I checked out Lively today, and ended up deeply disturbed.
On arriving at www.lively.com I discover that it is yet another brick in the wall of total Google domination. One has to sign up for a Google account before one can download the software. Yet another account and password to remember. Great. Having installed the software, with no option to start it straight after installation, I fire it up, keen to check out a new virtual world and arrive at... a web page? Ok, not what I was expecting. On this web page there is a list of ostensibly 'popular rooms'. "What's a room?" I find myself asking. A quick squiz seems to indicate that they are places one can enter, each with a particular theme. Many of these themes are related to sex. Not being one of those people who read the instructions first, I proceed to click on a likely looking 'room'. Science Fiction. Should be mostly harmless... Might even have conversation on a topic of interest to me. I click and arrive at, another web page. A web page with incredibly loud Star Trek music. Then what I guess is a 'room' materializes.
I am prompted to select an avatar. Not much customization possible. Having selected Jane Doe, I enter to find I am a very perky young woman, and I am in a phone booth. In fact I seem to be imprisoned in the phone booth. I mouseover things, click things, double click things, right click things. Still stuck in the phone booth. I notice speech bubbles in the room, strange disembodied speech bubbles whose point of origin is beyond my view, and so I try the chat box. "How do I get out of this phone box?" One of the mysterious disembodied chat bubbles says "Never get out of the phone box". Is this a warning or a forecast of perpetual imprisonment? Eventually I am cast out of the phone box. I'm not sure if it was something I did or just random luck.
Ok, now how do I move around? I mouse over my avatar and find a four pointed arrow appears, along with some helpful (?) text that says "Welcome to SCiENCE FiCTION... [Hint: There are more places down below. Double cl..." and there it is cut off by the edge of the room. Perhaps if I move I can see all the text? That's when I discover that the place is full of teenagers. Their patois revealing their demographic. The disembodied chat bubbles contain a lively banter composed almost entirely of 'lol', 'later', 'sweet' and 'hi' strung together in various ways. Not a promising start.
I try walking, and I discover why this place is perfect for teenagers. Everything revolves around me. If I hold my left mouse button down and move the mouse, I get a rotating view, centered on me. I still can't see any other avatars so I ask "Where are you all?" "We are over here" - useful. Not. - "lol" "Jump off the edge". "lol". "Sweet". "lol". Note to self. Keep away from the edge. I discover that I can double click on the ground and I will move along. I start walking around checking things out. There's some furniture, what's seems to be a screen for watching things on and a cute cauldron. I take a close look at the cauldron. It seems to be shaking. Then I find if I right click on it a menu comes up. I select the 'play animation' option and the cauldron leaps into the air with a squeal of fright and begins scuttling around as if Beelzebub himself is chasing it. Then it stops and sits there shuddering. Ok... Suddenly Jane Doe is accosted by a male avatar. Someone is kissing my avatar! And she's kissing him back! How can I stop this invasion? Turns out I can't. I figure abuse will only exacerbate the situation, so I ignore it. Now they are holding hands. Now they are... What is that they are doing? I go away and make a cup of tea hoping it will all be over when I get back. But I feel like my personal space has been intruded into. I know Jane Doe is only a graphic on a screen. But in some way she is me. I know its weird, and intellectually I can make the separation between myself and the girl on the screen, but I feel violated.
Jane Doe ponders the pig's predicament.
Settling down again with my nice, hot cup of tea, I notice a cute looking pig in a glass enclosure. I move closer and see he is not a happy looking pig. This is where things start to go really downhill. In my naivety I right click on the pig, thinking the animation might let the pig out of the jar. He is clearly not happy being in there. Then I notice the object is called 'Piggy Bomb'. Ok... maybe it will explode and release the pig? I start the animation. What happens next is ten seconds of sheer terror. Red spikes shoot out of the side of the pig bomb. The pig's eyes bulge in terrified anticipation. Clearly it is aware something very bad is about to happen. It starts running around in circles in the enclosure. After that, well I just can't bear to write about it. Watch the video. Stunned at the outcome I say to the room "This Pig Bomb is totally sick!". The room replies "Yeah isn't it great!", "Sweet", "Isn't it good". Terrified cauldrons. Exploding pigs. Teenagers into animal torture. Clearly this is not the world for me.