Being Normal

Today is my rez day. Today I am one year old.

For those of you familiar with Second Life, a rez day is not a foreign concept. For the rest, a rez day is your Second Life birthday—the day you signed up for an SL account and became a resident.

How was my first year in Second Life? Let’s take a look…

On 04 January 2008, Michael Stackpole posted a blog entry about Second Life. He announced his upcoming appearance on SLCN’s “Meet the Author” (now, “Meet an Author”) and encouraged people to come join him as a member of the live studio audience. I’d been meaning to get in touch with Mike for some time, so I decided to see what this Second Life thing was all about.

SL was intimidating at first, but not prohibitively so. I skipped most of the orientation as soon as I figured out that you could pull up a map and teleport to anywhere you wanted to go. Unfortunately, I didn’t know where anything was! Thankfully, Mike has posted a SLURL on his blog which brought me directly to his Second Life home: Third Life Books. After attending the taping of “Meet the Author,” I stuck around and chatted with Noble about his speculative fiction workshops. (Noble Charron = Michael Stackpole in SL)

SLesson #1: There is a ton of stuff in Second Life. It’s impossible to do or see everything. Thankfully, there are a number of communities that form around common interests. If you’re into music, you’ll find dozens of music communities filled with aspiring and established artists. If you prefer books, there are groups—like Third Life Books—that can help you meet like-minded people. Community is at the heart of Second Life. If you want to get anything out of your experience, finding groups of people who share your interests is key.

After the recording, Noble introduced me to Jilly Kidd, the host of “Meet an Author.” Jilly introduced me to a number of people from the Written Word, a group of authors in Second Life. I spent the next couple months attending writing groups and poetry readings, while getting to know some of the members of the SL writing community. I was still a n00b, but it quickly became clear to me that there was a lot of creativity going on in this virtual world.

SLesson #2: People love to express themselves. SL residents are no different. Creativity manifests in many ways in Second Life. There are novelists and playwrights, musicians and fashion designers, podcasters and entertainers. Second Life is filled with very creative people and experiencing the creations of others is one of the biggest draws.

By April 2008, I was comfortable in my virtual skin. In fact, I had a new one. Noble’s business partner, Kat, graciously took me shopping one day. I now looked like a veteran, and not a new immigrant, fresh off the rez.

It was about this time that Jilly told me that her television network, SLCN, was looking for someone to help them with their advertising sales. She knew I handled advertising for Kobold Quarterly and asked if I’d like to hear what SLCN had to offer. I didn’t have anything to lose, so I took the meeting.

I met with Starr Sonic, SLCN Executive Producer. Starr’s an energetic and optimistic person. It was obvious, from talking with her, that she really enjoyed her job. It was also obvious, from my experience watching SLCN, that the network had a solid product. What they didn’t have, according to Starr, was a reliable advertising manager. We exchanged a couple emails and had a couple meetings and, on 17 April 2008, I was the new SLCN ad dude.

SLesson #3: There are career opportunities in Second Life, but you have to treat them seriously. It’s hard to find people you can rely on, just like in real life. If you’re a competent person, and have skills coupled with drive, you’ll do well. Companies will not want to let you go.

For the last six months I’ve been working to establish SLCN’s advertising department. As the network has grown (from 8,000 episodes delivered in 2007 to 2.2 million in 2008), so have the opportunities. We film eighteen regular shows in Second Life which are aired 24×7 on seven network channels. Each month, more than a third of Second Life residents view our programming. The growth is phenomenal, and so are the opportunities.

SLesson #4: Second Life is not dead. I missed the SL hype from 2007. I came into SL at a time when, according to some of the pundits, virtual worlds were on the down swing. I’ve learned that the reason so many people were disconcerted with Second Life is that they didn’t understand what it was. SL is a community of creative people. If you understand the community and you engage it in meaningful ways, you will create opportunities.

I’ve enjoyed the first year of my Second Life. I’m hoping my second will be even better.

Drop in and say ‘hi’. Look for Normal Rayna.

SIDE NOTE: Ryan Dancey and I sat on a panel at GenCon this year. Entitled “Virtual Worlds: Making Imagination Come Alive,” we discussed virtual worlds, from Second Life to MMORPGs like EVE Online. It was a great talk, during which we explored how these platforms can build community, provide unique services, and facilitate commerce. Have a listen.

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