One of my luckiest days

July 31, 2007

by Stone Semyorka

Second Life mimics Real Life. There’s no doubt about it.

Take grieving, for instance. In RL, it’s the process of feeling distress after a sorrowful loss of someone near to us, pets, employment, possessions or status. I’ve discovered it’s no different for residents of SL.

LailaLei Mathilde comtemplating in red chair
LailaLei Mathilde

I lost an SL friend last month when she retreated into RL, apparently never to return. This has been a time of sorrow and parting for me.
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Loving an avatar girl from Nowhereville

July 28, 2007

by Stone Semyorka

Dayton, Ohio, sometimes called the Gem City after a well-known racehorse, is itself famous for its Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, largest in the world. And the LexisNexis online archive of print media and legal documents used by lawyers, journalists, and academics, also largest in the world. And the annual Dayton Hamvention, also largest in the world.

Not so famous is the tiny western Ohio community of Centerville, near the big city of Dayton. It’s home to just 23,024 souls in some 10,000 households.

Rich Desoto concert series

Poster for Rich Desoto’s Nowhereville concert series. I wonder if the title should be pronounced as “now here ville” or “nowhere ville?” Those are two quite different statements.

To be fair, I should point out that Centerville is sort of famous for one thing: the largest collection of early stone houses in the state of Ohio. Many are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

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Empowering the physically challenged

July 28, 2007

by Stone Semyorka

I said here the other day that Second Life empowers people facing a variety of challenges. Now Newsweek has discovered Simon Stevens operating his in-world nightclub known as Wheelies. Stevens is Simon Walsh in SL.

The magazine’s print article in the July 30, 2007, issue is here.

Simon Walsh dances in chair

Wheelies owner Simon Walsh dances in his chair.

Interestingly, Newsweek produced a video of article reporter Jessica Bennett entering SL and interviewing Stevens at his nightclub. The 33-year-old Stevens has a disability-consulting firm — Enable Enterprises — in England.

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Bluebirds soar across SL’s azure skies

July 19, 2007

by Stone Semyorka

Many residents of virtual worlds say the emotions they feel while in-world are strong. So strong,in fact, that almost a quarter of all women and nearly 10 percent of men have had an online wedding.

Ah, the bliss, the joy, the happiness. Bluebirds soaring across azure skies. Tweet, tweet.

May wedding

A lovely May wedding in Second Life.

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Stranger finds island Myst clearing

July 7, 2007

by Stone Semyorka

Imagine developing an entire island in Second Life. Building an elaborate infrastructure. An island so fantastically beautiful it has fans doing handstands. And then one day just demolishing it, removing it entirely, deleting it. Unthinkable, you say? Well, that is the fate of our Myst Island.

Fourteen years ago I was sitting in front of a Macintosh color computer playing with a software technology called HyperCard. I arranged stacks of virtual cards in a deck programmed with a language called HyperTalk to do this and that. It was exciting to see my screen windows change with video wipes and dissolves. Baby steps for me, but…

Elsewhere in Rl, in that same year, 1993, when the big names in published Mac games were Civilization, Prince of Persia and SimCity 2000, the brothers Robyn and Rand Miller were shuffling their HyperCard decks into a far more remarkable and potent product that they called Myst.

Myst Island in Second Life 1

It was a first-person adventure game with graphics so real for their time, so visually appealing, that they set the standard for years to come.

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The biggest July 4 fireworks display in SL

July 6, 2007

by Stone Semyorka

Imagine a spectacular night-time fireworks display over the ocean. Showers of multicolor ordinance exploding in the sky and spiraling downward. Few experiences can get your pulse racing and your senses reacting more than a dramatic show of pyrotechnics.

In cities and towns across America on July 4, public and private displays of fireworks from backyard parties to major national events were spectacles of excitement in lights and sounds.

Fireworks July 4, 2007, over Hillary Clinton 2008 Campaign HQ

As I like to say, SL mimics RL. So it was no different for Savannah Stein as she stood out on a beach in Second Life on July 4, awestruck under a huge splash of colors chasing one another across the sky above the Hillary Clinton 2008 SL Campaign headquarters.

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The funnest thing little Jack ever did

July 5, 2007

by Stone Semyorka

Little Jack McAdoo said it was the funnest thing he ever had done…riding the llama around Stone’s Point Park in Dotbyeul.

I encountered the kid just as he was dismounting near the visitor center. I say kid because he looked to be about 10 or so. Of course, I knew he had to be 18 or older in real life since he was logged into the Second Life main grid for adults. He was just role playing a kid.

He reminded me of a little girl I had found wondering through Stoneflower Gallery in Taerae in the middle of the night last winter. It was startling to find a preteen without a parent or guardian at 3 a.m. “Just exploring around a bit,” she had said…another case where I realized she had to be over 18 to be inside SL.

The girls school

I was talking about ageplay with my friend, Rainyday Writer, who wrote an article about it after parachuting into the Girls School Clubhouse grounds back in March. What Rain told me was an eye-opener.

“Girls School is a misnomer if I ever heard one,” Rain said “This elementary school look-alike is really something else.”

At the school, Rain had encountered a couple of “students” working the playground, Cammrynn Cummings and Kayoki Bade.

A resident plys her trade at the Girls School Clubhouse.

A student plys her trade at the Girls School Clubhouse in March. Over her name tag, she displays her group membership advertising slogan “schoolgirl4you”

Moonlighting at the girls school

Technically, Kayoki was not an employee of the school, Rain told me. She was an SL slave whose master sends her out to earn money as a prostitute. He takes three quarters of her earnings and makes her wear a collar that forces her avatar into submissive positions.

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Hey! What’s going on here?

July 1, 2007

by Stone Semyorka

There’s an emerging society with millions of residents displaying personalities, spawning controversies, and generating innovations. Together, they have cultural identity, social norms and a loose-knit global organization. As in real life, cultural expression is of the utmost importance to the residents of Second Life.

That’s where I come in, tracing the society and culture, politics and economics of Second Life. The intertwining of the lives of people, both public and private.

I have seen in this extraordinary virtual realm the full range of emotions: joy, gratification, interest, elation, good humor, happiness, pride and pleasant surprise, but also there is sadness, fear, anger, guilt, frustration, aggressiveness, stress, irritation, shock, disgust, helplessness, indifference, anxiety, boredom, contempt, disgust, panic and shame. Of course, there also is neutrality, pondering and reflecting. You name it, it’s in-world.

What’s my plan?

I will trace the society and culture of Seconds Life and tell you what I find. I’m going to fly the sunny skies, dive in the warm oceans, hike the cool mountain trails and walk the warm sands on our countless beaches in search of optimism and openness.

But, I also am going to lift up the rocks to see what lies underneath, look to see what scurries in the dark corners, climb down in the cesspools to see what floats there. If it’s in-world, I will find it and tell you about it.

SL residents successfully complete a vast amount of creative and useful work. I will write about those triumphs and exciting moments as well as failures and tense times.

I’m going to look for patterns, connections, hidden information and stimulating ideas.

Point of view

Even though I am in-world, I will hold firmly to an outsider’s skepticism and the professional’s belief that the ordinary residents of Second Life need complete information. If there’s an interesting story in-world, I will find it and tell you about it.