Saturday, June 4, 2011

Playgrounds of the Mind Made Real - Virtuality Pt. 1

I was a kid who played with dolls.  My imagination knew no bounds.  Being the only daughter,  being at least  9 years younger than any of my siblings, and living on a farm with no other kids near by meant I had to play by myself.  My mom also kept me out of school -- a lot.  I constructed Barbie space stations out of cardboard and aluminum foil and sky walks between platforms that would take over  an entire room in the house.  I'd move all of Mom's houseplants together and create a jungle and have my Barbies go "National Geographic" with only a piece of cloth wrapped around their hips.  Mom squelched this scenario and insisted on clothed dolls.  Boring!

But, anyway, I immediately realized that virtual worlds such as Second Life ®, when I first logged into it 5 years ago this month,  in June 2006, was the portal to recapturing the sense of imagination and world building that I'd lost when I discovered dolls were for babies and boys were for girls.  I quickly found my way back to the world of play and invention in the virtual world.  I needed it.  I had not played for years.  I played with my daughter,  of course, but she had friends to play with that were more fun than Mom.  Moms in her world were caretakers, food makers, singers of original bedtime songs, readers of books, and Girl Scout Leaders and Soccer Team Coaches.

I decided to have my avatar (my "physical" self) look a lot like Barbie. Most avatars do.  At least the female ones do. Most of the male avatars look like a cross between Fabio and Don Johnson.   I encountered the world of cyber-sex, peripherally, and decided that wasn't for me.  I also quickly determined that playing dress up wasn't really my thing, and just like in the real physical world, all you really need is good hair and good shoes.

What I spent most of my time doing was learning to build.  Space stations and jungle scenes did not really enter into it.  I built houses, stores, furniture, appliances, and very simple clothing for the first couple of years and I spent a lot of time meeting with people from around the world who were active in the peace and justice movement and promoting CODEPINK.

I learned to create textures and how to do all sorts of graphics,  and I moved on to creating islands and landscapes.  But it was prohibitively expensive on a small scale and scaling up would have taken all my time.  So I began looking at other platforms such as those offered using the Open Sim software and grid.  The grid is just the map of everyone's areas. I have only a tiny bit of a presence left in Second Life ®.   I have an island connected to the Open Sim Grid.  I am trying to decide whether to just let it all go.  It is difficult.  My avatar represented a part of me that isn't as fully expressed in my day to day life as it is in the virtual world.

The photo I use here on blogger is of my avatar.

I just realized the other day that I had created almost everything in the picture.  The building is one of my creations.   The cup of coffee and the espresso maker are mine.  I sell them online.  The t-shirt is a CODEPINK t-shirt I made and one of many that I sell.  The table and chair are my builds and use textures I created using Gimp.

I will write more about this decision, one I have to make in the next few weeks, as to whether I'm staying virtual for the next year.   I will also write about the wonderful experience of being able to build your dream house, learn new skills, and develop parts of yourself that cannot easily be expressed in real physical life.

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