Cheryll's Writing Journal

Musings, rants and ravings, plus gems of insight nobody wants to hear now that I've finally got them. Also neat stuff I found on the 'Net when I should have been updating this blog....

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thoughts on Second Life...

Well, of course, those of us who have passed the climacteric are already in our third life -- 1)childhood, 2) childrearing, 3) maturity (er, hopefully)...

I finally went to see what all the talk was about Second Life, which is a multiuser online game setting that has 30,000 folks and more playing at any one time.

[For those of you unfamiliar with multiuser, real time gaming: Second Life provides a venue driven and designed by the participants, for the purpose of living out their fantasies -- to one extent or another. That can seem to some of us like a chance to get a bit out of hand, perhaps, but it's probably a lot safer than acting out in Real Life, LOL. What is particularly exciting about this kind of game is that thousands of people can interact in many ways that would not be available to them in RL. To see a video presentation go to this page, and click on 'video'...]

Friends, relatives and online correspondents have been chatting up SL for a long time. (3 years in the computer world being practically an eon) I went and took a look at the beta release several years back, but opted out largely because it cost a monthly fee in the beginning. Now, of course, my MAC is too old to run it; but one of our younger PCs will play. And, it is now FREE for basic playing.

One of the attractions for people who have talked to me is the freedom to wander about and strike up conversations with anyone who looks interesting. (By moving the cursor over their avatar, personal profile info is available, such as screen name, age, interests, etc.)

Many people do not feel safe, for whatever reasons, to just wander into a crowd in real life and just start talking. Particularly if the person they are considering talking to happens to be dressed as a giant purple-striped white tiger! Or a Goth queen. Or a tatoo-covered giant in black leather and chains. Or even a gauzy green fairy, complete with wand that shoots sparkles...

Or simpler, yet -- how many would be willing to stroll about in a strange neighborhood or landscape, just looking at the view? Or walk into someone else's house, garden or shop, just to see how it was designed. (In Second Life, if the owner/creator didn't want you to, it would be private and you wouldn't be able to, as I understand it.)

No, it appears to me that SL has indeed taken on a life of its own, growing hourly as business, politicians, religions and educational institutions begin to set up shop. (Linden Labs, the source, presently has 30,000 servers, and still experiences periods when too many users want to be there and it slows things down or crashes altogether.)

What is the point of all that computer power?

Say you had always wanted to be a pointy eared waif of a female, who could dress in veils and maybe even have wings? Design your avatar and think up a name and away you go.

Always wanted to open a coffee shop where poets could hang out, maybe have jazz concerts on a few nights a week? Design it and they will come: the customers, the poets, the musicians...

Real life musicians, poets, and speakers of all kinds (as well as wannabes who are practicing their skills) are visiting and/or setting up shop in SL. Real money is changing hands, here, in such large amounts that it boggles the mind (millions of US dollars a day). Politicians will no doubt frequent the place, as the election draws nearer, and there has already been one debate, at least.

However, while I can see the potential attractions, especially for trying out new behaviors, learning new things, interacting with lots of new people who might live across the planet -- and, of course, the potential for negative stuff, as well, is no different from any other medium --

For me, Second Life just doesn't click. Yet. I have been trying to figure out why for a couple days, and this is what I think so far:

Firstly, maybe I don't need a second life for socializing. I mean, I already wander about and talk to anyone who looks interesting, LOL. It never occurs to me that I shouldn't stop to admire someone's lovely garden, or interesting house. Or beautifully tricked out old Dream Machine (motorcycle) in the mall parking lot! Or even the puppy who is walking his person through my neighborhood.

Perhaps I'm not exactly in the norm...? I don't know, except that I do remember seriously embarrassing my teenage children (you know who you were) in several past episodes...

Like that time outside a restaurant where two great big gorgeous red motorcycles were parked in shining fingerprintless perfection. One of them had a yellow rubber ducky stuck in the chrome spokes of its front wheel. Well, you know I hung about and asked the middle-aged biker dude what that was about!

The other problem I have with the game is that its graphics, however superb and steadily improving they are, still aren't as detailed as real life. I end up feeling sensory deprived. Not only are the incredibly complex levels of natural substance missing, but the density of information is only about 1-2% what it would be standing on the beach in RL.

Here's a screen shot Uploaded to Flickr! on November 17, 2007, by Andromega:It is stunningly beautiful, one of the best I've seen, but not yet the norm.

And here's another outstanding one, Uploaded to Flickr! on November 20, 2007, by Wildstar Beaumont

But here is real life -- a gate to the Matthaei Botanic Garden on a sunny, summer day:

Or, how about this Christmas amaryllis, smiling on all comers?

Apparently, I use a lot of different senses to collect information about the world around me, especially when having a conversation. The SL avatars have improved tremendously, but they still can't show the level of emotion and non-verbal cues that make me feel comfortable.

So, I guess my heart isn't broken that my old (4 years) MAC doesn't handle the game. By the time I upgrade, I bet Second Life will be even more mind boggling in its growth, in its technology, and in its community.

Meanwhile, it is rainy day, 20 degrees warmer than yesterday, full of fresh scents and cool mists and the last of the leaves falling off the trees and painting the lawns and streets in yellows and reds and oranges and four kinds of rusty browns...

I'm gonna go for a walk around the neighborhood and talk to people who are out doing the same thing, or else raking leaves on their tree lawns!

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  • At 6:47 PM, Blogger Peter C. Newton-Evans said…

    Dear Cheryll. I see you have commented on both the Bahá'í Faith and Second Life on this blog, and would like to invite you to visit the site “Bahá'í Faith in Virtual Worlds” ( Greetings, Peter Newton (pcnewtone in SL)


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