Our “Moonscape” set in Second Life.

Second Life and RadioSpiral – why?

For many listeners, Second Life is a mystery. Some people have no idea what it is, and those that do cannot understand why people would make themselves an avatar out of pixels and hang out in a world made of pixels. Perhaps even more of a mystery is why people would choose to sit as an avatar in a fantasy environment and listen to a RadioSpiral show.

Janpooh takes his rest on the studio floor.

What it is and isn’t

In an attempt to explain, the first thing that we need to establish is what Second Life is, and what it’s not.

Life here is a game…sort of

Technically speaking, Second Life is an MMO – a massive multiplayer online game, but I think it’s important to state that Second Life is not a game in the vein of other computer games. It does fit the definition, it’s true; because “game” means “an activity that one engages in for amusement”. Unlike most computer games, though, there is no way to win. There is no end game, no goal, nothing to shoot for. It is exactly what you make it, because it is what it says on the tin. It is a second life. People have houses there, they have jobs (one of my avatars is a very successful retailer of niche clothing), they get married, they even have children! Some prefer to experience a second life that is not human and choose avatars of all different shapes, sizes and races. We have a sizeable following from the Tiny community, which are avatars that look like little stylized critters. We also have furries, dragons, pirates and a resident demoness. As well as my human avatar, I can also choose to be a tiny black and white cat that walks on two legs (a proper Tiny), a mermaid, or even a human-sized wolf.

EdisonRex (aka Paul Harriman) plays live in Second Life, “helped” by Booger and CatButt.

It’s not real life

Understanding that Second Life is simply a second life will help a lot in understanding the appeal – the reason why over half a million people log onto it. When I talk about Second Life to listeners, most say “but I can’t cope with my first life!”. The secret is, most of us can’t! That doesn’t stop us having another go. Why bother? Well, there are so many reasons that there wouldn’t be space to list them on a whole website, let alone one article… and they vary from person to person. Suffice it to say that the ability to create your own world (everything you see in Second Life is built by its residents) and to live in it is fun, but being able to meet other people from all over the real life globe and chat with them instantly in real time is something very special.

But, music?!

There is still the question of why you would choose to use this medium to listen to music, though.

The People

First of all, you get to connect with the avatars of other listeners, who are clearly of a like-mind. That’s a great way to start making friends. Certainly you can do this in our Slack chat room, but there is something about “seeing” the person you are speaking to that makes it so much more personal.

The Environment

Then, there is the environment in which you experience this. RadioSpiral has a holodeck (yes, just like Star Trek, and it even makes the same beeping noises and has Majel Roddenberry’s voice – or a good copy of it!), which we use to produce interesting and varied settings for our listeners to enjoy and relax. One day you may arrive at our parcel of land and see our gorgeous sunset-facing studio; another day you may find yourself in a steampunk airship, or a pretty cafe, or a tiki bar… or even the Shire from Lord of the Rings! As well as the scenery, you often get to meet the host of the show, and chat with them right there. You can see them play their virtual instruments, you see their avatar, and the way they want to present themselves. You can choose how to show yourself to them. It’s a very freeing environment in this respect. You can be who you want, and you’ll fit right in.

The Connections

Third is the connection. This is something you simply have to try for yourself. I don’t think I can articulate how or why it seems easier to feel connected to someone if you meet them in Second Life, more so than on Facebook, for example. If you try Second Life and you feel this connection, then it’s for you. If you don’t… it probably isn’t. It’s certainly not for everyone, but we love being able to offer it to those that enjoy the experience.

I do think the best way of finding out why people choose to come into Second Life to listen to RadioSpiral is to ask them… so I did. Obviously they all have computers and can just join Slack, so why not do that? Here are a few responses to the question from our Second Life listeners (please note that some are Tinies – little critters – and it’s standard for their speech to be… um… not standard):

Ancient Lights: “Many of the show hosts are visually creative as well as musically talented.”

Σ bunny: “Lovely Scenery and Lovely Peoples. Iz fun to hear and see and be.”

Jan Ross: “… being in here is just nice. I like the floor here ㋡ (see picture). Teasing people when being a tiny (is fun, too) ㋡ .”

Jade: “I love to listen in person because just like in the real world I can sit and talk and joke with friends.”

Before I get off my soapbox about Second Life, I would just like to cover the elephant in the room – Second Life’s poor reputation. Is it really all about sex?

No. While it is true that there is an incredibly seedy underbelly to Second Life, it is not true that Second Life has nothing more than that to offer. You don’t ever have to descend to the depths if you don’t want to; you can live your Second Life doing exactly what you want. If you love ambient music, then you can join Second Life and listen to RadioSpiral, as well as a number of other venues that offer this type of music, much of it live. Go sit in a beautiful garden while some ambient music is playing over the music stream and bliss out while looking at the incredible surroundings, or bring along a friend and have a virtual picnic and a chat while you do so. The bad reputation will vanish in a puff of pixelated smoke – because you have chosen not to make it part of your Second Life.

Second Life is all about “being there”. It is open to anyone with a computer that can run it. It is free to join (and yes, you can pay, but seriously, you can stay as a free avatar in Second Life forever, and be just fine). It is an incredible way to connect, network, explore and experience, and RadioSpiral will be delighted to welcome you to our Second Life family.

To join Second Life, go to www.secondlife.com. Then to find us, you can navigate via a regular web browser to RadioSpiral.Life — that will give you the marker (the SLURL, or “Second Life URL”) to find us.

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