Can real people find true love in a virtual world? It’s happening every day in Second Life and our “Love Made in Second Life” series explores how romance and long-distance relationships can thrive in the metaverse!
Ajay McDowwll and Synapse Zabelin met in Second Life, fell in love, moved together in the physical realm – he from Mississippi, she from Florida where they still are today- got married and, spoiler alert: Ajay and Syn are still together today, after almost 16 years!
The story begins on the original Help Island, where Syn volunteered when newbie Ajay dropped in. They struck up a friendship and the rest, as they say, is Second Life history!
We asked them more about the history of their relationship.
How long have you been together?
We met in 2007 and have been married since August of 2009.
What was the initial spark where you kind of knew that you were possibly “meant for each other”?
Ajay: Honestly, I can’t remember some sort of “Aha!” moment. I’ve been divorced twice, and I was very straightforward with him that I was never getting married again because picking an appropriate spouse was clearly not in my skill set. Syn was okay with that; he said he’d still be right here. And he was… and he is.
Syn: I knew when I would log in and felt disappointed if she wasn’t inworld.
What does Second Life mean to you?
Ajay: SL’s influence on my life is wide-ranging, from social activities to music, to creativity… I can actually build things inworld! I loathe Blender with the fire of a thousand suns and still, rage quit it regularly, but using the built-in tools SL provides, I’m able to create any number of things. Shoot, I finally actually put something up on Marketplace (there is one entire item in my store), and someone who doesn’t even know me purchased a copy!
For the arts scene, the diversity of both visual artists and musicians in SL who perform live is phenomenal. Many of these people have become acquaintances and friends in the physical world also, thanks to random meet-ups and organized events like the SL Live Music Jams.
Syn: SL is a creative outlet, a place to meet new people with varied interests.
What advice would you give others who meet someone in SL and are not sure if they should pursue a relationship?
Ajay: What I would say is it’s totally reasonable to give an SL relationship the same chance as you would a relationship that started in the physical world. You already have one thing in common, and SL is a stronger tie than just bumping into someone in the produce section at your local grocery store.
Syn: Go slow. Friends first, then the rest will happen if it’s in the cards for you.
You guys left SL at one point. Why? And why come back now?
Ajay + Syn: We left SL primarily because we were newly married, I had young kids, and we just had a lot to concentrate on in the physical world, both with our relationship with each other as well as our respective jobs and the children’s schedules and academic needs. But we maintained our premium membership so we always had a home to pop back into and it was that home that brought us back into SL.
I checked my email one day to find a note from Quianna Greymist of Angels asking about the 1024 we had, and if we were interested in selling. It turned out that all of the land surrounding our plot (512 for each of us) had been purchased by Angels, and we were literally on an island in the middle of a runway. We came back inworld to complete the land sale in October of 2019, looked around, and asked each other, “Why did we ever leave?” 😃
Nearly a decade’s worth of stipend being saved up made it very easy to update ourselves to mesh!
Video Production by Draxtor Despres
Logo by Marianne McCann
Have a great week from all of us at Zoha Islands/Fruit Islands
New Website Tracks Genuine Second Life Activity, Filtering Out AFK Users & Traffic Bots
Most active sims in Second Life as of 1:30pm PT
BonnieBots is a new website tracking genuine Second Life activity, and the homepage is an incredibly useful guide for finding SL sims with real, active users — as opposed to traffic bots used by many sim owners to artificially appear popular.
“The biggest complaint we hear is, ‘I logged in and couldn’t find anyone else,’ or some variation of, ‘Seemed abandoned’,” as site owner Bonnie Belle explains. “The Destination Guide is worthless. Official traffic numbers just take you to ‘AFK” places or worse’.”
“We wanted to do better.”
A developer in real life, Bonnie’s solution is elegant: Create better bots. Hence the site’s name.
Above: A Bonnie bot, tirelessly on patrol
Bonnie’s bots explore the Second Life grid, counting the number of avatars on each sim. That data is then collected by Bonnie to register daily activity trends.
She shows me data on a specific sim (at right) to explain what she means.
“Take Lagoon Retreat right now. They don’t seem like they ever run bots. Must be an event there.
“If 40 avatars sit on a sim 24/7, let’s assume that isn’t a busy sim, that’s just AFK avatars or bots. So instead we show change in avatar counts. If 40 people joined that sim in the last hour, that sounds like a sale or a good party. And it works 30% of the time maybe.
“I have fun finding new sims that way and seeing what the happenings are,” Bonnie adds. “It doesn’t play favorites or require any moderation to keep up-to-date. That’s perfect for a lazy developer like me.”
And no, Bonnie says she’s not doing this to start an SL analytics consultancy or something like that.
“There’s no business aspect,” as she puts it. “We’re just bored and really like Second Life. We think it’s fun and interesting.
“We hope the information makes SL more enjoyable especially for new users. And we just think it’s all kinds of interesting. Now everyone can see the abandoned land, not just land barons. That’s a win in my book.”
The only people who might not benefit from BonnieBots might be traffic bots — and Bonnie herself:
“One of the Bonnies was banned for ‘gaming traffic’… [but they] don’t stay at a location long enough to game traffic.
“We get a lot of messages from people threatening to file abuse reports for stalking. I think people see Bonnie at two different sims and assume it’s an ex-lover following them.
The greater portion of humanity’s history can, unfortunately, be told in terms of conflict and war. Whether driven by territorial desires, religious zealotry, political expediency, or inherent ethnic / racial divides, wars large and small, tribal, national or international have pockmarked the stories of successive civilisations. With the 21st century just into its 23rd year, we have already witnessed some 27 significant conflicts and wars around the globe – roughly twice the number seen within the first two decades of the 20th century.
Little wonder then, that London Junkers has chosen as he latest installation – opening on Wednesday, January 11th, 2023 at 13:00 SLT – to bring back Guernica, his 3D reproduction of Pablo Picasso’s famous oil painting, regarded around the world by many through the years as the most moving and powerful anti-war painting in history.
For those unfamiliar with the painting, from mid-1936 through until late 1939, Spain was torn apart by a civil war between the then-Republican government (notably aided by Soviet Russia and by Mexico) and the Nationalists, lead by a group of generals who had failed to seize power in a coup d’état in mid-July 1936 and were aided by Fascist Germany and Italy.
As a part of that conflict, General Francisco Franco called upon the German Luftwaffe’s Condor Legion and the Italian Aviazione Legionaria to bomb the small – but to the Basques, historically and culturally significant – town of Guernica. Ostensibly, the raid was to deny retreating Republican army use of the town’s bridge to cross the Oka River. However, the use of incendiary bombs later the later raids carried out by the German Condor Legion and which set the town ablaze, does suggest the the bombing was intended to break the spirit of the Basque army.
The attack levelled almost all of the town, with it and the strafing of roads and streets by fighters was seen as a war crime. On hearing about the raid at his home in Paris, Pablo Picasso was horrified. Already been commissioned by the Republican government to produce a painting for the Spanish pavilion at the 1937 Paris International Exposition (and to raise funds for the Republican cause via exhibitions around the world), he decided to express his outrage at the murder of women and children – both of whom he saw as “the very perfection of mankind” – through a painting commemorating those lost.
In all, the painting – over 7.5 meters long and around 3.5 meters high – took Picasso 35 days to produce, and while it was the result of a commission by and for his nation’s Republican government, and he was himself an anti-fascist, and thus vehemently opposed to the likes of Franco, Hitler and Mussolini, he saw the painting as a means to express his overall abhorrence to the war and the effect the actions of both sides was having on his homeland.
The Spanish struggle is the fight of reaction against the people, against freedom. My whole life as an artist has been nothing more than a continuous struggle against reaction and the death of art. How could anybody think for a moment that I could be in agreement with reaction and death? … In the panel on which I am working, which I shall call Guernica, and in all my recent works of art, I clearly express my abhorrence of the military caste which has sunk Spain in an ocean of pain and death.
– Pablo Picasso
Interpreting the painting tends to be subjective; while there is clear symbolism throughout, some of which is clear – such as the woman on the left mourning the loss of her babe-in-arms; the woman with arms upraised to the right, the lick of flames both above and below her, the fallen, dismembered soldier -, so to is there symbolism (or metaphor) which is harder to discern. The presence of the bull and horse, for example; both animals have enormous significance in Spanish culture, and would appear to have significance here – but Picasso himself warned against reading too much into their presence other than, perhaps, as symbols of his nation.
But that said, the overall horror and destruction, the pain, death and sorrow that surround war is all too clearly evident throughout the piece. As such, when visiting London’s installation, I strongly recommend viewing it from far enough back so you can see all of the piece in a single frame such that it might be viewed as the original. From here all the nuances of the piece can be seen, such as the way the horse’s nose, nostrils and teeth offer a stylised human skull, for example. By moving / camming close helps to bring individual pieces within London’s interpretation of Picasso’s work, allowing us to ponder their meaning.
This symbolism also extends to the landing point / event stage for the installation. Sharing the same black / white / greyscale tones as the painting, this area features two Junkers dive bombers (not actually used in the Guernica raid, but utterly symbolic of the terror of warfare), swooping down on the stage. Between them, a dove – the symbol of peace – sits trapped within a sphere, a symbolism which speaks for itself. Above this sits the trunk of a tree, representative of both the line of Gernikako Arbola, or [oak] Tree of Guernica – a central facet of the Biscayan people (and by extension, Basques as a whole); and the third tree in the series (1858-2004), which miraculously survived the bombing of the town. Finally, two board on the stage provide, respectively, an introduction to the installation and London’s own indictment of war, in the form of a poem, might be read.
When writing about the original presentation of this installation in 2012, I noted it might be said that the bombing of Guernica washed away the last vestiges of the romanticism so often afforded war through word, verse and idealism. Sadly, it did not bring an end to war itself, as witnessed by the events that followed on the heels of the Spanish Civil War, and all the conflicts since, per the opening comments of this piece.
In this, and given all that is occurring within Ukraine in particular (and before it, Georgia), the return of Guernica to Second Life at this time helps reminds us that so long as we are driven by the need for power, for dominance (and dominion) over others and in elevating politics and / or religion above our fellow humans, the innocent will continue to suffer under the yoke of war.
On The Continued Cultural Reach of the Virtual World
In case you missed it over the holidays, the New York Times’ story on the use of contemporary art displayed in major opera houses casually mentions that “the Chinese-born multimedia artist Cao Fei is showing a female avatar — a dystopian, pale-white head so imposing that signs have been put up all over the [Vienna] opera house to alert spectators to its presence.”
That avatar is actually China Tracy from Second Life — she still has an active account in SL, look her up! — who’s been showing up in Cao Fei’s art projects since 2007:
And so on. This is another key way in which Second Life continues to be a model for the Metaverse. While say Roblox and Fortnite have much larger user bases, you will see little evidence of them in culture outside gaming. And definitely not in a top art museum or opera house.
Because in the end it’s not just about raw user numbers, but cultural reach, and what is often called “thought leadership” — a perspective that influences how the broader society thinks and engages with the concept of virtual worlds and the Metaverse in general. (And, yes, I’ll be writing much about that in my book.)
Top photo credit: Andreas Scheiblecker/Museum in Progress
Have A Great Week From All Of Us At Zoha Islands/Fruit Islands
Good news to start 2023 of with is that Second Life has been positively been growing since 2021. During the past few years Private Estates have increased by at least one thousand regions and Linden Owned regions have increased by at least 500 regions.
Hopefully region growth will continue though 2023 and we will be blogging any major changes during the year ahead. Stay tuned for those updates in (March, June, September and December 2023) on our blog.
Below are the region counts from 2021, 2022 and now 2023. More growth in 2022 it appears and hopefully there will be growth in 2023/2024. It’s not known if 2023 will any easier than 2022 was with the cost of living going up globally (risk of another recession). We will have to wait and see what happens.
3rd January 2021: 25, 555
2nd January 2022: 27, 231
1st January 2023: 27, 659 – (1812.66 KM)
3rd January 2021: 17, 024
2nd January 2022: 18, 332
1st January 2023: 18, 370
3rd January 2021: 8, 531
2nd January 2022: 8, 909
1st January 2023: 9, 289
All data supplied via the Second Life grid survey.
New Grid Statistics 2023
Second Life Main Grid size as of 1 Jan 2023
Total Area (km�)
Have A Great New Year From All Of Us At Zoha Islands/ Fruit Islands
Due To High Demand Please Contact one of our Sales agents about our Extended Buy Down Program. You can own your land at the lowest tier prices in Secondlife.
A Return to Our Roots…and a New Vision for the Future
As 2022 comes to a close, it is time for our annual look back at some of the year’s most notable developments and accomplishments in Second Life. The year 2022 began with a bang as original founder Philip Rosedale returned to Second Life as a strategic advisor. Philip’s pioneering vision for the now-mainstream concepts of virtual economies, cultures, and communities played a crucial role in the launch and subsequent success of Second Life since its inception almost two decades ago – and we are excited to work closely with him once again to shape our future direction.
One of the newest Second Life initiatives championed by Philip has been the long-awaited Preview Grid availability of “Puppetry“, which adds avatar “expressiveness” either via camera-based movement or connecting the viewer to motion-based capture hardware for a whole new level of interaction and connectedness. Our announcement of this work was among the most-shared posts on our social channels for the year, and we’ve opened up the development of this feature to community contributions.
The introduction of Event Regions makes it easier to hold large-scale events with expanded capacity for more concurrent visitors – owners and renters of Event Regions can host up to 175 avatars and get a 20% script performance boost along with other benefits.
Second Life membership got a power-up too, with the introduction of Premium Plus, which rolled out to a steaming hot reception this summer. The introduction of the Plus membership tier later in the year has allowed residents to dip their toes into the waters of SL membership and mainland ownership. Everyone can find a level that fits their Second Life needs at the moment, and we hope the expanded offerings will continue to serve you well.
This year, Residents spent nearly 320 million hours inworld, and we hope that you were having a blast the whole time!
Want a sneak peek at the shape of things to come in 2023? Here’s a look at what’s already in the works for the new year and beyond:
In 2022 we started working on a number of graphical improvements including physical based rendering (PBR), GLTF adoption, and reflection probes – with the intent of shipping our first iteration of these features early in the coming year.
Creators will be able to use tools like Substance Painter to generate GLTF materials to import into Second Life. PBR will leverage the new material types and sample from reflection probes for environment reflections and lighting. Second Life is about to get a lot more shiny.
All the reflection probes work set us up nicely for a much requested feature. Yes, Planar mirrors are also on our roadmap for 2023!
Also in the works for 2023:
Avatar customization improvements to simplify creating your virtual identity, including inventory thumbnails to give a preview of what’s sitting in those boxes
New user experience upgrades to better fuel retention, engagement, and growth across key parts of the new user journey
New centralized “hubs” to better connect residents to the communities that match their passions and interests
First peek at a world and avatar centered mobile-first Second Life experience
New LSL functions that improve the quality of life for scripters
Even more performance improvements to increase the quality and visual fidelity of the Second Life experience
…and much more!
In addition to the Second Life innovations noted above, there were several other key accomplishments in 2022 worth spotlighting.
Bringing Second Life Back into the Conversation
In 2022, the renewed general interest in the Metaverse translated into significant media opportunities for Second Life. Over 21,000 articles and other stories included Second Life in 2022 – nearly 5 times greater than the amount of media coverage we received in 2021. We are especially proud of the range and scale of the media coverage – everything from community forums to more specialized technology press as well as some of the world’s largest media properties including the BBC, CNN and The Wall Street Journal. The four part Wall Street Journal podcast, How to Build a Metaverse, was particularly excellent coverage.
Premium Plus members are now also able to purchase a Homestead region with their membership with no additional requirements for a full region. We’ve seen a lot of interest here, and are happy to be able to offer this valuable benefit.
By far, the most popular perks of both the Premium and Premium Plus membership are Linden Homes, which give Residents the opportunity to move into a ready-made home crafted in a variety of styles – including the new-for-2022 Newbrooke and Sakura themes. Could another new theme be around the corner? Saddle up and stay tuned…and expect even more new extras and enhancements to the various Premium offerings in the coming year.
Additionally, we continued to rotate in new “Last Name” options for community members seeking to better craft their identity and personas, including limited-time availability of several in-demand and specialized last names. Demonpaws, anyone?
Other modifications to the Official Viewer were made based on community feedback, including improvements to Viewer profiles for a more responsive experience (including streamlined availability to Groups, which is now more accessible on the main Viewer profile tab).
Linkset Structured Data
In November, we introduced Linkset Structured Data (LSD), a new way for LSL to store data. The feature has been covered by external blogposts, and has been touted as a game changer for scripters who need persistent storage of data.
New Partnerships & Possibilities
One of the biggest community developments of 2022 was Second Life’s acquisition of several SL-related assets of CasperTech, which will help ensure that its popular merchant and vendor services will continue to operate smoothly with even more enhancements in the future.
Our parent company Linden Lab also announced that Tilia LLC, the all-in-one payments platform that powers the Second Life economy. secured a strategic investment from J.P. Morgan Payments. The investment will help enhance its current capabilities throughout its processing platform including providing increased payment and payout methods, expanded pay-out currencies and support services.
There were several exciting entertainment and media industry partnerships in Second Life over the past year, too. The year started strong with the Metaverse Fashion Week event, held inworld in February. The event, which was covered in major outlets including Vogue and Glamour, included an elaborate inworld runway show that debuted an all-new virtual fashion collection from designer Jonathan Simkhai (who debuted the physical collection of the same fashions the next day in NYC).
Our partnership with Film Threat also continued with several virtual cinema screenings, including the premieres of Draxtor Despres’ documentary “Virtual Cultures in Pandemic Times” and Huckleberry Hax’s full-length shot-in-SL machinima “WAARHEID.”
Community Celebrations, Marketing Milestones
All of the media attention throughout the first half of the year helped to heighten interest in our SL19B Celebration, which was the most successful birthday event ever with an all-time record for attendance and participation! The 24-region event housed 225 community exhibits and the related music events featured a total of 346 performers! We also saw record engagement at the SL19B Shop & Hop 20-region shopping event, which racked up all-time record sales for the 400 participating merchants. So, who is ready for SL20B?!!
In 2022, we opened the all-new Second Life University to help better educate both new and existing community members on how to get the most out of our virtual world. This initiative includes a series of both live and produced community videos educating participants on a variety of topics including Viewer Basics, dressing your avatar, and much more.
In addition, the community team debuted a new weekly email newsletter for those who want to stay connected with regular updates on the latest news and events each week.
Happy Holidays from Second Life
Thank you to the entire Second City community for your ongoing loyalty and support. While we will continue to work hard at Linden Lab to improve Second Life, we know that it is the Residents and your many creative contributions that form the heart and soul of our shared virtual world. Our Metaverse, if we may.