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Retrospect 2019 Tags: retrospect



I started virtual worlds in 2000 with, a very under-powered yet fun platform where few people built and most people met just to explore and socialize.  Moved to Second Life in 2004, then to Inworldz, and finally to OSgrid.

Somewhere in there Wayfinder stumbled into / founded a wee group called Elf Clan, with ensuing madness that lasted several years before settling down into a relatively peaceful area of calm.  It took the collapse of an entire grid to bring that about. 

Elf Clan centrally now consists of four continents running on three self-hosted servers spread across the globe, for a total of 100 regions.  Elf Clan members have moved to grids throughout the Hypergrid.  We have changed in form from being a social, event-oriented group with 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.  In addition we have member lands on Kitely, 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?".  Full control over what is supposed to be a hobby activity is a wonderful thing.

One thing I have noticed over the years in this 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. 
I've never considered myself "charismatic", but the "orbit" effect was undeniable. A friend actually had to point this out to me before I noticed it. ;D .    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 outgoing avatars. 
Just an observation:  if you want an active group, have central figures regularly available and active. 
On the otherhand, there are those who seem to desire power and prominence for their own sake.  This is not good; it creates drama and forms social cliques where some people are accepted and some people outcast.  I label this "The High School Effect".  To help a group prosper, leaders must be generous both with their time and knowledge.  But if that time and knowledge is provided for the purpose of self-glory... it has the opposite effect.   It will draw a crowd to be sure-- but the wrong crowd.
Observation:  humility and kindness is the heart of a good group.  I did not always exercise such and wish I had. Eventually I did as experience and observation taught its lesson.  It is a lesson hard-learned.



It is possibly because of this that many people isolate themselves on closed islands, inviting only their friends and shutting out undesirable elements.  Oddly enough even though virtual worlds may be full of people, many feel very isolated.  This is often by necessity; one can choose to wade in the mud, or seek a better environment free of the stress often caused by others.
On the other hand, 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 all of course is just observation... some of what I've managed to glean from this experience over the last 18 years.  But it this concept upon which the Elf Clan Charter was founded, written and updated:  create a land that is peaceful, harmonious and welcoming to all visitors.  That would seem obvious, but it is amazing how many do not employ this simple concept.
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 certainly 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.
I discovered that truth when I "took a vacation" from virtual worlds for about 3 years or so.  I had already built and accomplished what I wanted to in virtual life and realized it was unfulfilling and without true reward.  I had accomplished everything I set out to accoplish... but it was an empty achievement.  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.
During my vacation-- void of the lure of VR-- I quite by accident discovered a new interest, which developed into a new skill, which developed into a new trade.  This was considerably more rewarding... and something over which I had far more control than the shaky-foundations of virtual worlds.  I also increased my choice of volunteer work, which had the nice effect of widening out my social circles and providing greater fulfillment in life-- doing something more worthwhile than pasting pixels on a wobbly virtual platform.
None of this is meant to condemn virtual worlds as a pastime, a  hobby or even a full-time occupation in some instances.   It just means we do well to maintain a balanced view of it all, realize 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. 
There is much to be said for sipping a cuppa and simply chatting for a while with someone who is lonely.  It requires effort beyond typing on a keyboard.  It is more personal than triggering a dance animation at a virtual dance party and sitting staring at a screen for two hours.   Real life friendships tend to be more rewarding.
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.   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 greater wisdom, insight, accomplishment and benefit.  The last thing I would want on my tombstone would be, "Was an interesting avatar."
Wishing you all the best in your future endeavors-- and wise choices in how we use our limited and ever-decreasing days in this world.

--Wayfinder Wishbringer / Snoots Dwagon


January 2019 (1)

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