Monday, April 25, 2005
The Case for Immersion #1
Depending on when you ask, my feelings about Second Life range somewhere between "It's just a game. Get a life!" (best read in William Shatner SNL skit outrage) and "SL is my life. Everything else is just the login queue." Usually, I'm somewhere in between.
But even during my worst bouts of obsession, I seldom see Second Life as anything more than a combination game/chat service. I don't see SL (or the internet in general) as an alternate dimension, or a joining of spirits across the wires, or a place where minds can roam free of their physical restraints, or any of the other high sounding nonsense occasionally spewed across the web by those who feel compelled to justify their wasted evenings. I'll concede that Second Life may be some or all of those things for some people. And more power to the True Believers... I'm just not one of them.
However, there are moments when that view changes. Sometimes, for a few seconds, I forget it's a game. In those moments, the boundaries blur, and Second Life becomes real to me. Then, the moment passes, and I'm left laughing at myself and trying to grab onto that feeling before it slips away completely. In order to hold on to these moments, and to keep my post count up, I've decided to document these incidents here as they happen (or when I remember them, anyway).
The first one I remember involved local fame, and a meeting with an honest-to-goodness SL celebrity. It was at the online gallery opening for the Seburo/Saedaku Weapons & Seburo PD Photography Contest, gawking at all the artwork. (Actually, this long-overdue NWN article is what reminded me of the incident. So blame them for this one.) Rhiannon Chatnoir, an in game acquaintance, had entered a (kickass!) image in the contest. She dropped a few of us IMs to remind us to go check out the opening of the in-game contest gallery and vote for our favorites.
Thus, that afternoon, I found myself wandering aimlessly and namelessly amongst the movers and shakers, examining the pictures and shamelessly eavesdropping. (That's so much easier when every word is conveyed with crystal clarity for up to 20 meters. SL trumps RL again.) I was standing in the middle of the aisle, tinkering with my newly discovered camera controls window, when I was bumped out of my remote view by none other than celebrated SL social butterfly, and she-of-the-watermelon-fixation, Torley Torgeson.
Torley: "Excuse me!"
Moriash: "No problem. Most action I've had in weeks." [Damn, I'm suave.]
At which point there was a brief, awkward silence before I wandered off to stare at another picture. That's right, I was tongue tied and awkward in front of a pixel representation of someone a few thousand miles away. And someone who is, reputedly, one of the most overtly friendly people in the game world. Honestly, I wouldn't have been more awestruck if I ran into Winona Ryder on the street. I actually found myself briefly starry eyed and flummoxed in the presence of an SL avatar, just as if this were all real.
And that's kind of the point of this little exercise. More to come.