Second Life: The miracle of virtual birth

Posted on April 26, 2010


A few years ago I wrote several regular columns about Second Life. One of these was called “The Walkin’ Dude,” because it chronicled the people I met and places I visited during my year-long walk through the virtual world.

Recently I mentioned the possibility of holding a get-together on the ship I set up there, the Richard Adams Locke — part pub, part museum, and part library. Since Second Life is not familiar to everyone, I thought I might introduce it by reprinting a few of my articles. This is one of them.

What's good enough for Demi Moore in real life...

... is good enough for others in Second Life

We often think of Second Life in terms of the things we can do. We can fly, we can teleport instantly from place to place, we can become animals, cyborgs, vampires, and anything else that strikes our fancy. The violently inclined can battle each other with huge guns without going to jail, and the radically inclined can commit terrorist acts without going to Guantanamo. We can even pilot one of those flying cars we were promised in the old 1950s Popular Science Magazines.

But Second Life is more than a place in which we can do outrageous and wonderful things that we can’t do in real life: it’s also a place in which we can get away from all those mundane and irritating things that plague us in real life.

We don’t need to eat, or to seek out shelter from the elements. We don’t suffer from exhaustion after dancing all night or walking for hours on end. We don’t get sick, we don’t get old, and we don’t break our legs after falling long distances (which, considering my track record in my cross-country hike so far, is a damned good thing).

And despite the fact that sex apparently makes up about 98.45% of the activity on Second Life, there are no sexually transmitted diseases and no unplanned pregnancies.

Now planned pregnancies, on the other hand — that’s a whole other ball game.

Having crossed over to a new island, I was more or less ignoring yet another row of fashion shops on the south road in Bolinas when I ran across the Acedia Royal Court Maternity shop.

It was the “maternity” that caught my eye, of course.

Maternity fashions in SL are definitely a cut above those in real life. The Acedia outlet offers mink coats, lace pants, and silk and sequined outfits, all specially tailored for avatars that are in the family way.

Puzzled, but not overly interested, I continued along the road into the Mavericks region where I ran across ANOmations. Like many such stores it carries a selection of dancing, walking, hugging and embracing animations. It also features a line of pregnancy animations — which you can try out by stepping into a giant baby bottle.

Yeah, yeah. I tried it.

All that happened was I stood there rubbing my stomach which had become several inches larger than it had been. Admittedly, it felt a bit strange to be standing in a baby bottle, especially since there was a woman in the store trying out one of the dancing animations.

Okay, I thought. So we have maternity fashions and we have maternity animations, but what about the actual details of the pregnancy? Do you have to go to maternity clinics to check the health of you and your baby? And what about the delivery? Does that take place with a doctor and nurse by your side?

Well, yes, actually. There are over a dozen clinics, such as Bundle of Joy Clinic, C. B. Maternity Clinic, Natural Choice Family Practice, Family First Maternity Clinic, and Wish Upon A Star.

Having a baby in Second Life is far from a simple procedure. You can choose an entire program which includes the pregnant tummy, regular checkups, labour, delivery, and new-born baby (or babies). On the other hand, you can kind of step into the process anywhere along the line. The length of the pregnancy can vary somewhat, but like those X-Ray glasses we used to send away for, you should allow four to six weeks for delivery.

Along with the basic pregnancy prims and animations, you may also opt for some extras, such as the talking tummy option. It allows your stomach to make various pregnancy-related comments from time to time such as, “Rest Mommy,” “You are hungry,” and “You smile as you know what you are about to bring in the world,” although that last one seems just a bit too Rosemary’s Baby for my comfort (as if the whole talking-stomach thing wasn’t bad enough).

A nursery, well-stocked by gifts from friends. Or bought yourself because if you're having a baby in a virtual world, how many friends do you really have?

And don’t forget the baby showers. There are all manner of baby needs that your in-world friends can buy for you. The necessities, of course, include baby lotion, baby bottles, shampoos, and diaper rash cream (although come to think of it, I didn’t see any diapers). You’ll also need a crib, a playpen, some toys, and a few pictures for the nursery, all available at quite reasonable prices.

But how do you become pregnant in the first place?

Once again, there are a variety of options.

The quick and easy way is to purchase a pregnant tummy, some pregnant animations, and then check into a clinic where you’ll pay for the delivery of your baby, and be done with it. But those who want a more realistic experience start with the Baby Making Attachment. This is worn whenever you plan on having sex, and, if the Linden gods are smiling, your love-making will be hot enough to start baking that all-important bun. Does it work each and every time? Of course not, which is why you’ll need to get a free pregnancy test kit. You know the saying: if at first you don’t succeed, animate, animate, animate again.

But once you have the baby, it seems the parallels to real life come to an end. These babies don’t grow up, they don’t become teenagers or adults, and they never get into trouble when you’re not around.

We need some top-notch scripters and builders to take this to the next level. Creating babies that grow and mature physically isn’t a big challenge, but scripting their behaviour would be. As these children grow they should exhibit independent behaviour based upon what they’ve been exposed to. The children would remember and categorize everything they hear, and Artificial Intelligence algorithms could allow them to eventually create spontaneous speech of their own. When the children turn 10 or 12 they should begin to act independently, and by the time they’re 18 they should basically be autonomous – although on a limited basis.

Whatever, mom! Can I teleport to the mall now with my friends?

As these children “come of age,” this would probably mean the creation of a new class of SL citizenship. Perhaps on their 18th birthday they could get a floating tag that labelled them “Sim Citizens” or some such thing. Over time, Sim Citizens would begin to form a sub-culture with which regular SLers would have to interact.

Of course, then we’d have to start worrying about what they were doing when we weren’t watching them. We would set up curfews, get into fights with them when they broke their curfews, and all the other worries that come from having teenagers around.

Hell, we’d even have to worry about them getting pregnant.

Maybe I should rethink this whole proposition.

See also: The First Walkin’ Dude Article.