According to David Herman, the term ‘storyworld’ denotes “the surrounding context or environment” which embeds “existents, their attributes, and the actions and events in which they are involved.” Storyworlds thus involve the convergence of temporal and spatial parameters, both of which, according to Herman, hold equal value in the construction of an integrated narrative.

I have adapted Herman's definition to a type of building activity that we find in places like Second Life in which the builder  creates art-habitats that are built upon a custom created geography and that have a custom created climate. Such art ecologies consist of many interrelated artifacts that provide a complex visual/sonic system which is meant to be perceived in its entirety. What is displayed grows out of its own artificial ecology, meant to be visited and experienced through avatars who are beings that are just as artificial as the ecology that surrounds them.

Usually such virtual ecologies do not have a specific duration or a statically defined appearance; more often than not they will be around for many months if not indeed for years, whilst undergoing continuous changes during their lifespan. The desire is that the piece slowly unfolds through many lengthy visits, some lasting for days or even weeks, and that the incomers utilize the landscape for their own ends – to play in, and by extension to become creatively active in.

 
 
 
 

This build actually came out of a coincidence - as so much digital work tends to do, if you let your mind roam freely and are open to serendipitous encounters, which is something that I definitely am. I rarely plan ahead, I just sort of start and see what happens. And what happened here is that I bought these full perm freebies from one of the legendary builders of SL - Arcadia Asylum. These were all drastically low count prim objects. Their shapes were great, but their textures left quite a bit to be desired. So, while I was fooling around I threw a gold and black texture on one them just to see what would happen, went "whoa!" - and out of that came a whole sim, pretty much...

You can read more and view images of the sim here: https://alphatribe2015.wordpress.com/

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Although I quite liked it, this version of the alpha.tribe sim did not really catch on among visitors. A good way to judge this is by checking out how many photos and videos of the sim are posted on social media, how many people have blogged it and so on. And there was precious little in that regard. In hindsight I know why: This was not a storyworld in which space and time correlate. And this is down to the absence of topography - the sim consisted of two levels (underwater and ground) both of which were completely flat. Thus you did not spend time going from one place to the other - everything was immediately and equally apparent from the moment you arrived, things did not unfold progressively as you moved about. nothing was hidden.

What also needs to be taken into consideration here is that, unlike the physical world or indeed offline video games, online gaming platforms and builder's worlds do not have atmospheric perspective, since this would be very render costly. Yes, there are some presets that have fog, but still this is not the same as aerial perspective. And this lack of aerial perspective, combined with the total flatness of geography made for a sim that was devoid of surprises. And more importantly, that was devoid of the all important spatio/temporal element that Herman deems to be crucial for a successful narrative.

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Syncretia Annex was built in 2010 as a homestead attached to Syncretia, my first island in Second Life. Syncretia (although I was not aware of the term then) was a storyworld - and a very complex one at that. Syncretia, while the island was around, was one of the most visited locations in SL, and in hindsight I now know that this was probably due to the space/time continuum that I achieved there. Years ago I made a huge website about Syncretia, with lots of images, so  I will not show more here. But, for some reason, I overlooked Syncretia Annex back then and never properly documented the sim. I took lots of photos, of course, but they ended up being forgotten in folders on my hard drive.

Which is strange since the Annex is probably the most comprehensive storyworld that I have ever built in terms of resting on a clear concept. (And yes, even though I did not know this at the time when I built the place, it does fall into Herman's definition I think, and possibly more so than any other place I have ever rezzed in virtual worlds). The concept is life and death as two interconnected worlds, and the way I visualized the concept is through the famous Crowley term "as above, so below."  "Above" is above water - where we have a sunny, run-of-the-mill metaverse day. And "below"  is underwater, where we sink into a dark Hades made out of a labyrinth of canyons. Where there are morgues, scary goddesses, vanitas parlors, and pauper's graves. Here there are also desperate horses captivated by a dark, soulless, merry-go-round. And these horses manage to break free only by running off into the valley of death. But then, that valley of death is actually quite a pleasant place where orkas and manta fish playfully swim about and pretty white flowered tress shade a peaceful graveyard and a small pavilion. It is only inside the canyons that the horror stuff happens. So, it appears that once you accept your demise and come into the valley of death willingly, dying may not be such a bad state of being after all...

 

Something like this is how the dark story of the Annex goes...

As above...

So below...

 
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