Online gaming has certainly come a long way since back when the Princess used to play in the chat rooms of Q-Link. Rather than just relying on text based encounters with other players, we have visual representations via customizable avatars. While many of these online gaming platforms can be considered a glorified chat room, the level of detail and visual appeal they offer certainly raises the bar from what online gaming used to be like.
One such platform is Second Life. While many may argue that Second Life has lost its appeal and is old news, it still offers a variety of RPG sims for players to engage in. Like any game/system/platform, roleplaying on Second Life has its ups and downs. After over four years of experience playing and being involved in a number of sims, we’ve had a chance to see ups and the downs.
1) On the good side, it can be much cheaper than many other MMORPGs out there.
There is no monthly fee and if you are a savvy enough user, you can create a good looking avatar for cheap (if not free). Paying for Lindens (Second Life’s monetary units) is purely optional. To create a perfect representation of what you envision for your character, you might have to shell out a bit. But you can likely make what you want for under $10.
2) You don’t have to worry about rounding up your friends and working with everyone’s hectic schedules – you can just log in and play wherever there are players. And with players located all over the world, you are bound to find plenty of people on at any given time. It can be hard to wait in between regular game sessions. Second Life game sims offer a great way to get a gaming fix in to pass the time.
3) You can find sims that offer a deeper RP experience than a regular WoW style dungeon crawl. Many MMORPGs are focused more combat oriented games that leave out the role play aspect many of us are looking for. There are plenty of sims that offer a more enriched RP experience while still having combat, so you can get the best of both worlds.
But then we come to the dark side. These issues are not unique to Second Life gaming, but they are certainly quite present.
1) Anonymity breeds poor behavior. This above all else might be the one thing we cannot abide more than any other of the problems inherent to an online gaming experience. For some reason when people log in to online platforms they think they have the right to become complete jerkwads. Some use the argument that “It’s the internet. Deal with it.” While others claim that while they are being blunt, they are only being honest. No. You’re not. You’re being a jerk. All because you are hiding behind an avatar doesn’t make you any less of a jerk. In fact, it makes you pathetic on top of being a jerk. Being online does not excuse poor behavior. You will encounter MANY players that think it does. So be warned, because you will be sure to encounter these types. The only way to deal with it is to calmly confront the person one-on-one via IMs, ignore them, or leave for greener pastures. Whatever you do, don’t take what they say to heart because odds are they have more issues than Time Magazine.
2) You may be looking for RP but they are looking for cyber. Yes, we know what type of RPing is often associated with online gaming. And, hey, if that’s your thing, then have a blast. However, if you are looking for an actual RP experience that doesn’t involve tentacles and leather whips, then you need to make that clear in your user profile and steer clear of game sims that advocate that style of play. Even if you are playing in sim that doesn’t allow it, you still may run into players who are looking for that type of experience regardless of the rules. If you feel uncomfortable about it contact the player or else a staff member to make your feelings known.
3) Poor internal game structure. After participating in a number of RPG sims on Second Life, we’ve noticed that it is rare to find one with decent and organized leadership. Whether it is that the rules are not clearly laid out, a lack of leadership present in the sim or the leadership exerting too much control, don’t expect much professionalism. We’ve played in some drama plagued LARPs and table tops in our day, but we’ve never seen the level of immaturity like we have in these sims. Like any game, the underlying problems are specific to each sim. Just be aware that you are likely not to encounter a stable game structure in this environment.
So would we recommend Second Life as a gaming platform? Well that depends on what you are looking for. As a quick fix for something with more depth than a standard dungeon crawl, it’s good. But only if you can ignore the drama that goes along with it. If you want it as a means to just kick back and play on a casual basis while waiting between LARPs, yes, it’s a good filler. But if you are looking for a group of like-minded individuals that share your style of game play, you may become frustrated. Sims are often made up of 60+ players. With so many players and the often poor game structure, most players have conflicting ideas about genre so it can be a feat to find any who share your game style. Pair that with the fact that generally speaking, these players tend to be in the late teens to early twenties, and hopefully you get the picture that, as a veteran gamer, you may not be able to find players with enough experience that meets your expectations. The lowdown is, if you set your expectations low, then yes, you can potentially have a fun time, but don’t get caught up in the BS. Do we have fun? Sure! But only after we learned that it really isn’t worth sweating the small stuff.