If you aren’t already aware, furries are subject to quite a bit of hate on the internet and it can often be difficult as a furry to find a safe space to talk to other furries without the sneaking suspicion that someone is waiting to harass you. However, one community for the past two decades has been providing a safe haven for furries looking to meet other furries and it’s known as Second Life.
In this article, we speak to Keenan Linden, a member of the furry sub-community within Second Life for the past 16 years, for a better insight into how it all works.
What Is Second Life?
In its most simple form, Second Life is a multi-media platform that allows users to create an avatar and interact with other users and user-created content within the world. It was initially designed in the early 2000s as a means of completely immersing people in a virtual world. You have to remember that this was at a time when playing things online or even interacting with people online was significantly less of a commodity than it is today. The reason the term “game” isn’t often used to describe it is that it doesn’t really have any objective. Many people liken it to MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) but Linden Labs themselves (the creators of the software) insist that it is not a game and that “there is no manufactured conflict, no set objective”. It was created with the sole intention of allowing users to personalize an avatar and interact with people within the world as said avatar. So, let’s see why this is such a useful tool for the furry community.
Screenshot of Second Life
Image via IEEE Spectrum
Why Is Second Life So Great For Furries?
When asked what some of the benefits are of Second Life for a furry Keenan explained that “Second Life has a robust set of tools for customizing how you look within the virtual world. This is critical for me as a furry as it lets me be whatever I wish to be”. As you might already know, personalization is something that is super important to the furry community. A lot of the foundation of the furry community is built on individuality whether that be through fursonas or fursuits etc. Keenan goes on to explain that “… you don’t have to start from scratch. There are plenty of furry bodies and heads that can be customized”. Another thing that makes Second Life so appealing to the furry community is its emphasis on easy customization. When one of the core mechanics of the software is designing your avatar you could probably imagine that it has to work pretty smoothly and this is what lends the platform so well to the furry community. It doesn’t just allow furries to customize themselves as they want, but it allows them to do it intuitively.
We asked Keenan what made the customisation so much better than other platforms similar to Second Life and he explained that “Second Life’s marketplace and built-in 3D modeling tools allow you to quickly tweak and customize yourself in-world”.
Aren’t There Alternatives To Second Life?
As you might already know, although Second Life may have been the pioneer in creating a virtual world, there have been many successful community-building tools since that have really knocked out of the park for the furry community, namely Discord. Discord offers infinite tools for community building whether that be for voice channels, sharing art, community activities, moderation, and personalization. Keenan however argues that “Second Life is a virtual world that definitely lends itself to more options for interactions. Discord may have activities now, but in Second Life, you and your friends can tour many places creators have built, participate in amazing games or just hang out somewhere to chill and chat”.
Another alternative to Second Life that you may have heard of is VRChat. It offers a very similar experience in terms of being able to tour different player-build locations and create your own avatar so we figured we’d ask Keenan his thoughts on it as a community for furries compared to Second Life. He claimed that he’s been in the VRChat furry community for about 2 years (a fraction of the time he has spent in the Second Life furry community) and that “VRChat has fairly good performance on various machines, and the graphics are fairly nice. This comes at a cost, however, which is that customizing your avatar or creating a world in VRChat can be a bit more involved than Second Life.” He goes on to say that “Both could be more intuitive to new users, but the fact that you can do that live editing in Second Life (to your avatar) is a win to me”.
Is Second Life Still Popular?
Given that it’s been around 20 years since the release of Second Life it’s worth checking out how popular the game still is especially amongst furries. We asked Keenan about the furry community in Second Life and whether or not he thought it was growing to which he responded “It’s hard for me to say as I generally hang out with a small group of friends these days, but I feel it’s decently sized. I think there is potential for growth as well, especially with more furry-related marketing.” And it’s true, Second Life doesn’t really angle their marketing toward the furry community specifically, it just so happens that Second Life ticks all the boxes for a furry community to inhabit. However, Second Life has around 750K active monthly users but they saw a massive spike in players amidst the pandemic in 2020 where it shot up to nearly 1 million.
Another Screenshot From Second Life
Image via BBC
Is It Safe From Trolls and Raiding?
One of the main selling points of Second Life for furries is how it deals with people who can’t be bothered for trolling and harassment. This is done through the use of what is known as regions and parcels. “A region is an island that one can buy, whereas a parcel is a piece of land either in a region or on the mainland which is run by Linden Lab”. These regions and parcels can be made private so that only specific members may join them and this works wonders for the furry community. “Obviously, it is not without its fair share of trolls, especially in more public spaces, but the owners and moderators of those spaces have the tools needed to take care of the problem” Keenan goes on to explain.
We then wanted to get an idea of how it compares to the furry community in VRChat in terms of its ability to deal with trolls to which Keenan answered “I’ve seen some of the community, but I haven’t participated in it directly. I feel that VRChat as a whole has a higher degree of toxicity in public spaces. I have yet to go somewhere public and not be harassed by someone”. He goes on to describe how most of his time spent on VRChat is in private worlds with his friends, free from the harassment of strangers in the game. He goes on to explain that “That’s not a reflection of the furry community on VRChat, but it does make it hard for me to socialize with other furries in those public spaces.”
Furries operating in public spaces is an issue that seems to be equally as present across all platforms but Second Life seems to give furries the greatest tools to deal with trolls effectively.
Screenshot Of A Second Life Raid
Image via Reddit
After our conversation with Keenan, it became clear that Second Life is a platform that a lot of furries find truly useful. It allows for self-expression, exploration, creativity, provides the best tools to deal with trolling, and has an already thriving community. It’s very likely that if you’re a furry, Second Life completely flew under your radar like it did ours but it’s obvious that there is something special here for the furry community and we can only hope that it continues to grow and improve.