The fallout rate of the metaverse is high. While there are well over 10 million Second Life accounts, only about 10% of them are active. Of these active accounts a sizable proportion belong to those individuals who access SL for “what is in it for them”. Projects, teaching, networking, amongst much else, is what I think, compels the majority of users to initially come into Second Life. I, with my PhD research, am certainly no exception to this. However, while for quite a few initial users Second Life never acquires any meaning beyond that, for others, like myself, it ends up becoming highly meaningful in itself. This small group of individuals are the real Residents of Second Life. The amount of time they spend in SL is certainly an indicator, however, to me, it is not the main one: What is significant is that these individuals are the ones who have no real objective in being there other than to just be there. Yes, they may also engage in creative activity, they may teach, they may network, they may be merchants of virtual goods – but their “presence” is not really attributable to these activities that are somehow related to Real Life in the first place, but to the fascination that a “Second Life” which is quite independent from a “Real Life” actually holds. And, as far as I can tell, this fascination is very closely intertwined with “play”.
I am extremely hesitant to go into this, to examine what “play” is actually all about, although I do know that at some point of my research I will have to do so. Don’t they say that trying to understand the nature of play is somewhat like tearing up the wings of a bird to figure out how it flies? So, I am terrified of losing my own recently re-attained ability to play in the process and will probably be defering probing into it until I feel much more confident in the permanence of this very precious novel re-manifestation in my psyche.
I am not at all sure if all hard-core Residents engage in play as much as we; that is Hack, MosMax, wolfie and I seem to be doing. I am reluctant to say this but I also have a sense that, in general, men seem to be somewhat better at it than women are. For instance a recent comment on my Flickr feed has given me much food for thought:
My artistic output is also slowly but surely moving towards play, and this is one thing that I am immensely pleased about: Although this is not a discussion for this page, I have very very serious problems with the over-conceptualization and intellectualization that is rampant in contemporary art and I have often been quite horrified at manifestations of this in my own output. What I seem to have started to accomplish in my building activity in Second Life is a kind of unselfconsciousness: I am building water basins for my underwater animal entourage… I have constructed a huge and elaborate powerplant the ultimate aim of which seems to be rejuvenation… I love to see the detritus of my avatar family’s plane and car accidents scattered all over my carefully planned layouts… I have built a very fancy tent complete with cushions, stove, tripod camera and bicycle…
It is true that where initiating communal games is concerned I still severely lag behind Hack and wolfie, who, as said, are indeed the true masters; but I join in zealously in anything that they instigate and once in I do get caught up in the moment (although probably still not as fully and completely even now, since I have yet to get to the point where I am no longer at all aware of the glorious photo opportunities that these so often tend to provide).