Blog Entries
Retrospect 2019 Tags: retrospect

 

REFLECTIONS OVER THE YEARS

I started virtual worlds in 2000 with Worlds.com, a modem-based,  under-powered, yet fun platform where very few people built and most people met just to explore and socialize.  I moved to Second Life in 2004 after reading an ad on Google.

Somewhere in there Wayfinder founded a wee group called Elf Clan, with ensuing madness that lasted several years.  Our touring lands exist to this day. 

Due to host company problems and extremly high costs on Second Life, Elf Clan moved to Inworldz in 2010 and shut down our SL holdings in 2011.  When Inwordz died we set up huge lands  on OSgrid in 2018.

Elf Clan Central now consists of four continents, consisting of 100+ regions, running on three self-hosted servers literally spread across the Earth.  Elf Clan members have moved to grids throughout the Hypergrid.  We have changed in form from being a social, heavy-event-oriented group with very high monthly costs, to lands that run on the cost of electricity and that are scripted and fully-automated to host tours for both our Fantasy and Science Fiction worlds.  We have official member lands on OSgrid, Kitely and DigiWorldz, and the residents there are quite happy.

The great thing about owning our own servers is that we can now enjoy our virtual worlds without consideration for finances or "will things be there tomorrow?".  We are able to back up everything, including land, inventory and assets.  100% control  and ownership over our own creations is a wonderful thing.

The Eldar have complete control over our land backup, inventory backup and server operation parameters.  We no longer have corporate shareholder demands controlling how our group functions.  We no longer need to worry about meeting monthly tier, or a company/founders going back on their word and destroying valuable group creations.   The sense of peace and removal of stress on the Eldar and land holders is palpable, and appreciated.

As a result, both group leaders and members feel a sense of freedom that we could not experience on prior platforms.

 
THE ORBIT EFFECT-- controlling your own virtual experience
One thing I have noticed over the years in virtual society as well as real life:  people tend to gravitate toward and orbit around prominent / charismatic figures.  I noticed this with both Wayfinder and Snoots.  When they were very active in Elf Clan, the group was lively and active.  When they "retired", the group became far less active.
 
This is somewhat a shame, as it is still possible to host events, to have drum parties, celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day, etc.  It's just that no one does so any more. 
 
I've never considered myself "charismatic", but the "orbit" effect was undeniable. However, a friend actually had to point this out to me before I noticed it.  We see this around popular figures in all walks of life and in many groups on virtual worlds.  I remember in the old days we had a "rule of thumb" in Elf Clan:   Bored?  Stand in the sandbox for 15 minutes and soon you will have a party.  People gravitate toward one another, and orbit around the active, outgoing avatars. 
 
Just an observation:  if you want an active group, be available and active yourself.  Become the charismatic "orbit figure".  In our case  no one else was willing to step up to the plate and take over the  job of events-- which told us that our group members were quite satisfied with a more relaxed atmosphere.  So today Elf Clan consists of highy-engaging automated tours that can help visitors enjoy our lands and history.
 

 

SOCIAL VENUES

Alternately, some create areas that are designed to form social centers.  If moderated well these can be islands of comfort for those who may otherwise be truly isolated by real life circumstance.  This often manifests in the form of clubs, but can be as simple as a circle of comfy chairs and hot chocolate in a sandbox, or the ancient Elf Clan Drum Circle where people could just drop in and chat.  Our dispersal throughout Hypegrid has largely eliminated such venues and replaced them with automated adventures.  I admit missing the company of like-minded souls around a camp fire... but do enjoy the fascinating experiences to be found on our OSgrid worlds of ElvenSong, ElvenWorld, Replicant City and Frankenstein. 
 
MIXED FEELINGS
Virtual worlds can be used for many good things.  They can be a social center for the disabled.  (Moderately disabled ones might make effort to get out and make friends in the real world, because virtual worlds are no substitute for real life.)   Virtual worlds can make a decent hobby, as entertainment, and as a creative platform-- if that use is kept to moderate levels.  When one allows that recreation to become a primary focus of life and their "second life" becomes their first life-- that's when personal value and true accomplishment suffers. 
 
THERE ARE ALTERNATIVES
I discovered that truth when I "took a vacation" from virtual worlds for about 4 years or so.  I had already built and accomplished what I wanted to in virtual life and realized it had become unfulfilling.  Linden Lab had managed to destroy all of our efforts on Second Life.  We had accomplished everything we set out to accoplish on Inworldz (and quite a bit more)... but it proved an empty achievement when the grid died.  Everything was virtual and as Inworldz absolutely proved, could vanish in a moment.   
 
That's the reality of anything really, but when a virtual grid dies an entire "planet" collapses-- something seldom seen in real life.
 
The reality is that there are things more worthwhile than creating pixels on a wobbly virtual platform.  "Virtual worlds have virtual success."  We have found this to be quite true.
 
DON'T GET ME WRONG...
None of this is meant to condemn virtual worlds.   It just means we do well to maintain a balanced view of it all, realizing there are alternatives.  I've learned to break the habit of hitting the Viewer button every time I'm bored and instead search for other things to occupy my time.    There is so much else out there, so many people that need our help and attention... and so many lonely people who could simply use a face-to-face friend. Virtual World Addiction is like any other addiction; sometimes we have to work hard to break away and seek  more valid lifestyle.
 
There is much to be said for sipping a cuppa and simply chatting for a while with someone who is alone and lonely.  An older friend, a shut-in, someone who is disabled and can't get around by themselves.  It requires effort beyond typing on a keyboard.  It is more personal than triggering a dance animation at a virtual party, more fulfilling than sitting staring at a screen for two hours.   As enjoyable as virtual friendship scan be, real life friendships have proved more lasting and rewarding.
 
VIRTUAL IS ONLY VIRTUALLY FULFILLING
In the end game, virtual reality is virtual.  It may touch lives in personal ways, but like anything can be abused and become unbalanced, taking over our lives.  In retrospect I realize that in the 18 years I have been involved in virtual worlds I likely could have accomplished so much more with my life.   Consider (and there is no brag here, just fact):  On SL I founded the first Poetry Guild.  Elf Clan proved to be a marvel.  We purchased the first privately-owned themed island, were the first non-business group to reach 500 members, then 1,000, then 2,000.   We created a business model that influenced all of Second Life.   As a prominent SL newsletter stated, Elf Clan set more paths and more people followed those paths than any other group to to date.  I admit much of this was unintentional; I was just doing what we felt was necessary for the group.  But in doing so we blazed some trails. 
 
When we moved to Inworldz the grid had 14 regions.   People followed us and thirty days after we moved it had 200 regions.  Sixty days it hit 500 regions and by the end of the year-- 8 months later, was the first non-SL commercial grid to top 1,000 regions.   During all this time I started a virtual business, becoming a well-known builder, scripter, teacher.    I spent an average of 8 hours a day in virtual worlds.
 
To accomplish such things and then have them fail due to problems with the host companies (in both cases-- Linden Lab and Inworldz), defines the very essense of "virtual" worlds.  As a group we say 14 years of effort and over $200,000 U.S. in land fees go down the drain.  If this happened to Elf Clan... as large and successful as we were... what can others expect? 
 
The point of all this is simple:  as an individual I was privileged to accomplish more than most people ever get to experience in virtual worlds.  Only large group owners and successful merchants would understand what goes into doing so.  It would be difficult for a person to accomplish more than we accomplished with Elf Clan.  (Raglan Shire is still at it after all these years.  They understand.)  Yet, despite all those "accomplishments" I find myself wondering what we really have to show for all that? 
 
Some things for certain:  I know that Elf Clan helped change the lifes of at least a couple of people, giving them a solid foundation around which they formed their real life ethics and goals.  (The Elf Clan Charter is in its most basic terms, simply a guide for life, be it virtual or real.)  But if there's something I learned about virtual worlds:  they are as temporary as yesterday's newspaper.
 
VIRTUAL WORLDS IN 2019-- AND THE NEXT 18 YEARS
So the question of what I will do for the next 18 years comes to mind.   Whatever I choose, I hope it will be with increased wisdom, insight, accomplishment and benefit. Some of that will have been learned from activities on virtual worlds, interacting with the people there and learning skills that applied to real life.  But the last thing I would want on my tombstone would be, "An avatar on a virtual world."
 
Wishing you all the best in your future endeavors-- and wise choices in how we use our limited days on this planet.
 

--Wayfinder Wishbringer / Snoots Dwagon

 
 
RSS
Search

This website is powered by Spruz