We were all “n00bs” once

It is often mentioned that Second Life is hard to use; that it’s hard to figure out how to use; that the viewers (official and third-party) have complicated user interfaces and these can be confusing to use and get to grips with. Now, as an “experienced” user, I could don my “elite SL user” dress uniform and medals and dismiss these complaints as “yet more whining from the stupid ‘n00bs'”, while proceeding to mock new users for their poorly-proportioned avatars, their clumsy walk, their ugly skins and their invisiprim-plagued shoes.

You may think I’m exaggerating here. I’m not. I’ve seen in the SL feeds and the forums some people openly mock “n00bs” and treat them as if they’re second- or third-class users, simply because they joined Second Life a mere few hours ago (or even a few days ago) and are (a) saddled with the – admittedly ugly – default avatars, (b) struggling to get to grips with how to do things in SL. Some of these “esteemed” people actually go and pull these stunts off at “Welcome Areas” when their lives become even more unbearably pathetic than everyone knows they usually are.

It is a fact that the client software for Second Life is complicated. I don’t see how it could become simpler, but I can understand very well how someone may be entirely unfamiliar with its functions (especially its more advanced ones) when they’re trying out SL for the first time. As a matter of fact, there were functions and debug settings I only learned of within the past few years – I didn’t know of them back then and didn’t know who to ask. As a matter of fact, I’m still learning.

Those who go out and mock “n00bs” forget that they themselves were “n00bs” too, once upon a time. They forget that they owe what they now know about how to successfully use the SL viewer(s), how to make a passable appearance for their avatars, how to put together aesthetically-pleasing outfits for their avatars to other people who either sat down and posted the necessary information and tutorials on the internet (blogs, forums, Youtube, etc) or taught them – in the pixel – how to do those things. They forget – very conveniently – that there was a time when they didn’t know one end of the viewer’s user interface from the other and that some people back then went out of their way to help them out and show them around.

In the public mind of SL’s community, a “n00b” is typically a male avatar with the default skin and a 2005-era prim penis sticking out, bumping into people and soliciting for sex. While there’s no denying the fact that certain users (usually new) do fit this description very well, they are rather few and far between – and they don’t last long in SL anyway. To identify all new users with this stereotype is misinformed and misleading.

Reality check: We were all “n00bs” once.

I was a “n00b” once too – trying to make my avatar look better and move in a non-repulsive manner, trying to figure things out, to make friends. I was lucky enough to find good people who showed me the ropes, who courteously gave me some free stuff (clothes, skins etc), who suggested places I could visit to hang around. People who became friends of mine without caring about my avatar’s age. I was lucky to find the information I needed and people to ask questions when I couldn’t figure things out. I was lucky. Like thousands of other users who, in general, have had a positive and pleasant SL experience.

All those “veterans” who now act like schoolyard bullies and cookie-cutter high school clique members whenever they encounter newbies (well, not only when they encounter newbies – they’re like that all the time), shaking them down and giving them a hard time were “n00bs” too. And they were lucky too. All those “Queen Bees” of SL with their cliques – you know, the ones who not only pull off these antics, but also brag about them – were “n00bs” too. And they were lucky too. Some people acknowledge how lucky they were and that, if they were treated like crap on the very first moments they joined SL, they wouldn’t stay. You won’t see them mistreating people (regardless of avatar age). Some others don’t; these ones proceed to parade their antisocial personality disorder and mistreat people they don’t know at all (i.e. people who have done nothing to them), claiming this is “innocent fun”.

Time for a second reality check: acting like a schoolyard bully doesn’t make you cool. It makes you a bully. Giving new users a hard time and making fun of them doesn’t make you cool. It makes you a complete and utter idiot. And it’s not “innocent fun” at all; it’s pure, unadulterated asshattery. Exactly the same goes for condoning and praising such antics. Oh, and something else: it’s always fun when such people chastise Linden Lab for “failing to attract new users and keep them in SL” – when they go out of their way and spend time and effort to discourage these new users and make them leave SL, ensuring with their behaviour that these people will tell everyone they know how crappy SL and its users are.

To be honest, LL would have every reason in the world to consider this behaviour a form of griefing, as it interferes with its business interests; people who were harassed and bullied out of SL certainly won’t be renting virtual land…




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