Let us suppose a resident (not a roleplayer, but a digitized him/herself) is planning a memorable outing with friends, business partners, family, house pets, his/her beautiful self, anybody. The main activities will be chatting, goofing around, appreciating the surroundings, taking photographs. Given such initial conditions, we can try to speculate about what kind of location will be chosen for the outing.
Most likely, it is going to be a non-commercial location, typically a piece of nature or countryside, or it could be an artistic exhibition or installation, such as the ones LEA holds, or some other bohemian environment, like a historical neighbourhood. Or any relaxed, peaceful environment where time has stopped.
Commercial places, shopping districts in particular? Much less likely.
While I agree that the main purpose of the shopping place is to sell items, and therefore, presumably, one has no business there if their wallet is empty or their inventory is exploding, I do not think a lot of residents will argue with me that the designers of these beautiful shopping districts have intended some other purpose that goes beyond shopping. Definitely, beautiful surroundings attract customers, but on the other hand, there are brands that seemingly put much less effort to their mainstore + mall location, and nevertheless keep doing just fine in Second Life.
I have been having trouble finding non-commercial urban locations for as long as I have been active in Second Life. Most of the places that are intended as hangouts fall into aforementioned time-stopping categories. Most of the urban locations are shopping districts. Most of the suburban locations are residential areas/country clubs.
In that case, we will make the most out of what we are given.
Shopping is one of the most prevalent activities in Second Life, so it comes as no surprise that a significant chunk of the Grid consists of shopping areas, malls and mainstores. Due to the idea that one has no reason to go to the shopping area without actually shopping there, these areas are desolate most of the time, unless there is some kind of an event in the store (and even then, residents concentrate inside of the store, not outside). Which leads to gorgeous, lavishly decorated areas being underused because of this notion that there is nothing to do other than shop. Does it sound like a waste of digital space to you too?
But it does not have to be a waste. If you have visited a mainstore or a shopping district with wonderful surroundings, do consider it as a personal hangout. Bring your friends there, guide them to appreciate the location as a whole, rather than as a store with the surroundings. Mingle there, talk to other shoppers who have decided to catch some fresh air, too. Take a position with a nice view and go AFK. Vote with your presence.
Having a region is a very expensive thing in Second Life, so it is about time to consider the presence of the commerce, which allows the region owner/renter to at least break even on the cost, as a norm. Thereore, the presence of stores should not deter us from considering shopping locations as potential hangouts. This is our Grid – let us make the most of it.
Now, I would like to share with you a few locations off the top of my head to illustrate the idea.
Summer in the city! Hint: the store itself is located in the middle. The whole place does not even feel like the mainstore – rather like a part of the downtown of a city by the shore. Ignore the teleports at the infohub, take a walk down the main street to the end with the fountain facing the ocean, or complicate your path by exploring all the side streets and back alleys – at one of those a summer cafe is located, where you can help yourself with a scoop of ice cream, a cup of coffee or a glass of sparkling soda. Take this location into consideration when you feel like hanging out at the coastal city.
This is one lavish area which houses both Zuri Jewellery mainstore and a shopping district. The whole area is split to the mainstore and the other shops by the canal with paved sidewalks on each side of it, which definitely inspire a romantic soul to take a stroll alongside the canal or give their feet a rest by taking one of the benches conveniently located by the sidewalks. There are also two concert areas, one in the middle of the bridge across the canal, another at the side of the region. Occasionally live events are held there, but nothing prevents you to dance there to the streaming music. This area will be the choice of the urban romantics with a touch of sophistication.
Now here is something for the glamourous loiterers! GIZZA CREATIONS has a few tables and chairs near the fountain at the centre of their shopping area, but the main object of interest will be the GIZZA LOUNGE, located at the neighbouring region where GIZZA OUTLET is at. Just keep going straight away from the store, to the next region, and further on, until you cross the bridge – the lounge will be to your right, hard to miss. Now that you’ve reached your destination, take a rest in the shade of white umbrellas placed over the armchairs facing the other side or get some sun tan in the hammock with a view on the ocean. Highly recommended to everybody who appreciates high-end second lifestyle.
Don’t we all love these cozy delicate European streets that are breathing tranquility and are on themselves creations of art? Welcome to the Apple May Designs shopping district. A rare car may pass you by, but most of the time, it is a quiet and clean area where one can enjoy the summer air without giving up free Wi-Fi by having to leave the city. Let the streetlighs guide your way down the street and take a nice stroll in the shade of apple trees. Or enjoy some window shopping at the stores on the district. Or have a seat by one of the tables conveniently placed near the stores. This location will be fancied by the artistic souls who appreciate historical neighbourhoods.
Further away from the noisy centre we go, approaching another shopping district located in the historical area. Walking alongside the canal, inhabited by all kinds of anseriformes, one finally reaches the loop by which the canal envelops the central park of the region, where one can have a cup of coffee or a scoop of ice cream at the summer cafe, or just relax on one of the benches, while observing the deer who, it seems, have made themselves pretty comfortable in this area – which is not surprising, considering that there are barely any cars to care them away. This location will attract artistic souls as well, in particular those who feel slightly too melancholic for Apple May Designs.
The store and its surroundings are located in the skybox, but the owner has made the most out of the relatively small area around her store. This place breathes summer. The landing area is a square with benches in the shade of trees, with a view on the fountain in the middle, and if one takes a few steps behind from it, there is a summer cafe with a coffee stand. Overall, this green spot is going to be ideal for those considering a hangout at the relatively secluded, cozy place.
Do continue exploring and landmarking/sharing shopping districts with a hangout potential! Perhaps share your favourite one in the comments!