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Land! That deep-down yearning for home and homestead, a place to settle down and change your clothes and put your radio … this past week, my girlfriend Eris and I each sold our plot of first land, charged our accounts with lots of extra Lindens, and bought a new plot of land in Anshe Chung’s Dreamland.

The land we bought was expensive (to me, anyway), but it’s also special. Not only is it rolling green hills in a beautiful sim by the ocean, but it has double prims. For anyone not familiar with building in Second Life, prims are the basic geometric shapes used to build up practically everything that’s been built in Second Life. When you own or rent land, there are limits as to how many prims you’re allowed to have on the property, which limits how big and ornate your home and the things around it can be. More land usually equals more prims.

So Eris and I bought a plot that’s only twice the size of the land we collectively sold, but that has eight times the prims: essentially we’re paying for a chunk of land as big as the one we’re occupying to be set aside as a preserve, which makes the sim really lovely. Here’s the place to mention that from what I’ve learned lately, it seems that when you pay for land–both in terms of the purchase price and in terms of monthly fees–your cost is based more on the prims than on the size of the land itself. This makes some sense, because in theory you could have just a small plot of land but build a 100-story skyscraper on it if you had unlimited prims.

Looking over our land to the neighbor’s house. Sorry, not a clear picture!

The new land makes me happy just to be on. It’s isolated and not laggy, green, and spacious. We’re beginning by looking through prefab buildings, but we’ll build as we have time. Both Eris and I know how. We plan a garden, maybe with a stream and a waterfall; a house built into the hill, with fireplaces and balconies; a pool; and a sky home at about 400 meters up.

In real life I would be shocked and embarrassed to own a place like that. I know, it’s kind of the American Dream, but I’m just not crazy about using up all those resources for one or two people. In virtual reality, it doesn’t really matter: we’re just using up some capacity on a computer somewhere. No one will virtually starve or have to sell off their virtual farm. No virtual wildlife will be left without habitat. So in with the pool!

For current Second Life Residents, here’s something I was surprised to learn: you don’t have to be a Premium Member to own land in Second Life. You do if you’re buying on the mainland, and then your 512 sq m of allotted space is taken out of the tier fees and all, but on privately-owned sims, your membership category is not at issue, and your 512 sq m of allotted space doesn’t count. Eris and I each still have ours, waiting to be used on the mainland. Maybe we’ll buy commercial space and make a store or something there!

And the tier fees (the monthly fees you pay to continue using the land) where we are go to Anshe Chung, not to Linden Labs, and they aren’t the same as the Linden Labs rate. All of this confused me to no end for a while, but the short version is that privately-owned sims are priced and organized entirely separately from Linden sims.

It’s incredible to me what a difference there is being in Second Life and having land–renting or owning or simply crashing with a friend–versus not. It’s not like real life, where it’s a matter of practicality and even survival sometimes, but there’s one thing that it has in common with the question of having or not having a home in real life, and that’s this sense of whether you feel rooted or not. If you don’t have a home in Second Life, you have no place to change clothes or sit with friends without fear of being interrupted or share a romantic evening or to build uninterrupted …

Fortunately there are many wonderful places in Second Life that are quiet and underused, although they still don’t give that sense of safety and belonging that a home might. In some of my favorites, you barely ever see anyone else. While I don’t really know how the cost of those lands is managed, I’m grateful that someone saw fit to make them beautiful and open them up for others to visit. We’ll be making our own home beautiful and then begin inviting friends to come and enjoy it … and passers by will stumble on it and hopefully find it a pleasant surprise as well.

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