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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Death

You can’t be killed in Second Life. To prove this, find a tall building and jump off it. You’ll just get up and dust yourself off. But even though our avatars can’t be permanently harmed, there are several forms of death in Second Life, and all but one of them can cause just as much emotional distress as a death in Real Life. Let’s talk about them, OK?

Avatar Death. I said you can’t be killed in SL, but in some places you can, sort of. A land parcel may be “damage enabled”. When you enter such a parcel, you’ll get a notification. Also, a little red heart will appear in the top menu bar, with a number. This is your “health” score. If it goes to zero, you are “killed”. However, the only thing that happens is you get sent back to your Home location. This can be disorienting if you aren’t expecting it. Combat regions and various other locations whose owners like the idea of shootin’ trespassers are damage enabled. If you want to experience avatar death, here’s a landmark to try. The arrival point is one meter above the damage-enabled lava pit of the Mount G’al volcano.

Real Life Death. If you die in RL, your Second Life friends may never know what happened to you. You just vanish from the grid. Your account may have both a $L and a $USD balance. You may own land, and be paying for it with an automatic monthly credit card charge. You may have a store, with products, income, and expenses. Many people make provisions for their Second Lives in the event of their death. You could write out an “SL Will” with instructions for your heirs, and include it with your important papers.

Account Cancellation. Some people get tired of their Second Lives, or at least their current group of friends. They close out their account, but make a new one and begin again as an alt. For their friends, this has the same result as their Real Life death…they simply vanish from the grid. Unless, of course, they give in to temptation and tell someone. This usually leads to Drama. (“Drama” with a capital D refers to soap opera-like interactions between avatars, usually in affairs of the heart).

Faked Death. In this variation, a person not only cancels their SL account and makes an alt, they also have a friend (or another alt) spread around the story that they died in Real Life. This one can cause serious emotional upheaval. Their partner and friends react with genuine grief to this cruelly manufactured tragedy. People who do this are beneath contempt, but I have seen this happen often enough that I no longer believe any accounts of a person’s death unless it can be independently verified, such as through a newspaper notice.

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