I've been having internet issues the last few weeks - being in a flat in Venice with no internet and no mobile data, having intermittently poor internet here in Berlin. Once every few months I recall that I have a Second Life account. Last few nights I found that - shock! surprise! - I could actually clamber online after hours late at night, and what do I do online? The really important work I need to do online?... No, instead, I found myself wasting time on Second Life once again.
People unfamiliar with Second Life often ask me, "What can you do in Second Life?", "Aren't all these virtual worlds dead already?". So here is a list of things you can do right now in SL - or rather some of things I've done this week:
1. Walk through some abstract wastelands
Lots of half-built places with strange lighting that look like a cross between a glitchy p-model music video from the 80s, a seapunk animated gif, and someone's incomplete rhino 3d project. But don't get me wrong, most of them are less interesting than what I've just described. A lot of them are very mundane as well, like reproductions of grassy hills and boring houses with boring normal furniture inside them.
2. Walk around in the prehistoric world of dinosaurs
Went to Prehistorica, the Dawn Kingdoms, where they also have a collection of very convincing dinosaur avatars for sale!
3. Become a dinosaur
I decided to become an apatosaurus (also known as brontosaurus), largely because it was just about the BIGGEST.
4. Become a Dinosaur and and walk around "London City"
"London City" is a sim which looks like London but is set by the seaside, merging some of the elements from London with a seaside town. I tried walking around making loud roaring noises and growls and stamping sounds but no one seemed to take notice. Some other avatars skittered around underfoot, trying to figure out how to operate the free go-karts in this parcel...
Sadly, as I was still a gigantic Dinosaur, I was too big to go inside the Tesco and Tube equivalents in "London City Pier". Its hard being a dinosaur.
5. Become a Dinosaur and walk around a beach - almost
I also wanted to go to the beach in Jamaica but they had a compulsory swimsuit policy. That meant that I couldn't go to the beach because I didn't have any dinosaur-sized swimsuits to wear there. Again, its hard being a dinosaur.
6. Go to a party as a Dinosaur
It's lonely up there, being a big dinosaur, and dinosaurs can't dance because all the other people are too tiny and its impolite to step on them...
7. Become an Android and do taiji in a japanese pavilion by the seaside
I was bored of being a dinosaur by this point, so I switched to being an anime style android. Utilizator makes really excellent full mesh avatars. This is the Rikugou A; Utilizator also makes the popular Kemono avatar, of which there are endless mods it seems, all very professionally constructed (except that I don't really want to be a furry...)
8. Fly through outer space
I visited Ars Simulacra: NMC's SL Artist Showcase Island, which can always be counted on for a good experience. All of the following images are from Ars Simulacra's MediaMorphosis.
9. Wander around immersive landscapes
I should like to rent a large plot to build something on this scale one day just so I can experiment with it slowly! How much of these effects are "accidental" or intentional designs? I believe that a lot of what looks impressive is sometimes very simple in its underlying construction. And looking back, I'm surprised to realise so much time has passed since I first saw these kind of spaces. I've already been on SL as nothing more than a casual user for over 7 years now. It has almost been 3 years since I stepped into Kuru Kuru World. This type of floating, deconstructed space has been in the metaverse for so long; its nothing new but I still wonder if we can learn anything from it and apply it back to architecture in the real world.
These sort of spaces still remain as some of my favourite kinds of spaces in SL to walk around in. I realised the image I had in my head for a proposal I had written recently (to be built in real life) comes a lot from my fondness for such spaces in SL.
What's interesting for me is the use of video on the 2d planes which are used to create structures. In such a world, "light" or more correctly "colour" also operates completely differently. A media "texture" with glowing white elements appears as a bright light that reflects off the faces of the avatars, and the shifting transparency in these moving image layers also produces unexpected diaphanous and complex-looking waves, especially when you cam around them. Much of these are housed inside huge megaprim domes with "infinite" seamless interior textures, which only reveal their underlying structure when you fly about and cam out as far as you can.
10. Visit a replica of Hopper's Diner
An obvious landmark to reconstruct in a virtual world, and famous for having been used as a visual reference for the "future noir" style of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. Where Blade Runner faithfully reproduces the colour tones of Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks", here the lonely diner itself is faithfully reproduced as a physical 3D space to wander in and around. I feel a bit strange walking around it, standing outside looking in, sitting inside looking out - I wonder, by spending more time in the virtual Hopper diner, will the diner eventually appear in the maps of my dreams...?