A rather early photo of Kat and I in SL (in 2007). I wish I could find some of our true noobie shots. Hilarious!
As 90% of my blog readers already know, Second Life is an online virtual environment that was founded in 2003 by Linden Lab. This week marks our sixth anniversary of joining Second Life, a kind of digital birthday known as a "rezday" to SL residents. It took a few years before SL really permeated the public consciousness, but when it did in 2006, it looked like it was really going to take over the Internet.
That didn't exactly happen, or really happen at all. But during that short time frame between mid-2006 to mid-2007, Second Life really exploded in popularity. However, other than a low-level awareness that was peripheral at best, Kat and I didn't have any plans to join SL. She and I were friends who, about a year earlier in 2005, decided to move our friendship into the romance area. However, she was living in Seattle, and I was in Los Angeles, and the thousand miles between us didn't make maintaining a relationship easy.
Getting into SL, thanks to Mike Burns and Duran Duran
After months and months of trading emails, chatting on forums, and having long talks on the phone, Kat and I took our first trip to meet each other in person in February 2006, spending a weekend in San Francisco together. Apparently I passed the test, because we then met in April in Las Vegas, and then in July in Seattle, and in September here in LA. But still, it wasn't easy having to go weeks (sometimes months) at a time without seeing each other.
One day in October of that year, my great friend and fellow musician Michael Burns called me. "Hey, have you heard of Second Life?" he asked. I said I had, but really wasn't interested in anything that geeky. Mike replied that it was definitely worth checking out, and (as if to prove his point) told me that Duran Duran was building some kind of island there. I had no idea what that meant, but the wheels started to turn in my head. That night, I was on the phone with Kat, and mentioned to her about what Mike had told me regarding this "Second Life thing". We both got on the SL site and it looked weird, but possibly cool in that instead of just being on the phone together, we could go out on some virtual dates.
So, on a whim, we both registered at the same time at that moment, which was October 12, 2006. We picked our names together; in those days, Linden forced you to adopt one of their available last names (probably for database maintenance purposes), so we liked the Claxton name, and I chose to be Zak while Kat became Kat (not her first choice, by the way... that was already taken).
A few more early Zak and Kat photos from SL.
Noob Days and Music Discovery
We were silly noobs, like most noobs. We would rez in random places and cruise around talking to people we would find. But we really did enjoy the aspect of feeling like we were together as we hung out at camping zones trying to collect a little money here and there, and slowly improving our very basic avatars. We probably wouldn't have become full members right away, but Linden was offering a special weekly stipend that would diminish if we waited any longer. So, we became full paid members and got a little land not long after that.
One of the first regular activities we found was Triana's Music Trivia, which we started attending in November of 2006, and where we continue to spend almost all of our Sunday evenings even today. Later that same month, we were on one of our virtual dates, and stumbled across an event where someone (Keiko Takamura, to be specific) was playing live music. My eyebrows went up; hey wait, I'm a musician. I could do that too.
Six Years Later...
I'm neither a huge evangelist nor a detractor of Second Life. I still do find much enjoyment from the virtual world itself, and of course, it goes without saying that my career as a performing and recording songwriter has benefitted greatly from my experiences in SL. Perhaps more important, though, are the great friendships I've made there; in several cases, there are people who will be lifelong friends of mine who I met in that zany world of pixels.
In any case, doing something for six years is a pretty long time, and bing there that long places Kat and I in the upper 10% of people who've remained in SL since those early days. I'm happy to say that we're still glad we found SL, and remain appreciative of its many good aspects.