Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Weaving Stories

Jurin often claims I have a gift for story telling. Personally, I think I view it as a knack for recounting whatever I've done or happen to randomly think about during the day. In fact, I find other residents' stories to be rather more interesting.

I love to listen to people. I try to soften them up by talking a lot, so they don't feel on the spot at a job interview or any such. And once they get started, they have some fascinating stories to tell. They never cease to amaze me. When I think I've heard it all, someone somewhere will add a new twist to the tale. Or their names, and the story of how they came to choose it. Or why they chose the way they appear. Or why they got into the business they run. Or what they're going here in this shop. Variety is truly the spice of life, in SL.

I can already hear the clamor that I'm being far too unrealistic, that I need to be grounded in reality and realize most people are fundamentally alike, all desire the same thing, and are more or less interchangeable. I disagree. That's Stalin's way of looking at the populace. Millions are statistics, one is personal. Folks who claim that everyone is not unique are victims of sweeping generalizations. They need to get down and talk to people occasionally and expand their horizons.

I met a man in a SL rug store a few weeks ago. He was a nice enough person, checking out the small furniture section for low prim chairs. He had started playing about two months ago, after seeing an article in some magazine, and being curious as to how far SL allowed you to take your fantasies. So he downloaded it, bought a 4096 parcel and built his own house with his first crude attempts at texturing. He was rather proud of himself, as he claimed the OI was boring (he indicated he had left it in a hurry) and he didn't seem to find much help with building inworld. He himself expressed a desire to build his own furniture, and seemed to imply that his reasons for being here were more of a scouting of where others have tread. A little daunted by the skill of the established furniture creators, he stated that he was unsure of just how well he would do as a business. And with that, he politely took leave to visit another store, The voice of a single avatar.

And this isn't just a singular case. There was the statue avatar at Bear infohub, made entirely out of circles textured with stone to create the impression of a gigantic stone golem. He topped it off by wearing a pair of sunglasses. He was much more interested in just talking about mundane daily things, like how the weather was or how everyone was doing. Sure, it was a tad blase, but consider this: he was at an infohub, providing newbies with friendly conversation and generally getting them to try out SL before they immediately dismissed it as being 'too hard and unfriendly'. There was a lovely Gor couple that also frequented that infohub, and were humorously formal, addressing everyone as Lady or Lord depending. They would delve into the happenings of their particular role play sim, which seemed to swing from dreadful serious business to unintended comical incidents to accounts of griefers being driven off. They were one of the more liberal Gors out there, openly acknowledging that their life style had significant faults and was highly susceptible to being taken to extremes by fundamentalists.

And this is just a small sample of my experiences, which of themselves are a smaller sample of the overall SL world (with 8+ million accounts, and probably ball park estimate of 300,000 active users, with 44,000 online at any given time). That's 300,000 stories out there, walking around.

I give credit to the SLInsider (and I think the Herald does this too on occasion) for showcasing each resident once a week or so. My only qualm is they turn it more into an interview than an actual portrait of the resident. They ask the same repetitive questions over and over again, and some of these questions are truly silly and really should be thrown out with the garbage. Questions like (example?). I suppose I'm being too harsh, as they operate on a deadline and need the facts fast and simple. Long and exhausting stories have no place in such an environment. As well they shouldn't. I don't read either of those blogs to gain comprehensive knowledge of residents, I read them because they deliver the news (although the Second Life Herald, with its increasing forays into advice columns and tabloid-esque 'stories' and seemingly back to back op/ed pieces, is losing my interest). Hmm, reading this paragraph, I seem to be contradictory.

Let me settle this into a simple abstract then. I applaud that they are trying to bring residents and their lives to the forefront, because that's SL. It's not builds, scripts, or events. It's people, plain and simple. Let me be the first to pat them on the back for this effort. But all the same, they could handle it a little better, more like a tale (but not a saga) and less like they are interviewing a prospective employee. I believe that sums it up nicely.

So, on that note, and with this outlook, I think I will try to add another series here that will focus on such things. No one else appears to want to cover this as deeply as I seem to, so I will take initiative here and fill that niche. I will, however, do this with the express consent of the subject, and if they don't want to be featured, then I'll delete the article I wrote and then burn the hard drive with acid. If they want something censored, then I will. If they tell me something 'off the record' then I'm not going to publish. Other than these scruples, however, I will try to deliver my portrait of the resident.

Because SL isn't the sum of its code. It's the sum of its people.

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