Virtual World Emigrants: Embarking for a New World

Like these cats, residents of Second Life are moving to unknown places.

Those who have been following the evolution of Second Life know that the sands are shifting again, this time spurred by news that Linden Labs will be eliminating discounts for non-profit and educational institutions January 2011. The result appears to be a mass emigration underway as Second Life refugees make their way to other grids.

The metaverse has changed significantly in the past couple of years–there are many more places to go. While there are a plethora of gaming worlds, there also has been an increase in worlds similar to Second Life, including several that use the Second Life code as their starting place. This tweet by Cathy Anderson links to a timeline of virtual worlds which illustrates the explosion:

This weekend I began exploring some of these other worlds, specifically those that share the key characteristic of Second Life that made it so attractive to educators, the ability to modify the environment and create truly original content.  It was a bit overwhelming–as the timeline above illustrates, there’s a lot out there!  But as I moved my avatar through one of the other world grids, I had a new appreciation for Second Life, in particular an appreciation for all the content created by its user community; the freedom  to create and distribute content is what has made the platform so powerful and successful. This potential is included in the new grids, too, but a quick perusal of what’s currently out there drove home the reality that those users who are migrating to these grids have their work cut out for them.

I am reminded of what happened when large numbers of people left Europe to move to the “New World” to establish the colonies in the United States: they left behind many aspects of their existing societies and began building their world anew. The new colonies had a more primitive living standard than what the colonists left behind, a trade-off they made because of the freedom and opportunity the new world promised. Similarly, the “starting over” faced by these virtual world pioneers means a return to a rougher way of virtual life.

Living in a pup tent on the sand

Ready to "Rough It" in Virtual Worlds

For those interested in the company of some fearless fellow explorers, there is the Hypergrid Adventurers Club founded by John “Pathfinder” Lester (formerly Pathfinder Linden in Second Life). I have no doubt that members of that group will be the pioneer leaders for the rest of us and will do much of the heavy lifting of settling those new worlds. Having spent only couple of hours exploring on my own, I can see there are real benefits of linking up with a group, just as there were benefits for the pioneers who settled our physical world to do the same.

For my part, the roughing it that comes with exploring these new worlds can feel intriguing–and  exhausting. After spending a couple hours exploring one new grid, I ended the night by logging into Second Life to hear an outstanding live music performance. I’m sure I will go back to explore the new worlds. But unlike the pioneers who established new worlds on our planet, it’s nice to have the option to experience the comforts of the old world at the end of the day.

Photo, Cats in Space, courtesy of WF&DT.

12 thoughts on “Virtual World Emigrants: Embarking for a New World

  1. Hi Nancy,

    I am in awe of your courage in braving these new virtual worlds! After reading your previous post about the touching transgender memorial, I was most tempted to visit that virtual place.

    In fact, I made one such attempt to do so via second life; however, second life insisted on my taking a user name, log in and password and avatar and I felt that this was too much to ask of me on my first exploration into the virtual world. Hence, I backed down from my virtual world exploration.

    Now, you are embarking in additional virtual world explorations beyond the “lands” of second life. I think that’s great!

    Personally, I think these places should allow potential newcomers a temporary visa opportunity sans required avatar, password etc. I suspect that I am not the only person who has been turned off by the need to make a semi-commitment for just a peek into the virtual world.

    Thanks for sharing your first foray into the other virtual worlds! Please continue to share. It’s very interesting to hear 🙂

    Best,
    Dorlee

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  2. Thanks Dorlee…it can be overwhelming to take on exploring new worlds, but I keep trying to remind myself “what’s the worst thing that can happen?” I can always just exit!

    It’s interesting to hear your thoughts about the commitment asked of you to try out the worlds, The problem is that you need an avatar to actually interact with the world. It’s a place to visit…it would be like saying go and see a little of Paris, but do it without being there. The closest you can come to getting a taste of it is YouTube videos, but even that doesn’t really capture it. There’s a reason they are called immersive experiences….they really have to be. You actually walk around with your avatar. I have taken people on a tour by going into SL while broadcasting it on an LCD projector, but it still doesn’t feel the same as being at the controls yourself.

    Here’s a link to my favorite live musician in Second Life, Maximillion Kleene. The audio isn’t as good as what I get in my computer, but it will give you a glimpse. It’s a video of him doing an interview on one of the Second Life TV broadcasts (broadcast within Second Life) and she moves him pretty quickly into showing a video of one of his songs at a performance. Keep a couple of things in mind as you watch:
    1) The musicians are actually playing live (in their rooms, streaming over the computer).
    2) Each of the avatars you see represents an actual person who is operating it.
    3) At concerts avatars may just hang out, dance, whatever. They are usually talking in public chat while they are listening to the live music stream. The musician might interact with them verbally between songs (he or she can see the chat), so you might hear them talk to members of the audience.

    \Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxJAJioR6tY This performance was done at night, so the place is pretty dark. If you search under Maximillion Kleene other videos will come up.

    Hope this helps to give you a flavor.

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    • Hi Nancy,

      Thanks for this link. I will check it out. Between your descriptions here of visiting virtual worlds and the one you shared on my blog, I am very intrigued.

      I think I am now starting to understand that one would not be able to visit a virtual world without an avatar – it is only through having an avatar that you are able to actually experience the virtual world.

      It still sound a bit scary to someone who has never tried it before…but after having gotten a bit of a taste of it via what you have shared, I think I will want to try it at least once. If/when I do so, what places would you recommend I first visit in second life?

      Take care,
      Dorlee

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      • Pardon my “playing in.” Dorlee, it can be confusing – but you can register and take one of the pre-made avatars and experience just about that longer-term residents can. I’m a grad student in counseling psych, and have found some great places to check out in SL (which I use for both school projects and recreation). My email address is also my avatar name, and I’d be happy to “meet” you in SL and show you around. Or you can check my avatar’s profile, and see there some favorite locations, both for counseling psych, as well as spirituality, and the “home base” office for my class projects.

        If you find an initial SL experience valuable, you can start a new avatar if you want. However, don’t underestimate how rapidly you can grow attached to your first. 🙂 And try to be patient with all that learning to walk and talk stuff. It’s worth persevering.

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      • I would second everything that Worthy said to you…including the willingness to meet you in-world to be a guide.

        I will recommend some places, too, but I need to make sure they are still current. I’ll let you know when I have them.

        Walking and moving around takes some practice if you aren’t used to moving around 3D spaces. They have done a lot to speed that learning process up now (compared to the past), but unless you’re experienced in 3D spaces (e.g., video game environments), it does require a little practice. They have guided tutorials available as soon as you get there…you don’t have to do them, but they are useful.

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  3. Hi. You might be interested in attending this event in SL:

    Call to Arms – Meeting about Second Life/OpenSim alternatives
    Where are virtual worlds going within the education space? The changes in Linden Lab’s management, direction and pricing, the work of the IEEE Virtual Worlds Standards working group(and others), the onward march of OpenSim and public sector cut-backs are just some of the factors causing educators (and those supplying them) to re-assesses how they are using virtual worlds, and where virtual worlds are going.

    read about it here: http://www.daden.co.uk/news/call_to_arms_meeting_about_sec.html#more

    soulla 🙂

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  4. @njsmyth

    I enjoyed your post. And thank you for mentioning the Hypergrid Adventurers Club.

    Pioneers succeed when they explore and work together. I already see a great deal of collaboration happening on these other grids. It’s really inspiring.

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  5. I’m glad you liked the post. I look forward to watching the collaborations evolve. Thanks for your leadership and pathfinding–in every world your character shines through.

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  6. Hi Worthy,

    Thanks so much for your kind offer to show me around SL and letting me know that by checking out your avatar’s profile, I would be able to see some of your favorite places for counseling psych and spirituality. Your list sounds like a great place to start.

    What do you mean that I would need to learn how to talk and walk with my pre-made avatar? Wouldn’t I automatically walk properly once I select an avatar by moving my mouse?

    Or maybe this is something that you only understand once you try it…

    Thanks again for all your help 🙂
    Dorlee

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    • Thanks so much, Nancy 🙂

      I will make sure to look for you (assuming that I will know how) when I venture out into SL.

      Interesting…The closest that I have to come to a 3D space is playing some sports games on the Wii and then you use a special tool for it which you have to get used to maneuvering.

      I really appreciate all these tips that you and Worthy are sharing!

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