I decided to go back and explore “Social Island” because it felt safe for someone like me who was still learning how to play (use the controls and understand the interface well). While I continued exploring the space ‘Social island,’ I ran into a museum of tutorials. I found this space similar to what is […]
I decided to go back and explore “Social Island” because it felt safe for someone like me who was still learning how to play (use the controls and understand the interface well). While I continued exploring the space ‘Social island,’ I ran into a museum of tutorials. I found this space similar to what is traditionally considered a museum because information was presented in a passive manner, showing what players can do in other worlds in Second Life. Tomas Brown wrote an article about the four main roles that museums can fall into within videogames: the story-driver, the social space, the political/historical device, and the identity exploration. Second Life’s museum tutorials would mostly likely fall into identity exploration. While they ensure that the player is educated about in-game mechanics, the embedded videos constantly focused on the liberty that Second Life grants its players to be and do whatever they pleased. These museum-like spaces share many characteristics of the identity role of museums in videogames, because in these spaces, the player is better informed about how the virtual world enables total control and exploration of one’s identity.
Once I felt more comfortable with the controls, I I decided to do some intentional exploration in other game maps for my last session of gameplay in Second Life. The game world is huge, and requires portals to move from map to map. When I was exploring, I discovered an activist organization that created their own world to support their cause. The world had embedded images with hyperlinks to their Facebook page and Flickr accounts. Second Life is a 3D space that allows you to do almost every ‘thing’ that Ian Bogost defines in his book, How to do Things in Videogames. In Second Life, you can take snapshots (chap 10) and people have created portfolios of their avatars in Flickr. The game is art within art (chapter 1). Players are encouraged to create and sell their own creations. There’s even worlds completely built on the idea of titillation (chapter 15) because their are objects, apparel, and worlds that fall under “adult.”
While many other videogames focus on one or two of Bogost’s “things,” Second Life intends to be a self-contained, expansive virtual environment. I did not have the time or knowledge to explore all of the world map, The infinity of freedom in this game has allowed for players to find their various niches and expand on each of Bogost’s “things.” It does a great job at replicating (and sometimes enhancing) real-life events, actions, and activities. Almost anything that can be done in real life can be done in Second Life.
Tomas Brown, “The Role of the museum in Video Games,” Play the Past, (2014). See http://www.playthepast.org/?p=4717
Ian Bogost, How to Do Things with Videogames, University of Minnesota Press (2011).
In “All the Slender Ladies: Body Diversity in Video Games,” Anita Sarkeesian critiques videogame designers for relying on the same body type for female characters, but I found Second Life to not be much different. Even when players are able to fully customize their characters, in my one hour of game play, I found only […]
In “All the Slender Ladies: Body Diversity in Video Games,” Anita Sarkeesian critiques videogame designers for relying on the same body type for female characters, but I found Second Life to not be much different. Even when players are able to fully customize their characters, in my one hour of game play, I found only one female avatar that had body dimensions different than the norm.
No matter who is designing an avatar for a videogame, Sarkeesian’s argument fails to consider the magic circle that exists in videogames. People use the videogame environment to portray their “projective” identity. She considers this default, slender-shaped woman avatar a “limitation to creativity.” I think players in Second Life take advantage of the opportunity to be creative in this 3D environment to explore an identity that does not have to be one of their own.
The only time I felt like my personal freedom of identity was threatened was from chatting with a male character. He started to comment on my virtual appearance. At this point, I had not personalized my avatar at all. He said I would look better, with a different hairstyle and a smaller head. To my surprise, he sent me packages of fully customized women avatars. You can put these ‘outfits’ on, and your clothes, accessories, and even height will change. This relationship of exchanging and controlling my physical characteristics was a learning experience, but made me feel uncomfortable. The power dynamic was clear; he could customize me or any other character in whatever way he pleased. The appearance of my avatar became “playable,” and I myself became a sexualized trope in his gameplay. Videogames are spaces where agency can be isolated, shared, manipulated, or threatened.
Anita Sarkeesian, “All the Slender Women: Body Diversity in Video Games” (2016). See https://feministfrequency.com/video/all-the-slender-ladies-body-diversity-in-video-games/
I’ve been in many classes that reference Second Life, an expansive 3D virtual world built for socializing. So I decided to try it out! This blog post is about the tutorial and my reflection of its educational value. In videogames, the tutorials are usually a solo-venture. In Second Life, after choosing a sim character, you are immediately […]
I’ve been in many classes that reference Second Life, an expansive 3D virtual world built for socializing. So I decided to try it out! This blog post is about the tutorial and my reflection of its educational value.
In videogames, the tutorials are usually a solo-venture. In Second Life, after choosing a sim character, you are immediately placed in a virtual world with other new players. Some of them look just like you, because there are about 10 model sims to choose from. This immediately gave me the sensation of community, knowing that other people were learning the basics and might fail a few times. This initial stage also set the tone that Second Life is a social experience, whether it’s an adventure towards self-exploration or interaction with other players.
As I continued through the tutorial, I learned that we were in “Learning Island.” After the lessons which teach you the basic mechanics, you are encouraged to explore before going to “Social island,” since there’s no way to return.
I initially got frustrated, thinking that the game implied that learning is an isolated event. After some reflection, I think this was intentional and fits well with the purpose of Second Life. This separation communicates that learning emerges from interaction with others (learn more about Social Pedagogy here). Although Social Island doesn’t provide many opportunities to socialize directly with other players, I was free to explore the virtual space and learn through challenges.
There were two moments where my suspended belief was broken. There were times when, ironically, I felt alone in Social Island. I tried to chat with other players, and found myself assuming that each sim accurately represented their real world identity. How hypocritical of me! I was playing as a pear-shaped redhead – characteristics that in no way embody my real life identity.
As I was exploring, I happened upon a tablet that outlined the rules for game play. It was made very clear that although Second Life is a virtual world, the same social rules from the real world apply. You aren’t allowed to harass anyone. You will be punished for being rude or performing non-consensual behavior among another person. Second Life developers acknowledge that many players may want to take advantage of the magic circle that videogames traditionally embody. These rules are made clear so that people understand that there is little difference between the magic circle of real life and the one in virtual life. It is made more clear that the game establishes a safe space for all, and tries to democratize the experience for every player.