That cold dead stare of confusion

Every so often I hear rumblings about the decision to let your real life friends and family in on your dirty little secret – that you are a resident of SL®. How the current way the press is leaning towards the kinky sex angles makes it embarrassing. Or that the general beliefs of most non-residents that you should in fact get a real life and not a second one makes you hesitant. But what if you didn’t have the choice?

Content creators who make their RL living in this funny little place have to either lie or sit there for longer than you might think explaining what it is we do for a living. To perfect strangers most of the time. And no matter how well you know them or how well you explain, you will always receive that cold dead stare of confusion. Usually a number of times through out the conversation.

Of course in the midst of the explanation, you always get to answer a string of the most insanely stupid questions. And to make it all worth it, you full well know that the only people who understand SL® are the residents. If you haven’t logged in, you will never get it.

Think about it. You are sitting in the pub and a complete stranger is chatting you up. You avoid the topic like the plague for as long as possible to assess their possible level of understanding. At the same time you probably seem rude since you haven’t asked them yet. Without fail it happens and usually far too early in the conversation. Right there on the spot you have to figure out if it’s worth it to yet again explain SL®.

Sometimes I flat out say that it takes too long to explain, but that just makes them more interested. As if it’s some kind of insult. Granted it usually is.

The easiest types of people to talk to about it, of course, are those in the know technology wise. Most have at least heard of SL® outside of the weird sex articles. They may sort of understand the how, but rarely the why. There are some that you can explain the why – adult version of Barbie, but rarely the how. Then you have those that not only don’t get the how but also the why.

I spent my new years eve surrounded by people I hadn’t met before that was in the last category. You know those parties where you’re mates with the host but they thought it’d be fun to throw friends from different circles into the same room with a lot of booze? Yeah. It was one of those. I had a rather annoying hour trying to explain to one person that I didn’t need to understand the underlying programming language that runs SL® like web designers need to, no matter how much he insisted that I did.

Another asked if it was like “that game in that article about those fat people having affairs.” Yes I said, dead silence. I followed up with “there are mental people everywhere,” still silence.

One guy was convinced I worked for LL and couldn’t be swayed otherwise. Of course the idea that you can make money off a piece of software and not be an employee is beyond understanding. The densest chick on the planet asked if it had something to do with computers after quite a lengthy discussion. Yes I replied and the conversation ended, rather luckily for me I believe.

Random bits from typical conversations: “Oh you make avatars.” No. I make movement that other’s can apply to their avatars. “So you have to be online all the time so people can buy from you?” No. I have a store that people can go to buy stuff. “Like a website?” *sigh* No it’s inside the program. “Do you make sex animations?” No. “Why not?” Because I don’t feel like it.

However I think my favourite stupid comment of all time was from someone I’ve talked to for years about SL®: “Your end result is to sell clothes.” huh? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

Most of the time I get “oh…you play that sex game.” I don’t play anything thank you very much… well unless you count the actual games I do play. Erm. *cough* In SL® I make stuff. I’m being creative.

Seriously how difficult is it? I understand it’s new and you may never have heard it before. But come the fuck on. I make animations in your standard 3d animation packages, Poser and Maya. I take that animation file and upload it into a program called Second Life®. Then other people who use said program buys it. Luckily, enough do and thus I make a living. Bloody hell, I rarely even try to go into what a pose actually is. Insert the wave of stupid questions to which they eventually give up and move on to…

“But why?” I’m not entirely certain. They have their own reasons. Why do people buy anything? Yet again, the stare of confusion. At this point in the conversation I typically ask to talk about something else. How about films?

In an earlier post by HawksRock, he wondered why anyone would go to SLCC. Here’s your answer: so I can have a pint with a person I just met and not have to go through all that shit. Because spending most of my evening explaining it over and over again is about as interesting as beating my head against a brick wall.


12 Responses to “That cold dead stare of confusion”

  1. Great topic and post Luth! So very true from the perspective of what most of us probably deal with when talking to people who don’t understand. I guess I never realized how much harder it would be to explain exactly how you make a living when you make it in SL!

    Kudos to you for not only tirelessly explaining it over and over, but for also not giving in to the urge to kick someone in the teeth! 😀

  2. Very well expressed Luth, I think we’ve all hit that… “so what do you DO there???”, “Yes but why???”, “can I buy your stuff to wear in real life somewhere?”, “why bother then?”, “so you spend hours making stuff that really doesn’t exist…and people pay you money for that?”, “how much is a Linden dollar worth…. are you MAD!!! you spend HOURS making something that you get 50cents for!!!” …

    Just a few snippets I’ve heard, & I’m sure we all have in one form or another…I either get laughed at or get an impromptu “intervention” cause clearly I have reality issues and need “help” LOL

    Oh the other one I love is that I’m being “anti-social”… not so, how many different people do we all talk to in SL in any given day that we’re online?

    And YES I would love to have a beer with someone who just “got it” 😀

  3. Great post Luth. I have long since given up trying to explain SL to non residents, especially the bit about making money. I would love to one year attend the SLCC just to meet others who understand, and don’t need constant explainations.

  4. Great post. I truly regret having told the people I work with about SL. Even thought I don’t talk about it at all at work, they always point fingers at me…

  5. hawksrock Says:

    Excellent post Luth! Although I do not create, I think the same can be said about meeting your RL significant other in this virtual world, because the second most common question after what you do for a living is so how did you two meet?

  6. Amyla Wakowski Says:

    @hawksrock: Yes! My husband and I met via SL. We’ve only bothered to go into detail beyond “We met online” with the handful of people we know who are most likely to understand. Often it’s easier not to mention SL at all. People seem more accepting of Internet matchmaking services than SL, and I’d rather the ones who don’t understand SL assume we met on a dating site than try to explain SL.

    If content creation for SL were a primary/significant source of income for me, I’d probably say, “I create content for a virtual reality environment,” and perhaps elaborate slightly with whether I did scripting, animation, graphic design or architecture. And then I’d do my best to divert focus back to the other person’s job/interests/etc. to move the conversation along.

  7. I just say “independent game content developer” and leave it at that

  8. Most people who know me in RL know I met my husband in SL, which is ‘some chatroom thing on the computer…’ and tend to leave it at that and not especially care, as I’m one of the youngest in a family of people who assume they just won’t ‘get’ such things, which suits me just fine.
    In the summer, my landlord sent some workmen around to replace my windows, and I was on SL, and they were asking me all about it, so, I was showing them all the wonders and explaining, and they were nodding and smiling in a ‘o yeah, I got one of them computer fings at ‘ome innit, for e-mail and stuff’ sort of way, but in the end, all they’d picked up was ‘so if I go on there, I could get me a girlfriend? And she’d ‘ave sex wiv me?’

    I sighed and gave up.

  9. I always find that giving a simple answer like “self employed,” “3d animator,” “create animations for video games,” “independent game content developer” or “creates animations for a virtual world” just leads to more questions. And never had anyone leave it well enough alone.

    If I say anything about games, they want to know which games. If I say something simple like animations, they want to know if its film or games. No matter how much I try to divert the focus back to the other person, they always keep poking at the subject.

    Perhaps it’s just cause I’m shit at lying and they can see it on my face that I’m not giving the full truth. Perhaps it’s just the curiousity part of human nature. It’s the same thing with my tattoos, no matter what I say people want to know the exact meaning of them.

    @hawksrock: in some ways I think that would be even more difficult. Specifically with the way most people see online dating.

  10. AlaskaMetro Says:

    When I was in school and SL was my primary income, I had some other students over. “Your place is so nice!” they said, “Are you a drug dealer?” After I explained where my spare $$ was coming from… I decided it would have been WAY more socially acceptable if I just SAID I WAS A DRUG DEALER.

  11. I used to enjoy telling other people about it, but now it is just tiresome. I’m a shit liar too … eventually once you’ve thoroughly confused them they give you this look, like “Are you telling the truth or are you just shining me on and you’re really a grocery cashier?”

  12. I brought it up on a (RL) date the other night, and the guy said, “Gosh, I would’ve never known you were one of those Star Trek/World of Warcraft types!”


    If I bat my eyelashes and say it’s like playing grownup Barbies, it brings the geek heat down a little though. :-\

    Much better!

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