Got an email from Warren Ellis earlier this evening (oh, don't get excited, it's from his Bad Signal mailing list, which is generally pretty good for a laugh) about Second Life, and thought of you guys. I believe Iga's been playing it for a while, and that Kevlar at least has also checked it out - I had a look at it while in class the other day (oh, hello Flash animation basics...), and was pretty goshdarned impressed with the basic concept.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not promoting other games in conflict to Sindome, but I also know a lot of you do spend your time on other things, so this is another to add to the list, or at least peruse and gain some ideas from.
Mister Ellis raises a few interesting points, in a kinda rambling way (like you expect eloquence from the guy who created Spider Jerusalem?), some of which I was thinking about the other day (in a different class), while looking at stuff to do with EVE online... principally, the idea of 'levels' as it pertains to multiplayer online gaming - whether they are beneficial, detrimental or irrelevant to the gameplay.
I mean - if you're logging in to play just so you can increase a level, how does that affect your interaction with other players? Likewise - if you're playing a game that has no levelling system, then do you have an incentive to do anything more than 'just' roleplaying - and will that make the game lose some kind of momentum?
(...do you see UE as a kind of level to be achieved?)
Forgive me for rambling myself, going back to school always makes my brain work so much better on everything other than homework. It's great.
Over the last month or so, in free moments here and there,
I've been fiddling around with something called Second Life.
I imagine a lot of you have heard of it, but
if you haven't.
It is, if you'll allow, an attempt to transpose the "Metaverse"
of Neal Stephenson's SNOW CRASH to the real world.
It's an electronic planet where you take on an "avatar", a
human figure representing yourself (more on that in a
minute) and move it/you around in the mode of a computer
game. For the Warcrack tribe, it's like this: a massively-
multiplayer online role-playing game with no goals. A
game of (second) life with nothing there to actually achieve.
It has its own currency, pegged to the US dollar, and its
own simple economy -- actually, a posthuman economy,
since there is no hunger, thirst or need to sleep, and
everyone can both fly and teleport.
In the orientation, when you first launch SL and get your
avatar etc, there is actually a singular moment of oddness
to be had; you'll be pootling around getting your clothes
for your entry into SL and what have you, and suddenly
someone in front of you will take off into the air...
There's quite a tribe of the transgendered on SL, which ties
back to the avatar thing: you get to be whoever you see
in your head. You choose from a limited list of surnames,
create your own first name, choose your gender, how you'll
look, etc, and so you can establish an idealised,
experimental or alien identity on SL, and you fully live that
identity while there, to the extent of buying SL property in
that name and beyond.
Personally, it drives me slightly crazy. I do little more than
explore, in the snatches of time I get to hook into SL. And
-- and this is a purely personal thing -- I dislike walking
around with a fake name. SL have set up a few of the
Technorati, like Joi Ito, Cory Doctorow and Lawrence Lessig,
with full transpositions of their real names to SL, where they
do occasional public appearances, lectures and the like.
But that's obviously not extended to everybody. Although I
understand that some Suicide Girls models are going to be
set up with SG names in SL with appropriate avatars. I
just have a strong sense of my own identity and would not
want to walk around without my own name, so I'm never
going to be involved in SL in any serious way.
But what fascinates me about it is possibly the same thing
that makes me crazy -- it's goalless. You're essentially
invited to be an electronic frontiersperson, to obtain parcels
of land and learn how to build your own homes (from the
ability to generate and morph & mutate generic building-blocks
that comes with your avatar) and to, I guess, find and enter
communities. And eventually, I presume the hope is, to make
SL better in some way for the people you share the electronic
Which is really kind of an interesting thing. An entire population
released to do nothing but make art and fly...