sharing if not moreso:

"I joined Second Life strictly out of curiosity in May 2008, very quickly met an excellent group of people who showed me how to navigate around the world, and in June of 2008, unexpectedly met the man who became my fiancee and after 5 years of long distance romance, facilitated by our 'life' in SL, I am marrying (in real life) this September.

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Play a Small and Strange Virtual World About "Silence, Love, and a Beach (in Space)": Welcome to Bientôt l'été

Bientot lete 2
Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

If you have an open-mind and an appreciation for sci-fi love stories, terse conversations, and smokey cafés, have I got the game for you this week. In case the world of Proteus wasn't quite interactive (or visually realistic) enough for your tastes, you may want to take a look at Bientôt l'été from Tales of Tales, another artistic game experience for both Windows and OS X (with a free browser-based demo) that's received a lot of buzz since its release a few weeks ago. If you're unfamiliar, Bientôt l'été (Bee-ehn-toe lay-tay) is French for "it's nearly summer", and while the game features lots of atmospheric French voice acting, the text is all available in multiple languages.

In some ways it reminds me a bit of the multiplayer aspect of Journey, another incredibly evocative and abstract game. Even though the games themselves are quite different, both present you with deceptively simple exploration and blinding visuals at first, but it becomes more about how it makes you feel and how it makes you interact indirectly with your partner on the other end--who is a real person, somewhere, playing the game just like you.

For now, let's start at the beginning:

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SL's Adult-Rated Sims Grow in Number -- and Popularity, Too

Last week I noted that the number of Adult-rated sims in Second Life enjoyed a significant increase last year, while Moderate and General-rated sims declined -- but does that mean popularity in terms of user activity has become more Adult, too? On an initial review of top Second Life sims by user visits, that seems to be the case: In recent months, there are somewhat more Adult-rated sims in Second Life's Top 50 most popular sims by traffic.

Take a look at the chart below, courtesy Louis Platini's Metaverse Business, listed according to their average visitor count, their unique visitor range at any given period, and the sim's rank the previous month. First, the top 25:

Top 25 SL sims Jan 2013

The rest of the 50 after the break. 19 of this top 50, i.e. 38%, are Adult-rated. That's somewhat more than the count typically has been in 2010 and 2011, before Adult sims saw an increase. For instance:

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Why's Airship Fetish Sex the "Ralph Pls Go" SL Meme of '12?

Audiwark SL airship sex

This Second Life screenshot above was on the front page of Reddit last night, submitted by "audiwark", who explains, "My lady wanted me to try Second Life with her, she told me I could be anything and do what ever I want." So now several hundred thousand if not millions of Redditors are defining "anything" to include hot threeway sex with an A-10 Warthog Gunship. (Baby, my GAU-8 Avenger cannon is rotating so fast right now.) And this isn't even the first instance of airship fetish sex to go viral this year: Back in March, Penny Arcade Went There with a couple dirigibles.

Somehow, all this seems a step up from the previous SL sex meme from a couple years ago:

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Dark Desert Roleplay in SL's Kingdom of Sand

Kingdom of Sand roleplaying SL

I love Carrie Lexington's photo spread from her journey through the beautifully wrought desert-themed roleplay Kingdom of Sand, which I believe is an Adult-themed sim, though Ms. Lexington doesn't mention this point. Which suggests two related points: Whatever you think of their specific kind of roleplay, the Adult-oriented roleplayers of SL have created some of the world's most vividly realized environments. And you can visit and photograph them like Lexington did, whether or not you're part of that scene.

Sim Deathwatch: SL's Hardcore Hard Alley Hits Hard Times

Hard Alley SL Sex

SL tier prices and economic hard times keep hitting hard, even those who are hard: To wit, Hard Alley, a notorious Second Life virtual porn sim that has been popular for years (I recall reading scandalized reports about it as far back as 2006), is in danger of going out of business, Mark "Pixeleen Mistral" McCahill reports on the Alphaville Herald. The owner cites high sim tier ($295 a month) and a decline of renters to defray those costs, problems that are universally hitting the SL economy on all varieties of sims. I doubt it represents a decline in interest for hardcore porn in SL -- about a third of the most popular sims by traffic are Adult-rated.

So what's happening here? Without investigating too deeply (and I'm not hugely het up to have a hard look at Hard Alley) my initial guess is this:

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Trooblad: Custom Pose for 3 Avatars to Recreate Rolling Stone's Sexy True Blood Cover!

I've recently been plowing through the DVDs of last season's True Blood -- rawr, Sookah, don't leave me; no wait, DO leave me; STOP, don't leave me for Eric or that damn werewolf, rawr! -- so naturally, I've been looking for instances of my favorite show inspiring SL content. Here's my favorite so far:

True Blood Rolling Stone in SL

"Trooblad", a custom-pose for three avatars to recreate last year's bloody sexy Rolling Stone cover featuring Eric, Sookie, and Bill. (Click here for a SLurl to get it in-world.) Created by Poseur, the custom animation store of Melanie Kidd and Lash Xevious, it was launched last year selling for L$300.

"When it initially came out," Lash tells me, "it sold a lot. That's how it usually works." She made it after seeing the Rolling Stone cover last Summer. "I think people who got the True Blood reference bought them. Also prolly folks who just thought the ad was sexy and wanted to emulate that. The body paint we sold in tandem with the release of the poses, sold just as well. Prolly more." She textually shrugs. "Sex sells, go figure."

Lash Xevious has been a top creator of sexy SL poses for years, but creating this one was a challenge. Here's how she did it:

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Miss Ophelia's Metaverse Manners: How to be a Polite Narcissist & Handle a Sex-Crazed Second Life Partner

Shibuya3

Iris Ophelia's ongoing take on etiquette & ethics in virtual spaces  

This week we have a mixed bag of Metaverse Manner questions, so let's get right to it...

I spend a long time making my avatar look perfect, but it seems like noone notices. I compliment people constantly, but I never get any in return. Are my friends rude or am I expecting too much?

                    - Fashion Victim

Last week when I wrote about three things that I hate about virtual fashion, I linked to a post from Coco and Creme about fashion as a competitive sport, and I would really encourage you to read it. The issue here is not that your friends are rude or that you're expecting too much, it's that you're doing this for all the wrong reasons. Fashion is such an investment of time and money that doing it for anyone but yourself is a tremendous waste. Look perfect for your own satisfaction and enjoyment, then the only approval you'll need is your own.

Keep reading for two more digital dilemmas!

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Miss Ophelia's Metaverse Manners: How Should You Share a Virtual World With Adults Who Roleplay as Children?

SecondLifeKids
Iris Ophelia's ongoing take on etiquette & ethics in virtual spaces

Child avatars and SL families are issues that never fail to divide the Second Life community sharply. Some people love them, some hate them, some accept them but don't want to be anywhere near them. No matter what your stance, it's undeniable that there's a whole world of ethical issues to consider.

I found SL families by accident and now I want to switch to being a child avatar all the time, but my friends don't think I'm serious about this. What is the best way to "come out of the closet" to them?

                    - Anonymous

People often find what they need emotionally in real life after spending time in Second Life, andin the metaverse we're often less encumbered by the things that keep us from meeting these needs in RL. So if this is something you want to explore, you should. While a few bad apples have given many people a sour opinion of child avatars, most are really just people who just want to enjoy the innocent nostalgia of childhood.

Start wearing your new avatar more often so your friends will get used to it. You're still the same friend you always were, even if your avatar changes, and any friend worth keeping should come to realize that eventually.

Keep reading for three more questions that aren't just child's play!

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Iris Joins the Burlesque SL Fashionistas of SLuicide Girls

Sluicide Girls

SLuicide Girls is a fantastic Second Life fashion blog with beautiful burlesque NSFW photos and a decidedly punky/tattooed aesthetic. (You know, like the famed original Suicide Girls.) I've blogged about it before, but since then, NWN style colunist Iris Ophelia has jumped on as an occasional contributor, blogging in the guise of Eurasian alt babe Shibuya Sugar, who looks fricking smashing.

Speaking of the original Suicide Girls, did you know several of them once joined Second Life at the behest of Linden Lab, in an attempt to build out an in-world fan community? Why yes they did. Ah, 2006.