In the Metaverse, It’s Always ‘Ladies’ Night’

How People Will Choose Their Virtual Bodies In A World Where You Can ‘Be’ Anyone

Hunter Walk

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It was a mixture of early career anxiety and actual startup struggles that made my years working on Second Life stressful. I remember my parents visiting our office and casting a Hmmm sideways glance at the bottles of Mylanta and hard alcohol sitting side by side on my desk, like the cartoon angel and devil on the shoulders of an 80s movie character who was wrestling with his conscience. In hindsight, though, the tremendous benefits of the experience are clear — I had the opportunity to work on a thoughtful, innovative product with an amazing technical team and together, we produced what is ultimately an ongoing, profitable company (even if it failed to achieve its full potential).

Now that metaverses are all the rage, there’s been an increase in folks pinging me for learnings. Often these young entrepreneurs were in diapers when we started Second Life but it’s fun reminiscing about what we observed and so I’ll try to document some stuff here over the course of several posts. Caveats: I left Second Life in 2003, so some memories might be hazy or inaccurate — and although I’m writing this post, I’m not taking “credit” for the underlying work. Early SL had an amazing founding team — everything here is at best “we,” and mostly “they,” in terms of what was built.

A Very Brief Overview of the Original SL Avatar System

Your basic form had to be humanoid — but within that, you could tune a ton of parameters using slider bars. Textures could be applied to your body as clothing, skins, and so on. You also had multiple “attach points,” perhaps best understood as the geometric points on your head, shoulders, chest, groin, and so on, to which you could stick other objects. So if, for example, you wanted to wear a Mickey Mouse costume, you would design your avatar however you wanted, and the costume itself would be an outfit applied to these attach points.

People Don’t Like Getting Dressed in Public

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Hunter Walk

You’ll find me @homebrew , Seed Stage Venture Fund w @satyap . Previously made products at YouTube, Google & SecondLife. Married to @cbarlerin .