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Archive for the ‘Linden Lab’ Category

The other evening I had a sad and sobering experience. I watched the deconstruction of what was clearly one of the most beautiful sims Second Life has ever known. Ando Joubert, Symphony’s creator, took up the final structures and objects on Symphony, leaving a vast, flat and melancholy wasteland where there had once been a veritable natural paradise, an island of beauty and tranquility in a virtual world that has far too many soulless builds, the pixel equivalents of strip malls and ticky tacky houses.

Symphony was a loving and authentic tribute to the Pacific Northwest Coast, the place Ando calls home in real life. The soaring sea birds, playful otters, basking seals and breaching whales moved within a terrain of native trees and flowers, realistic rocks and ocean waves. It changed with the seasons.  Stone and wood structures artfully dotted the sim, from the hilltop library whose textures came from a building outside Portland, Oregon, to the mill house whose rustic mill wheel moved to the rhythm of water that cascaded from the most exhuberant waterfall in Second Life. Every piece was exquisitely detailed and expertly built.  The mill wheel turned a grindstone; the lighthouse light was rotated by power from gas canisters which turned a wheel mechanism.  The entire sim was a coherent, well integrated whole, a rare phenomenon in Second Life.

But now it is gone.  Irrevocably, it seems.

In its wake is a growing sentiment among many with whom I’ve spoken that Linden Lab doesn’t care about its builders and residents but is looking to make SL a corporate haven. There is a malaise settling in on residents, a sense of hopelessness about the future of this world to which so many have given so much of their time, talent and treasure to build and maintain. Limits on inventory (anathema to builders) and scripts (likewise), the consignment of anything adult to a gulag, the elimination of free items on SL Exchange, despite vociferous protests from blindsided residents . . . all of these and the loss of far too many classic and beautiful SL builds, conspire to lower morale and make some of our most creative talents ask, “Why bother?”

Sometimes people ~ ordinary people ~  not a corporation or the very wealthy, create something of genuine beauty for others to share ~ a unique vision, a place that offers comfort or delight to their fellow residents. In this instance, it was a piece of the American Pacific Northwest, with its woods and wildlife and its magnificent waterfalls and ocean shore. Tomorrow it will be some other treasure that succumbs to the high price tag placed on virtual dreams.

A dear friend of mine said of Second Life . . . the reason it will always fall far short of real life is that in Second Life, there is no place for memories. In real life you can revisit as your heart dictates the place you had your first kiss or heard news that shattered your world. The World Trade Center, though gone, stood on a specific spot, and any of us can go there and have a time of silent reflection. In Second Life you simply can’t go home again. Favorite places disappear and with them the opportunity to share them with new found friends or to reminisce about a lost love or a dear friend who has passed away. And there are places you would love to share with a newbie . . . to demonstrate the magic that’s possible in this amazing world. Places that are gone now. Places like Symphony.

I’m one of those who never saw Second Life as a game, but the demise of Symphony makes me rethink that stance. Despite the much larger and more emotional investment many thousands of us make in this . . . whatever you call it  . . . the real lifeness and respect we come to invest it with . . . it’s this whimsical demise of the best of our created world that pulls Second Life down from the lofty heights of “not a game” to the more mundane . . . “ok, next round, Player #2’s turn.”

That’s what makes me want to propose a “Second Life Virtual World Trust.” I call on Linden Lab and all of us who love Second Life to establish something akin to landmark status for the really remarkable builds that ought to be our collective virtual heritage. We all know the places that constitute our Cultural Treasures in this world. Places that make the “best of” lists for their beauty, their educational value, their creativity or their flawless execution. These are the places that transcend the typical, the ubiquitous, the shoddy, the fly by night. There are plenty of strip malls in Second Life. No need to preserve them. But those places that are treasures ought to have some recourse. Perhaps before they face the wrecking ball, there could be a petition process that would allow the best to be rescued and maintained as part of our collective heritage. Perhaps the corporations that Linden Lab is so actively courting could do in this virtual world what real life corporations do all the time – contribute to the community. Consider corporate sponsorship of the Virtual Trust sims, which will be designated by a committee of skilled artists and builders, longtime residents, and those Lindens who really get Philip’s original vision “Your world, Your imagination.” For a big time corporation, to sponsor a Virtual Trust site at $300 per month would not be a very big deal in the grand scheme of things, and there would be a kick back of good will from grateful residents. Linden Lab would have to set up a mechanism for this, but it would add immeasurably to both the morale and the experience of residents, would create a legacy for future residents, would encourage our artists and would invest corporations in SL as a community rather than just a tool.

This is something for the Lindens to consider, but what about the rest of us? Surely we have a responsibility as well. Call it civic pride or community spirit. All of us have seen tip jars in our wanderings to the special places in Second Life. Sometimes a floating text or proffered note asks, “If you like this, please support us to keep it going.” Sims cost money . . . first to buy at a whopping $1,000 . . . not for the faint of heart . . . and then to maintain month after month at $300 per. That’s a lot, particularly in these hard times, something that only those with steady and disposable income can afford. But what of the talented ones who don’t have the luxury of that kind of money, but who nonetheless create something beautiful for all to enjoy . . . something without a commercial intent?  A freebie.

Next time you see a tip jar in one of those places you love, seriously consider leaving a decent donation. Or face the very real possibility that the next time you click that landmark to return, the place you love won’t be there. If you enjoy a place enough to visit frequently, to bring your friends to, to share with a date or visit often to slough off the cares of the day, ask yourself “is it worth $10 a month to me to keep this place alive?” If 30 people who loved a sim like Symphony each paid $10 a month, less than a movie ticket, the sim would be secure. Symphony could have been saved if the hundreds of SL residents who loved it, who returned again and again, who took countless pictures for their flickr pages, had thought to contribute something to its maintenance. As residents we have to begin to have that ethic or soon the mom and pop type sims will give way inevitably to corporate sims with their bland and conventional sameness. When that happens, the quality of the Second Life experience will be degraded for us all. Consider adopting a sim that you love. Make that commitment, so that the places you love won’t go the way of Symphony.

In one little place in my very human heart there still exists this eternal optimist who thinks with blind hope that Symphony could still be saved. It’s a bit like Peter Pan asking the audience to clap if we believe in Tinker Bell and by our clapping long enough and hard enough, so that her little light comes back to life, Tinker Bell lives for thousands of other delighted children. May it be so for Symphony.

One final note: Thank you, Ando Joubert, for providing all of us who loved her with a place to call home, a place to share with loved ones and new friends, and a place to become inspired by what is possible in Second Life, for those who have time, talent, treasure and generosity to share with their fellow passengers on this amazing journey through a brave new world.  Symphony was a work of genius.

Now, for the record, here is a very small glimpse of what we’ve all lost:

Pacific Northwest Inlet

Farewell Ride

Mill House and Stable

The Old Mill House

Pause for Reflection

Intricate Works - Mill House Interior

Hopper House Gallery . . . Above the Falls

The Lodge and Water Pump

Highest Point and View of Lighthouse

Captain Alcott's Lighthouse - Intricate Works

View from the Top . . . Library, Lodge

Library Interior

"Nothing beside remains ~ boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away."

You can see more photos of this breathtaking build here:

http://www.flickr.com/groups/slsymphony

And so, goodbye . . .

~ Cacie

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