Eight Years in a Virtual World

Francesca Bergamasco, Avatar

In 2007, I stepped through the looking glass into the metaverse.

Second Life® was not then and is not now a perfect iteration of what we hoped the virtual world would be, or will be. Yet it has been an extraordinary experience.

Over the eight years, I’ve been in and out of the world. I’ve run a sim, learned to terraform, run a fantasy hotel, built houses, made clothes and participated in various role-play sims. It has been a hobby that I have returned to time and again to experiment with and to try new things. I’ve met people from all over the world. Three have become real world friends.

On one absence, I read an online article about the dwindling number of users in Second Life. I went to sleep that evening worried that I might lose my metaverse, and that night I dreamt of flying over a beautiful world under a WindLight sky. I was back in-world the next day.

I have been away for eighteen months, but we are now nearing the end of the current version of Second Life. I am back now to see the death of this version of the world and witness the birth of the new.

Many current users in SL worry about the move to the new platform. With no backward compatibility, we must start fresh in the brave new world. Losing inventories is no small thing. I think about losing the houses I’ve built, the houses I’ve bought. My trees and plants. My skins. My clothes. My dragon. It’s enough to make a grown avatar cry.

This pales though in comparison to my excitement about where we may be going next. Whether it is in Second Life, or in High Fidelity (Philip Rosedale’s next world), or a in a world made by a yet unknown player . . . I am ready to contribute to our growing understanding of what the metaverse may be, and what it may become.

I am here to reflect on my experiences in Second Life. To take pictures of the wonderful and amazing things the residents have made. To make a scrapbook of things we don’t want to forget as we see this world end. And to look forward to the next one.

4 responses to “Eight Years in a Virtual World

  1. My rez day is 12 November 2007 and I’ve been from one end of the world to the other over the years. For me there was always interest on exploring virtual worlds, and there were several virtual worlds that predated SL including Habitat, and Active Worlds (which I dipped my toe into in the ’90s – but the cost to do development, and the large emptiness were too sterile for my taste). But Second Life had two things that made me keep coming back: people I came to identify as friends and confidants, and places that became iconic in my life.

    The places have a history – and even if some of the people are gone (and some have died in the real world) who made these places – their vision, their touch remains behind. My concern is that if all of that is abandoned, we will lose a unique component of culture and history. The digital nature of these creations means we should be able to copy and store, and perhaps resurrect the objects and places that have meaning to us. Do you know if there is any interest or if Linden Labs is considering archiving the old world when the transition occurs?

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    • Hello,
      You have an interesting history in online worlds. I would love to hear more about your experience in Habitat and Active Worlds. Are you still coming into Second Life?

      I do not know what Linden labs will ultimately do. When I initially returned to Second Life, I was really worried that it was about to disappear, that when Linden finished their new project — which I now know much more about, it’s called the Sansar Project, that Second Life would disappear. I now understand that Second Life will be around for a long time. When it does go, as it almost certainly will one day, I doubt it will be archived. That’s a sad thought. I am now much more aware of trying to take pictures of it while it is here.

      Francesca

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  2. Sorry to cause confusion: I was never in Habitat – I was just stating that as an example of worlds that existed before SL in the ’90s – which is to say mostly text based with 2D graphics, if any. Muds, and a chat system called ‘The Palace’ – which included 2D visuals and avatars – are systems I *did* dip my toes into during that time, along with BBSs which were themselves in their heyday, and while not ‘worlds’ in the strictest sense, nonetheless had a sense of ‘cyberspace’ about them. You have to remember – before this time, in the ’80s – communications beyond the confines of your region was the domain of a small group of people, mostly students, professors, and researchers.

    I’d like to talk more about this – but I have to run. Perhaps another time? I do jump into SL from time to time. Let me know when a good time for you would be.

    MC

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  3. Hi MC, I’d love to talk more as well. When you come into SL, send me an IM and a friendship offer. We can talk time zones and meeting times there. You’ll find me as Francesca Bergamasco.

    Francesca

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