Saturday, September 19, 2009

Deeper Than Any Sea – A Second Life Adventure

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you all
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumbered and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
Alfred Lord Tennyson

My love of fantasy has taken me deeper into Second life (SL) than I’d imagined. The distinction between reality and fantasy becomes more diffuse with every minute I spend in these regions. Coming back to RL (real life) is a bit like walking out to a daylit street from an exciting and gripping movie. It puts a new perspective on reality.

The effect that SL has on the mind can be powerful if the imagination is energised. For a few minutes after logging off, I wonder if real life isn’t all virtual too. It makes me think again about what some people say about violent virtual games and the effect they may have on the real life behaviour of some people.

But like every other thought stimulation, SL is just another influence. Persona and personality are two entirely different things.

Real adventure

A recent sojourn into SL found me a delightful companion, Zylle (zill).

Like me, she is new to SL but she has a little more experience and that is useful. We share our interests and our fascination for SL in conversation, while we show each other around islands that we'd discovered in the short time since we were rezzed.

part of Kalepa

The other night we took off to the volcanic island of Kalepa, one of Zylle’s favourite spots. It is an enchanting place with lots to explore, including a sail in a gondola and a journey on a huge enchanted feather.

On our second visit to the island, she took me on the Da Vinci Gardens Indiana Jones Adventure.

Here we entered the lobby, close to the entrance to the tomb of the Pharaoh where the Sarcophagus and treasure chamber lay.

Among the rich assemblage of Egyptian statues, treasure chests and ornate accoutrements, were opportunities to actively participate in snake charming, or try a spot of belly dancing, supervised by the resident genie-of-the-lamp.

Kallan watching Zylle belly dancing

Our quest for the treasure chest was fraught with unimaginable peril.

Zylle had to teleporte me to safety from the deathly pit of cobras and avatar-eating spiders at least twice. I wasn’t at my ease in those circumstances and had to keep saying to myself, “this is SL!”

We found the treasure chest eventually, but unfortunately neither of us could lift any of the treasure it contained. Getting back out to the sunny sands of Kalepa meant retracing our steps! I was relieved to get out.

While looking around outside, we spotted Felixx, the developer of Kalepa! We identified him by his name tag as the owner of all that we had seen in Kalepa.

We approached him, and after brief introductions, he kindly showed us around. Felixx teleported us to his customer service depot where we had a chat and shared a few of our interests.

Felixx meeting Kallan and Zylle

I think he was taken with our interest in his work. He gave us the link to a recent video made in Kalepa, starring Alissa Moreno, singing and accompanying herself on piano.

I got the impression time was running short for Felixx. He had lots to get on with, yet he continued to show us around.

When Zylle explained that we’d been to Sunken Atlantis, he asked, “Did you take a ride on the sea-horses?” We hadn’t.

So off we went, teleport-fashion, to ride the sea-horses in the “slumbering green”.

Kallan and Zylle on the sea-horse chariot

Felixx took a snapshot of us as we rode into the depths, and bid us farewell. This journey was amazing, for it revealed the true beauty of Felixx’s animations.

He explained that he first got into building in SL when he'd been out of work for some months, during which time he taught himself the ropes, while building his amazing fantasy land.

He told us that, as a student, he'd studied Biochemistry. He had a PhD in Genetics. I could see where his love for detail in nature came from.

A shipwreck, a lost treasure chest and a visit from a giant octopus set the scene for much adventure.

The next evening, we were in Hawaii and met Pawn who had been newly rezzed. As dutiful avatars, we helped him with some of the basic skills in SL, and a few more tricks, not that I knew much! Swimming underwater with the dolphins was a great introduction to having fun with animation in SL.

Zylle and Pawn swimming with the dolphins

But Kalepa is obviously the place to go for ‘real’ adventure. So off we went, only to meet Felixx, once again! He so much wanted to demonstrate what he could do to entertain us and had us fascinated as he scripted the crocodiles to fight with each another.

Zylle and Kallan look on as Felixx scripts the crocodiles

Isn’t Zylle’s hair wonderful? She decided she needed a complete change after losing her hair while playing chess with Pawn earlier.

Felixx’s power with scripting allowed him to work magic with the Sarcophagus of the Pharaoh.

Kallan, Pawn and Zylle watch as Felixx scripts the Sarcophagus

Later, we decided to take up Felixx’s earlier advice to visit Mars! We’d spent too much time on the seahorses the evening before to enter the underwater spaceship that takes us to Mars from Sunken Atlantis.

It was count down . . . - 3, - 2, - 1, - 0 . . . “We have lift off!”

The journey was somewhat rocky. But with me in the controls, what would you expect? When we landed, we decided it was better that Zylle took the controls on the Mars buggy! Did you know that’s there’s water on Mars? And all sorts of fantasy plant life?

And mushrooms! Or are they Marsrooms?
For Jaba the Hut?

Zylle got us safely to the observation tower, where we took a drink from the bar, relaxed a bit and enjoyed the view.

Throughout the adventure, at the back of my mind I was making mental notes on the potential Second Life had in providing a platform for elearning. Its networking potential, for me, is implicit.

In a flight of fantasy, one need not wonder if even romance is possible in Second Life.

post editor Zylle
( 7 ) ( 6 ) <- related posts - > ( 4 ) ( 3 ) ( 2 ) ( 1 )



Paul C said...

I appreciate this ongoing report about your journey through Second Life. I have had limited exposure to video games and the virtual world. I remember enjoying Myst, however, in which you pass through an enchanted island on a quest. I grew tired of it after a while partly because of the time it consumed. New technologies, however, are raising the bar in terms of user involvement and engagement?

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora e Paul!

"Raising the bar" is not even a euphemism for the way this technology works. It's not like a computer game at all, though there are games that one can encounter in SL, if that's what's wanted.

I know what you mean about the time games may consume. I have had similar experiences to you when playing CIVILIZATION III, a computer game which I still enjoy.

SL is something else again. It's not really a game. Perhaps my post did not emphasise that the encounters are with real people who, like me as the 'user', are actually there, represented by their avatars in SL.

In the 'encounters' depicted in the post above, Zylle, Felixx and Pawn are avatars owned by real time people, the same as Kallan is my own avatar. When we got together by the Sarcophagus, we were each actively participating, in real time, in the interaction.

There is no quest pre se either. For if we choose to move on or move out of SL, we can do that. I did, several times, and came back in again to find my friends continuing their conversations. There really isn't any compelling set of rules.

I hope this helps.

Catchya later

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul and Ken,

Hope you guys don't mind if I put in my two cents. Yes, SL, in my opinion, is not a game but rather an enhanced chat room. There are some sims/islands/regions for the purpose of gaming, but I'm not sure the environment itself acts the way it would in a game such as Myst.
: )

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tenei to mihi ki a koe e Zylle!

Ah yes! The fictional world of Myst. I concur with you that SL is not really a game per se.

I like your description of it as an enhanced chat room, synchronous of course, but not necessarily. I think you'd agree that it has some amazing enhancements in that regard.

Catchya later