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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Second Life

Updated on April 25, 2009

Second Life (SL) is a free 3D virtual world created by its residents/players. To get started, you will need to register a free SL account and download the Second Life viewer. Once installed, you will be able to walk, run, teleport or fly to thousands of exciting 3D locations. You can also use voice and text chat to communicate with other real people from around the world.

Created by: Linden Lab

While the Second Life interface and display are similar to most popular massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs), it is not a game due to lacking of game mechanics such as goals. However, you may develop your own goals when playing SL, e.g. earning money, fashion (appearance and dress), and owning lands.

Appearance of your avatar

Open your inventory and click Library, then Clothing. Here you will find a bunch of pre-made avatars. If you are male, try the "Boy Next Door by Renegade" folder, if you are female, the "Girl Next Door By Renegade" and just start double clicking on each item on the list. This should give you a good base avatar to start with. Once you are done, right click on yourself and click "Appearance..." Clicking on Make Outfit at this point then Save will create a folder in your personal inventory with that character.

It is under the Appearance menu that you can make changes as you see fit. Notice that the skin color cannot be changed. What you are wearing is a custom skin. They do not adjust, but they look a lot better than the default skin. If you are female there is another custom skin under "Girl Next Door by Adam and Eve" that is partly transparent, so you can use the skin color sliders to adjust the tint. Skins are very difficult to make, but there are a lot of nice ones out there. They run anywhere from L$100 to L$5000. Most vendors have free demos so you can try before you buy.

Now for female avatars, it is often desirable to have the most attractive shape you can. There is actually a big shape market made from sliding those dozens of sliders.

The number one thing most venders in the game sell is clothing. There is tons of stuff, and it is not hard to find decent stuff cheap or even free. It is also worth learning to create your own clothing. The basic solid color stuff is easy to make in the Appearance menu. Once you get the hang of that, you can start to learn texturing.


In your inventory, there are two main folders for animation, the gestures folder and the animations folder. If you acquire new animations or gestures they should automatically be filtered into these folders unless you move them somewhere else, but sometimes bought objects come in a folder with accompanying gestures or animations which have to be physically moved to those folders.

Gestures are short animations for particular activities, like clapping, laughing, pointing. Gestures need to be activated to work. The ones that everyone starts with are linked to particular triggers, requiring you to type a slash and then the word to indicate that you want the gesture to trigger. You can change these triggers should you wish to. Some of the gestures are packaged with a sound that triggers too. You can turn on and off the gestures in your gestures folder by right clicking them and choose to activate or deactivate, and then the activated ones will work when you use the trigger.

Animations are longer sequences of movement. It can be a pose (static) or an animation. They can be used directly from your inventory. If you double click on any of them, a small window will open, offering you the chance to play in world or play locally. If you play in world, everyone can see what you do. If you play locally, you're the only one who can see it.

Animation overrides are attachments that you wear, containing a script, a group of animations and a notecard, which overrides the default animations. This means that when your avatar walks, for example, your animation override tells your avatar to use the animated walk you have chosen instead of that jerky default walk.

There is a free animation overrider available all over the place, into which you can drop your animations. It comes with instructions, and isn't difficult to use. There is a wide range of commercial animation overriders available around SL too, which are all set up and ready to go, with anims, card and script. As with many things, you pay your money and take your choice. You can make your own animations which involves a bit of work, or buy some, although there are quite a few free ones available.

Animations can either be in an object like a chair or a bed, with a script, or in a pose ball. Pose balls contain animations which take your avatar through a sequence, sometimes a looping sequence that repeats over and over, and sometimes a single run through and stop. Pose balls can be bought and placed where you want them, and they can be linked to furniture too. If pose balls are linked to furniture, then they will trigger when you choose to sit on it or use it.

Some objects allow multiple users to click on them and use them together. The most ubiquitous are dance balls, which you can click on to join in the dancing. The first person to click them is stuck in a static pose until their partner clicks on the other ball in pair, and then both begin to dance like professionals. Sex pose balls work in this way too--they synchronise, and may run more than one animation in a sequence.

Virtual sex

Whatever brings you to SL, you'll soon find that sex is everywhere. Over 50% of SL’s revenue comes from the sale of player-made adult related goods, clothing, and animations.

How it works is simple: there are pose balls for hug, kiss, and sex, blue for boys, and pink for girls. You can buy them at many of the shops; in fact, you can buy whole kits, like a bed with an entire menu of animations.

If you haven't got any money, there are many places rated mature where you'll find beds and sex pose balls all over the place. You'll have to do your thing in public, which is not my cup of tea - and be sure you don't start experimenting with the pose balls on your own. People will just walk up to you and grab the companion ball, thinking that your offering yourself up to anyone! So bring a friend when you go exploring the public sex places, and when u try a pose ball, make sure they try the companion one right away. Otherwise you might find yourself knocking boots with a furry or a smurf, or worse, getting raped by someone unattractive.

This is a pretty sad way to have cybersex, even worse, doing it in public, but a lot of people do.

Money in SL

Second Life has its own currency referred to as Linden Dollars (L$). In the SL economy, residents buy from and sell to one another directly, using the Linden, which is exchangeable for US dollars on market-based currency exchanges. Residents may purchase L$ directly through the client, or convert between Linden currency and US dollars through either Linden Lab's currency brokerage, the LindeX Currency Exchange, or other third-party currency exchanges. The ratio of USD to L$ fluctuates daily as Residents set the buy and sell price of L$ offered on the exchange, with average rates about L$260 per USD in April 2009.

Linden Lab reports that the Second Life economy Second Life was reported to have a GDP of $402 million annualized in August 2008.

The basis of this economy is that residents can buy and sell services and virtual goods to each other in a free market. Services include camping, working in stores, business management, entertainment (including adult entertainment), custom content creation, and other personal services.

Virtual goods include buildings, vehicles, devices of all kinds, animations, clothing, skin, hair, jewellery, flora and fauna, and works of art. To make money in Second Life, one must find customers who are willing to pay for the services or products that one can supply, just like in first life.

Because of the existence of virtual land, there is an active virtual real estate market. Originally all land comes from Linden Lab (which is a revenue stream for them), but after that it is bought and sold much like real-life real estate. Mainstream media has reported on SL residents who earn large incomes from the SL real estate market.

Mixing ‘first life’ with Second Life using Augmented Reality technology


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    • ejgross profile image


      8 years ago from Second Life

      Good overview, Jim.

      - Elsbeth Writer in SL

    • jim.sheng profile imageAUTHOR

      Dalriada Books Ltd 

      9 years ago from UK

      Check if your hardware configuration meets the minimal requirements of SL.

    • AJHargrove profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      I tried SL, but my computer didn't like it. *pout* It made everything slow and jerky.


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