Virtual World Emigrants: Embarking for a New World
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.
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.