(Warning: In Second Life, pixelated tits and dicks abound. Abandon all hope, all ye who enter this article at work.)
After my last article, I set out to troll Second Life without undue malice; an agent of chaos, but not of hatred. After installing the necessary software on my computer, I took the first step in making a suitably abhorrent avatar. My username: SHAZORBLADE
Trolling in a default avatar is sort of like street racing in your parents’ Subaru Outback. It’s not impossible, but it’s pretty fucking lame. If we look at our inspirations here, Esteban Winsmore or Ralph Pootawn, we see that both have opted for identifiably outlandish avatars. There’s something almost chivalrous to this, I think. Take one look at Ralph Pootawn and you know you’re about to be trolled. It’s sort of like pirate ships flying the Jolly Roger – a nice warning of what’s to come.
I began with one of the stock avatars that Second Life provides newbies. My starter guy is the dude all the way over to the right:
Sort of a sullen, Victorian-looking chap, but pleasant-seeming enough. So I made a few adjustments…
Step one was destroying all semblance of facial symmetry. I also managed to give our hero a bizarre gray stain around his lips, as if he was growing the world’s weirdest mini-goatee.
I played around with a couple different factors. Decided to give him a dreamy cleft chin to balance out his less alluring traits. Toyed around with giving him a dick-neck:
But decided that was a bit much.
After I was done perfecting my guy’s ugliness (and giving his coat sufficiently flared wizard sleeves), I was excited to get down to the actual trolling. I set out into the vast world of Second Life, and realized quickly that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.
Trolling Second Life is not a thing that can be done without commitment. One must be ready to navigate a complex and ever-expanding world, mold their character’s appearance using a bevy of clothes and customizable traits, and be ready to learn the rules of each area so one can adequately break them. I had no experience with the user interface, no conception of where to go first, only a desire to weird people out.
This is easier said than done.
First off, large swaths of Second Life are, at any given moment, deserted. It took me a while to track down hot spots, and so a good portion of my initial attempts at trolling consisted of me wandering around barren landscapes or abandoned villas.
Also, Second Life is covered in body part shops. People make avatar builds and then sell them for in-game currency. And while this type of transaction makes sense, it is terrifying as a newbie to repeatedly wander alone into stores where it appears they are selling crates of sexy human corpses.
You will also consistently stumble across items being sold that strike horror into your heart:
The unshakeable dread that settled into the pit of my stomach upon seeing these Satanic bunny dolls is not something I feel like I can describe without quoting Lovecraft stories at length. This is the type of material you expect to see drawn in blood on an insane asylum’s bathroom mirror.
I also found this:
Yes, that’s right – this is an avatar “based on the movie version of Batman” – but what movie version? The GEORGE CLOONEY version, otherwise known as Batman and Robin, the nadir of the comic book movie genre. I was tickled and also disturbed that there was a market for this.
Eventually, after a good hour of feeling like I was in some kind of lonely internet purgatory, I eventually figured out how to get to the places where the most people were congregating. The first stop was a country music club. This reprehensible song was playing at high volume and avatars were crowded together and dancing.
At this point I had a minor crisis. How was I supposed to troll this? Perhaps I wasn’t the paragon of cutting wit that I’d originally thought myself to be. Speaking into your microphone wasn’t permitted in the club, so I couldn’t try to sing along with the music about kickin’ up mud. I could enter in text into the community chat, but I couldn’t come up with anything good.
Defeated, I decided to go to a sand world.
This is one nice thing about Second Life, and I’m not being facetious when I say this: if you get sick of a scene, you can take your patronage to a vastly different locale immediately. Having picked up a bra and a cigarette at “Freebie Island” and a Star Wars server, respectively, SHAZORBLADE was ready for something a little different.
(NOTE: I don’t know why I was given a cigarette in that Star Wars world. It was a combat-based Star Wars environment where, presumably, people shoot at each other with blaster rifles and show off their Star Wars-themed character builds. I walked around the lobby area of the place and found, among the laser pistols and Imperial armor sets, a cigarette. It was one of the more bewildering things to happen to me while on Second Life.)
So at this point SHAZORBLADE looked like this:
As a last ditch attempt to troll someone, I decided maybe hardcore roleplaying was the best way to go. I saw a camel in the somewhat Orientalist sand world I’d ventured into, and decided that I needed to buy it. Not only would it be fun to see if I could convince someone to give me a free camel (this being a basic SL account, I was furnished with no money upon signing up), but once I was on camelback trolling would be so much simpler. All I’d have to do is go back to that country music club on my new camel and talk about how much mud my camel kicks up. Instant trolling!
I tried to convince the mostly-nude lady (wearing only what appeared to be a couple swaths of red Saran Wrap) near the camel to sell, but she informed me that it wasn’t hers. I took this to mean it was up for grabs.
However she clarified that the camel in question was actually just an environmental construct, like the architecture around it. In short: not mountable.
I was devastated. The naked lady left. In despair I went into a nearby shop and said that I was referred there to buy a camel (a white lie).
And, instead of being weirded out, they actually showed me immediately to where I could buy a camel.
Unfortunately, the thing cost about a grand.
I realized at about this moment that I had trolled exactly one person during this entire experience: myself.
Second Life had made me feel intensely uncomfortable and oddly fascinated over and over. It had made me laugh and cringe. I had been both the instigator and the only ultimate victim of my plan to incite chaos.
It also occurred to me that the in-game sex that seems the most trollable material on Second Life also consists of two people, two actual people, partaking in some simulated act that gives them pleasure. Sure, in real life they may be vastly different than their avatars, and there is a great amount of unintentional comedy to be mined from pixelated characters mid-coitus. However, as masturbatory as those activities are, my many attempts to soil some aspect of Second Life with humor were even more so.
I wouldn’t take back any of it.
PS: I forget where I picked up the “LA” diamond necklace.
About the Author:
Aaron Matteson is a stage actor in Brooklyn, a Seattle native, and an alum of Village Voice Media's Joystick Division.