Whilst the celebrations on SL10B draw to a close and in the few remaining days before the switch gets flipped on server-side rendering – changing forever the way in which avatars are served up in Second Life – I decided to revisit my roots in SL and take a few pictures of the places of my first few metaverse days. Of course, I didn’t know back then how to take photographs in SL, so the experience itself went unrecorded. Luckily, the places themselves – or rather, copies of them – continue to exist, so I donned my SL10B celebratory t-shirt and cap (I can’t quite yet bring myself to wear the special edition bear avatar, at least in public) and made for the very first place ever to rez on my screen – Orientation Island.
Linden’s developed several ‘First Hour’ experiences since Orientation Island and all that exists of it now is the single ‘public’ copy. Back in 2006, there were loads of copies of the island, accessible only to brand new residents: once you left it, you could never go back. But they did create a public copy that you could visit if you were feeling wobbly once you’d passed the point of no return.
At Orientation Island, you rezzed atop a small hill. The first thing you encountered as you walked down was a new outfit, courtesy of Governor Linden. That avatar shown in the right sign was my first ever change of clothes.
At the bottom of the hill was a parrot who would give you a kiss in return for asking for one in text: the first words spoken by many, perhaps. Although the outfit I wore for these pictures included mesh items, I decided to crank back the graphics to how I have seen SL back in 2006, when there was no mesh, no sculpties, no shadows and no windlight. I even turned off my AO.
After Orientation Island, you could go straight to the mainland to start Second Life proper, or you could visit Help Island as an intermediate stage. Again, this was cut off from the main grid, and again a public copy was created and still exists. The focal point of Help Island is a large, central, circular structure where helpers would hang out to answer the questions of the newly rezzed. It’s still a hang-out today, but – just like Orientation Island – it’s more a social thing than a place of any real function.
Around the edges of the island the various freebies and help points remain, such as Bill Stirling’s free ‘Archer House’, a set of building tutorials and a sandbox. Then there’s the freebie shop with its collection of economy brand avatars and furniture. These must now surely be the oldest ‘products’ available anywhere in SL
I originally spent several days at Help Island before finally moving on to the main grid. It was a strange, slightly surreal experience to watch so many people arrive and then move on to the ‘real world’. There was some sort of a game which hasn’t made it to the archived copy, which made sounds I will now forever associate with being new in SL. Also, a lot of people seemed inclined to try out the ‘laugh’ gesture whilst they were on Help Island.
Finally, I left Help Island and got sent to Bear Infohub. In contrast to the two islands, Bear – by virtue of being part of the mainland – has evolved a little over the years; for example, trees and a forest scene have been added all around this red-brick-and-wood construction. I had to remove a number of items for the photos I took there to look like the Bear of my memories.
Bear was my home spot for several weeks – with each day’s exploration usually starting there – right up to the day when I became a subscription resident and bought my first 512m plot of land. I still go back from time to time; it’s a bit like going home for Christmas.