Saturday, October 26, 2013

Halloween in Second Life

There is something haunting in the light of the moon; it has all the dispassionateness of a disembodied soul, and something of its inconceivable mystery. 

Joseph Conrad


Happy Halloween!
Yes, it’s that time of the year again, Halloween.  At least for those of us who celebrate it it’s a time of ghosts and goblins, tricks or treats.  I know many of you don’t and are glad you don’t.  But, please indulge me.  This is one of my favorite holidays.  (Although, contrary to rumors put out by Significant Other and certain relatives, I did not go trick or treating in high school.) 
Real Life (RL) permits us some liberties and safe scares during Halloween.  But, recently, thanks to a recommendation from Lisah Lorefield, my good friend in Second Life (SL), I had a chance to visit a sim inworld where horror and terror are unleashed.  (Warning, those easily frightened should go read some of my other stories.)
SL always gives us something fun to do at this time of the year.  I blogged a short while back about Perryn Peterson’s event around gacha and last year’s story about the goings on at Tribute City which show the originality and diversity of Halloween celebrations inworld.  Not to mention, demonstrating a certain cosmopolitan and restrained view.
Well, where Lisah sent me throws restraint to the winds and attempts to scare the living whatever out of anyone game enough to go in.  (And here I thought Lisah liked me.)  Let me tell you my story…
I visit Lisah’s recommendation at Veil of Darkness and upon arriving immediately have the sense that something is different here.  I feel and hear a world that is scary.  (Don’t believe Significant Other here, I don’t scare that easily.) A lonely pathway goes into woods that are not too inviting.  But I enter because that’s what we always do in B-movies and SL. 
I notice too as I go in that others rezz in (always a good sign) and that some of them are carrying weapons (never a good sign). 
The woods hang over me and strange sounds give the sense that there is something or someone just over in the shadows.  A kneeling, young woman is impaled into the ground by a two handed sword reminiscent of those used by the Landsknechte during the Thirty Years War.  (I really hope that my readers appreciate what risks I take to get these stories.  OK, yes, the physical risk is minimal but the psychological…)  And all this is within the first few steps!
Anyway, I continue along the fog wrapped path and follow a signpost to a village.  Or, more aptly, what was once a village.  It’s deserted.  Bodies lie everywhere.  (If you’ve ever seen parts of Brooklyn after a particularly good Saturday night then you’ll know what I mean.)  Buildings have been gutted and their inhabitants’ guts (Sorry for the pun, I couldn’t resist.) lie everywhere. 
          As I exit a desecrated church (What else would you call one that’s been sacked and has a mummified corpse sitting in it?)  zombies begin to approach me.  (What’s with zombies?  A few years ago, vampires were all the rage, now these guys.) 
          Beating a hasty retreat across a haunted cemetery, I come across a rickety pier with an even ricketier raft that has a sign announcing a swamp raft tour.
          What do I have to lose?  I’m doing nothing else at the moment and I’m being pursued by zombies. Besides, I’ve always enjoyed boat tours.
          I hop on, push off, and I’m on my way.  The raft takes me through a river which runs through the sim.  I get to see, from a nice, safe, very safe distance, all the fun ‘n frolic the creators have unleashed here. 
          By land, sea, and air, I see horrors.  HP Lovecraft would be amused.  My core beliefs are attacked when I see Mickey Mouse trapped in an enormous spider’s web with guess who coming to dinner.  Elsewhere, Bambi is threatened.  Nothing, religion, Disney, nothing is safe or sacred here. 
          Bodies float in the water, lie on the riverbanks, or hobble along undead. 
          Water boas swim by.  Creatures from Dante’s Inferno haunt the shadows.  Are you getting the idea here?  I can’t even ask for my money back because this is free! 
          Then there’s the sounds.  Even when I close my eyes or turn away, they fill my mind.  There is no escape.  (Yes, I could exit and turn off the computer but what would this story look like then?) 
          The raft returns to the poor excuse for a dock and unceremoniously dunks me in the water. (Next time I’m booking through Orbitz.)  I get back on land and cross over the river on a tumble down covered bridge.  (It might be easier and more succinct if you just assume everything’s a wreck and I let you know when things get better.) 
          Walking inland past the spiders and other assorted baddies I come across yet another signpost pointing the way to a castle.  I follow along.  Let’s see how the better half live.
          Through spider webs, assorted ghouls and goblins, more zombies (BTW, forget about calling 911 for the police if you get into trouble.)  I find the guest book along the way.  (Over two hundred so far have signed in.)  I also find the nursery.  (Don’t ask.)
          Climbing stone steps long given to disrepair and after accidentally crucifying myself, (Trust me, it could happen to anyone.)   I stand on top of a mountain looking across at the most impressive castle that I’ve ever seen in SL.  The view alone is worth the trip.
          Gathering up what’s left of my nerve, and it’s not a lot, I make my way over to the causeway leading to the castle’s main gate which has Dante’s famous quotation emblazoned across its top, “Abandon all hope all ye who enter here!”  (I’ve got news for the creators, they’d scared any hope out of me a long time ago.) 
          Somewhere in this castle is some sort of goal or prize which I never obtain.  I meet others wandering about.  This is a great place for a dungeon crawl, literally. 
          RL requires that I leave, I don’t know how long I would have needed to find the end of the quest.  (Significant Other doubts I’d live that long.)  But, at least I know I tried.
          I must confess that when I first heard of Veil of Darkness I wasn’t aware of the creative team behind it.  I later found that this was part of a family of astouding sims belonging to Calas Galadhon.  SL residents, Tymus Tenk and Truck Meredith, are the creative duo behind these sites.  Many visitors whom I met during my visit referred me their other work.  I’ll blog about them and their work in subsequent posts. 
          I strongly recommend Veil of Darkness to all who are looking for a little thrill during the Halloween season. Be warned, this isn’t for the faint of heart.  Veil of Darkness is serious stuff.  Visual and auditory effects are very good and contribute to a heavy, somber atmospheric effect.  The sim interacts with its guests but doesn’t impede them like some sims guardians do. 
          Have fun and are you brave enough to visit it in the dark?      
          I’ve included a few pictures from my visit to Veil of Darkness.  I’ve deliberately avoided some of the horrors so you could go see these for yourselves.  Don’t take my word for it, go, see, and believe.    
          I’d like to thank Lisah Lorefield for referring me to Veil of Darkness.  (I still think she was a little surprised when I returned.)
As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.  (Including the undead!) 
I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at . 

          If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here. 



Photo No. 1  Entrance at LZ

Photo No. 2  Into the Woods

Photo No. 4  Signpost

Photo No. 5  Village

Photo No. 7 Church Interior

Photo No. 8 Cemetery

Photo No. 9 Swamp Raft Tour

Photo No. 10 Guest Book

Photo No. 11  Staircase to Castle

Photo No. 12  The Castle

Photo No. 13  Approach to Castle

Photo No. 14  View from Castle

Photo No. 15  Friendly Greeting

Photo No. 16 Castle Foyer

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Nature in Second Life

I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.

John Muir

           Recently, I went to the state of Maine in the United States for a brief vacation with Significant Other.  (Apparently, visiting yet another virtual world didn’t cut it.  And, contrary to popular opinion, I do know how to enjoy myself in Real Life (RL).)
          Our plans were to explore the coast and woods, enjoy lobster and other seafood, and get away from the day to day pressures of reality for a bit.  I also planned to do some writing and post my blog as usual.
          Well, as luck would have it, my usually reliable WiFi was not so reliable.  When I eventually made it into Second Life (SL), the experience was pretty bad.  I was able to briefly chat with a few friends but that was about it before I bailed.  Even emails and FaceBook were difficult. 
          So, I abandoned my efforts to stay connected inworld and focused on RL for the time away.  (Significant Other worried about my going through the DT’s.  But, have no fear, I survived.) 
          Being immersed in RL for an extended period, especially in the wilds of Maine, got me thinking about nature.  Its beauty, its mysteries, and how our senses interact with it.  I also thought about time and its effects on nature.  (That’s Mother Nature and not naturism for those familiar with my other writings.)  I was in Maine in the autumn and could see the foliage change as the trees and other plant life went through their annual explosion of color which this region is known for as summer recedes prior to winter’s arrival.  (I hope I’m not getting too heavy for anyone out there.)
          In RL, we can see, smell, and hear the changes in the wild as autumn unfolds.  Leaves change color, the air is different, the scent of early fires fills the air, and migrating birds fill the skies with their cries.  Feeling the fallen brittle leaves permits us to experience the sense of touch as trees shed their summer loads as just one example.  Some might argue that we may even taste the seasonal change as fruits and vegetables ripen and are ready for the harvest.  I’m singling out autumn but every season in RL has its own impacts on the senses. 
          In SL, we can experience nature too.  Although, as I’ve blogged earlier, experiencing all the senses inworld is not practical with current technology.  But, the visual and auditory are possible.  Several sims have taken nature to a high art form inworld. 
          The first I’d like to highlight is Natural Wilderness at Loch Haven.  The sim is a simple bucolic setting of woods, fields, water falls, mountains, and coastal scenes.  Leaves blow in the wind and mist arises from falling water.  It’s a quiet place to spend time either by oneself or with someone close. 
          Another and a favorite of mine is Lupes Magic Forest.  One caution here is that strict nudity is required.  If you’re up to it then the beautiful woods with their meandering pathways and hidden spots are well worth the time spent undressing. 
          Finally, last but not least, my old friend, Perryn Peterson, and his partner, Mike Olbracht, always do a phenomenal job with their nature settings in their Hunts.  I’ve included a couple of pictures of their handiwork their most recent Renaissance Faire.  Since their efforts don’t last much longer than their accompanying events, I encourage anyone wishing to see beautiful representations of nature inworld to visit their events when they’re open. 
          Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t recommend nature in SL over nature in RL.  (Significant Other wanted me to be very clear on this point.)  We should never retreat from RL into SL.  However, when RL is unavailable to us then we can enjoy SL as we would a fine picture in a museum or a National Geographic documentary on television. 
          Go walkabout inworld and enjoy these beautiful representations of RL nature.  Also, please remember that these are just but three of many beautiful, natural sims in SL.  I encourage you to go and find others for yourselves!
          I’ve included a few pictures from the three sims I’ve mentioned.  Don’t take my word for it, go and see these for yourselves.    
As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives. 
I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at . 

          If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.  

Friday, October 11, 2013

Gacha – The Latest Fad in Second Life

It’s driven by economics now.  This is a trend not a fad.

David Knight


          Hopefully, my readers know by now that I’m always on the lookout for the latest fads and trends in Second Life (SL) to bring back for their reading pleasure and to spare them the aggravation and danger (OK, there goes that overly developed sense of the dramatic of mine again.) of doing it themselves. 
          With the assistance of my good friend, Perryn Peterson, I was recently able to come up to speed on one of the latest fads sweeping across SL and one that has its roots in Real Life (RL). 
          Perryn, SL’s impresario extraordinaire, has done it again.  Reaching into both RL and SL, his next event is based on gacha.  The name is the Mieville Midway Halloween Gacha Expo and Event. 
           Now, you may be asking, what exactly is a gacha and why should I even care.  (I know that I was initialy.)  Well, like many pop culture fads these days, this one comes from Japan where these small toys enclosed in small capsules are all the rage these days.  And, as Perryn explained to me, they are becoming very trendy inworld these days too. 
          The capsules are dispensed from coin operated vending machines and can contain small figures based on anime or manga or other small toys.  There are also ones for the adult market containing female figures in various states of undress. 
          Similar to the Pokemon franchise, the figures are either common and ordinary or rare and highly sought after.  There is a very active secondary market for these objects. 
          Perryn also told me that gacha collecting has become a very popular pastime inworld recently.  Similar to RL, the collectibles range from the ordinary to the extraordinary.  Gache events are mobbed with residents going to extremes to obtain the rarer ones.  (Did I say that SL behaviors emulate RL ones?) 
          Being a yard sale aficionado in both RL and SL, Perryn has noticed the popularity of gachas in these secondary markets.
          Thanks to Perryn, I was able to get a sneak preview of the gacha expo before anyone else.  (As in RL, having friends like Perryn in high places definitely helps.)  While many of the other merchants’ shops were being set up, the gacha pavilion had been built and was fully equipped with other a dozen gacha dispeners ready to go.
          The Mieville Midway Halloween Gacha Expo and Event runs from October 15th to 31st and is a Halloween themed event. 
          Perryn’s usual attention to detail is evident and his selection of merchants with holiday themed merchandise is first rate.  I can confidently recommend visiting this event.  You won’t disappointed!
          I’d like to thank Perryn for taking the time from his busy schedule to show me around and educate me about gachas. 
          I’ve included a few pictures from the grounds of the gacha expo but, as always, I strongly recommend that you go yourselves and see the marvelous merchandise on display and to support the merchants. 
As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives. 
I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at . 

          If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here. 


Photo No. 1  Event Poster

Photo No. 2  Gacha Pavilion

Photo No. 3  Gacha Machines

Photo No. 4  More Gacha Machines

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Long, Lost Friend Returns to Second Life

Shook hands with the Devil, looked him in the eye, looked like a long lost friend.

Van Halen

         My original plans for this week’s story were different than what you’re reading right now.  What I would have written I don’t know because as I was sitting and thinking about this story (Daydreaming is Significant Other’s term.)  I had an interruption.  Maybe “interruption” is a poor choice of words because what happened was that an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in many months suddenly popped up on my online friends list. 
          I quickly IM’d her and we caught up and while doing so I started thinking about how friends come and go in Second Life (SL).  We often see them coming but we rarely see them go until it’s too late and suddenly we realize they haven’t been around for a while.
          That’s what happened here and that’s what I’m writing about this week, long, lost friends inworld. 
          Let’s first talk about why my friend and why she left.  (I won’t identify my friend because I didn’t tell her I was writing this story and also don’t want to be responsible for driving her back out of SL because of curious onlookers driving by gawking at her second life.  I do have some professional ethics. I also don’t want my friends to stop talking to me.) 
          My friend and I met at a mutual friend’s wedding several years ago and afterwards we would hang out inworld when we were in at the same time.  She had an interest in SL photography and her personal portraits are of a very high quality.  She tried her hand raising breedables (meeroos) and had a small business with them for a while.  Bilingual and active in her Real Life’s (RL’s) nation’s inworld community, she had an active social life.  Once upon a time, she had a boyfriend (Not me, she also has standards.)  When I was a noobie, she helped me because that’s what friends do inworld.
          Why did she leave?
          Well, her RL became more active, in a good way.  But, inworld, many of her old friends had just disappeared and she had begun to be bored by SL.  She simply stayed away. 
          (Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating folks abandoning RL for SL.  But, a happy balance isn’t a bad thing.) 
          As her friend, what did this me for me?  I was left with unanswered questions about where a friend had gone.  Admittedly, it took me a while to realize this but I did get there eventually.  (Significant Other nods knowingly as I write this.)  My inworld friend had gone walkabout and I felt a gap or loss. 
          But, what can we do about this inworld when our friends go MIA?  It’s not like we can go down the block and knock on their door, drop by the local pub where they hang out, or call them on their cell as we would in RL. 
          We wonder, maybe worry, about what’s happened to them.  Have they died?  Gotten a magnificent new relationship in RL?  Heaven forbid, wandered off into World of Warcraft?  Maybe developed an online gambling habit?  The mind does wonder.  (I freely admit to an overly developed sense of the dramatic.) 
          What does this mean to the SL community?
          I’ve blogged about friendship and loss inworld before but having one of my own friends involved adds a more personal dimension. 
          People just disappearing for no reason can be disruptive to a community’s social fabric. (Look what happened in the Soviet Union during the Great Purge.)   We become inured to the lack of closure with friendships and relationships.  (I can’t speak for the rest of the RL world but in my country filing a missing person’s report with the police when a friend falls off the radar suddenly and unexpectedly is considered the socially acceptable thing to do at the very minimum and helps with letting go much in the same way as a traditional Irish wake does in the US.)  Uncertainty haunts us more so than in our real lives. 
          But, for now, my friend has returned to SL.  She thinks she’s going to stay for a while.  This is good for everyone.  The community is whole again, or, at least in one corner.  Can SL still offer the challenges and excitement that it once did? 
          Now, will she stay and if so, for how long? 
As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives. 
I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at . 

          If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.