Meta: Ugh. I really had no idea what I wanted to write about today, so I made this. Not my best work, feel free to ignore.
I’ve never been quite sure how I feel about things like Second Life and its counterparts, including things like Playstation Home. I actually started typing “…how I feel about games like…” but that’s it, they’re not games, they’re just worlds filled with stuff. A big box of toys and dicks, like the moving man got confused and put the sex aids and kids toys in the same box.
On one hand, it’s a pathetic hangout for the delusional who spend extraordinarily high amounts of money for virtual objects that are, in every sense of the word, useless. Not in the sense that “Oh, your WoW sword that you spent all that time getting is useless”. Well, at least you can slay a virtual dragon with it. The entire system in Second Life seems to be built around dressing your avatar up in the most garish available clothes, then removing them and running around an “adult” area. It’s not even a truly free environment, as you have to pay to get in everywhere. Really, the real game of it all is people getting way too involved in a glorified chat room.
And yet, every time I seek to write it off as utter garbage I find something interesting to validate its existence. Whether it’s the famous college lectures being taught virtually or the complex and beautiful scenes that are there to explore, some parts are absolutely brilliant.
I suppose my relationship with Second Life and its offspring is the same I have with Twitter: I love it to death as long as I ignore 99.9% of the material on it.
The strength of the virtual world, whether it is WoW, Second Life, Home, or whatever, lies in the sheer freedom of it all. Yes, MMOs do tend to lead you by the nose in a large way, but the quest path to greatness is not a strictly mandatory thing. Do you want to go into the Eastern Plaguelands at level one? You can! You’ll get instakilled by anything in there, but the fact that you can is the power of the world, the power to explore the sheer imagination of someone else, and perhaps throw yours in as well.
Minecraft, Second Life, all of them have build tools for the common man, and this is a powerful thing. Oh, it has started to rain, and you need an umbrella. Make your own! The ability to summon objects out of the aether, the quality of which is only hampered by your mind, has limitless applications for someone who has the will. Really, the only problem with such a system is the interface itself. One of the greatest inventions that mankind will create will be a way to pull images directly out of someone’s mind and to project them into some sort of space.
But the key phrase here is “Someone who has the will”. Anyone who has played around with build games will quickly realize that, given the opportunity and ability, mankind will unleash his infinitely powerful mind and set about making porn. By the Old Ones, I think that I’ve seen more penises in these games then there are in real life. However, if someone manages to wrangle in their animalistic lust for five seconds could make anything from a funny hat to a gigantic castle, but who does? The build tools are obtuse, not by the fault of the developer but by the medium itself.
Such a virtual world will never be truly free until we learn to mentally interface with computers. The keyboard and mouse may be the perfect way to work with them at the moment, but they are still limited by their hardware.
However, these worlds are still entertaining to run around in. I believe that I said before how players in worlds will simply power through the game without taking in the details of where they are, which is a shame. So much time and effort goes into rendering these fantastical settings, especially in a game like Aion that prides itself on graphics. It’s amazing how much fun comes out of simply standing on a cliff sometimes.
Where am I going with this? Second Life isn’t sad? Fuck no, I’m not defending it. People can be truly creative when they put their minds to it? Little Big Planet was more than enough evidence to show the opposite for most people. Virtual worlds are pretty to look at? Yes, but it’s more than that.
It’s a unique experience to be a casual observer in a world that rages around you. Some people get that feeling from going into the woods and staring at trees, but it really doesn’t change form when you move it into a game. There were times when I was playing Aion and I just stopped and stared, awestruck. The freedom of the world is a wondrous, powerful thing, one that should be appreciated.