Sunday, October 12, 2008

Stupidity at the Welcome Areas

Written 6 October, 2008

Stupidity at the Welcome Areas

Initial arrival in Second Life can be profoundly disorienting. There’s a complicated interface to master, and it’s difficult to learn when you’re surrounded by masses of equally confused people.

Linden Lab has been making arrangements to allow avatars to have their first rez anywhere in world. Good! But until that becomes operational, most new citizens will eventualy arrive in one of the welcome areas.

You’ve probably seen these areas. They’re at the intersection of four sims, and they feature a central plaza and glass pavilions at each of the four compass points.

They might be CALLED welcome areas, but most of them in fact aren’t, for they are habituated by, in addition to genuine new citizens and a few dedicated mentors, alts, griefers, sim-crashers, sound and particle spammers, and people who think they know everything but are clueless.

They would probably be infuriated to know I think it, but the worst of the lot at the welcome areas are the twentysomethings who gather to talk in voice. Their general lack of information about anything other than computers, coupled with personal lives and relationships that leave much to be desired and frequent alcohol abuse makes for conversation that also leaves much to be desired. Ignorance is a word that comes to mind. Stupidity—which, unlike ignorance, is incurable—is another. A third word, and a fourth, would be intolerance and rudeness. These are the people who make the welcoming areas in actuality unwelcoming areas.

I’ve heard these folks insult people whose English is inadequate (as if THEY speak any language other than English) and speculate in person if people who sound female to me in voice—myself included—are male or female, or straight or gay.

I’ve heard several conversations that might have become intelligent, but the boors predominated. One young man, for instance, was trying to explain how Wal-Mart has destroyed tens of thousands of American businesses. He was shouted down by the clueless. I brought up the idea in one welcome area that it was in fact, not a great place for new citizens; this caused umbrage among the voice speakers, who clearly felt, because they hang out there, that it was THEIR area; they took it as a personal insult. “The noobs have everything they need on Help Island,” one said scornfully. “So it’s on them when they come here.” This from someone who, two years in world, has no real idea about what Second Life is and is not. It’s as if she came to the welcome area and never left—which statement, in fact, may be pretty near the truth.

People come to SL for many reasons, and if being young and stupid is a reason, good and fine. But Linden Lab should take steps to keep the welcome areas friendly to new citizens. And those who use voice to belittle others and glorify themselves at the expense of those who need help should give serious consideration to getting a real second life.

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