Pros: Disk, explanation of the platform, warnings against the seedier aspects of SL
Cons: Testimonials and at times the book feels more self serving than detached.
The Bottom Line: If you plan on being in SL for a while but want to do more than chat, this could be a useful asset.
Second Life the Official Guide is a book with many parents: Michael Rymaszewski, Wagner James Au, Catherine Winters, Cory Ondrejka, Benjamin Batstone-Cunningham, and Second Life Residents around the world.
I bought it because, after 6 weeks in Second Life, I wanted to see what I might have been overlooking. I have reviewed the ‘game’ already and have enjoyed the majority of my time in that new world; however, since it is open ended (if you have played and have, say, a favorite beach that is relatively new, you can go there on successive days and find that the place changes daily with the whim, income, and intent of the owner) and since there are very few rules, knowing what you might be missing is nearly impossible.
Except for Chapter 8 which explains the scripting language used to give objects in Second Life more realism, the book is intended for someone who just wants to create an avatar and move about the game platform. For this purpose, the book is both attractive (every page is in color and most have screen shots of the manipulation windows or other snapshots of the map or avatars) and helpful. But if you want to do more, the book is a bit limited.
For something as otherworldly and based on the hardware and software that make up a new ether, a book is a serious piece of luddite relict. However, guides like this can be helpful because you can read them away from the computer. I am someone who, when playing on the computer, doesn’t like to look too long at instructions or handy tips or whatever (they are distracting from the play—I am very much a stereotypical man in this respect). For the most part, I had learned in my six weeks on the platform how to do most of the covered activities just from heuristic activities. Others may not want to go by trial and error—for them the book would be helpful.
It is worth stressing that this is a “guide” and not a rule book or hand book. It points you in directions, praises the things that are interesting or otherwise deserving of praise and warns you against con-men.
The book is written for any user, but tends to have more information for the adult reader—there are no specific instructions on the teen grid (which is totally separate from the adult grid). The avatars (characters you create) work the same in both grids, but the teen grid does not have the sex and sexuality of the adult grid. The book does not shy away from this topic and does not delve any deeper into it than any other aspect of Second Life.
There are two things I didn’t like about the book, one personal, the other less so. I mentioned in my review of the game that I have no one on my friend list whose desire is to make money. You can make real dollars and euros if you set up a popular enough business or become a real estate magnate/speculator. The book goes into deep detail about how to make money. For me this is a game and I don’t want to be pestered in a game by salespeople anymore than I want it in real life. Again, this is a very personal gripe (if you need the info, then the book is accurate). The other is that there are too many testimonials from long time Second Life users. If you’re just starting out then these testimonials are something like either of these images: you make your first porn video and ask Larry Flint for advice or you buy and sell your first plot of land and you ask Donald Trump for advice—they might be helpful, but their worlds are far larger than the one you just started in and it is unlikely that you would be able to use this information in a way you desire. For me they were just self-serving and unnecessary.
The book is a snapshot of a moving train. There were many occasions when the writers say “at the time or printing” thus and such is true. Therefore it is difficult to fault them when their links are stale; however, be aware that some of the links are stale and you will have to go hunting for them.
All in all I give the book a 2. But it comes with a disk that has several objects and items that are fun and useful in the game and with instructions on how to script objects using the language endemic to Second Life. I give the disk a 4.
If you feel like you are just flailing around in SL and your friend list doesn’t contain anyone with enough savvy, then the book is very likely to be helpful. It does cost $35 because of the cd included but is worth it if you need the help it contains and you intend to stay on SL for longer than just a few weeks. There is no reason to buy the book if you think you will become bored with Second Life.
Yes, I call myself a geek but I have yet to check out the phenomenon known as Second Life. That changed yesterday when I finished the book Second Life: The Official Guide by Michael Rymaszewski, Wagner James Au, Mark Wallace, Catherine Winters, Cory Ondrejka, and Benjamin Batstone-Cunningham. I can now see the appeal on a number of levels... Contents: Part 1 - Getting a Second Life: What Is Second Life?; Getting Started; The Grand Tour Part 2 - Living … more