cyberpunked second living

Me and my new headphones, courtesy of Bobmarley

Believe it or not, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am getting cooler day by day—in Second Life (SL) that is. Remember when I said that graphics-wise SL is insultory to my hardware? Well, concerning the absolute majority of avatars I have met so far, and concerning almost all the architecture I have seen so far, this still stands uncorrected. I am running SL on the absolute highest settings here on my machine, but when you compare the looks to e.g. Max Payne 2 (MP2), a game released in 2003, SL obviously is inferior. Plus, there is no lag at all when playing MP2. But then SL is not a computer game, it is an online-mediated ‘persistent state world’, a malleable environment allowing a plethora of actions and interactions. Within this environment you of course can play games—just like you can do in meatspace.

My judgement of SL not being a computer game is based on several arguments: There is no set of game-rules, no goals are defined, the emical perspective of SL old-timers clearly encompasses “Not a game, but a lifestyle!”, and the majority of those I met in-world significantly differs from the people I know from gaming and game modding communities [by “met” I mean having talked for longer, and not only once, and having undertaken some things together]. Those SL denizens have never heard about Doom or Quake, they of course complain about the frequent crashing of the client, but swallow it—not a single upright gamer would accept Counter-Strike (CS) or Half-Life 2 (HL2) crashing to the desktop as often as the SL-client does. Here is no deathmatching, no trickjumping, they are playing Barbie, Ken, and their dollhouse in here. Of course in SL there are roleplaying- and combat-zones as well, but whenever I spawn at some of those, I am virtually alone. From all this—and some things more—I judged that those active in SL adhere to a different culture than the one I associate with having grown around shooter games. No power or hardcore gamers here, no game modding culture in my sense, no hacker ethics, no cyberpunk-informed second lifestyle. A lot of really nice people here, but not the kind of characters I cherish so much since I first entered the game modding scene. Yet another culture, or set of cultures, for sure, cultures I do like, but not the kind I was looking for … how preposterous a judgement! Anthropologist beware, do not be too sure of your skills of looking and seeing—never cease to readjust and recalibrate your gaze.

The turnaround came, when the Kravatac spawned in front of my eyes. Last night we returned to its cradle—”we” means me and Miss Audrey Hepburn at my side. Just moments after our appearance, another Kravatac spawned, towering high in the dark and spooky cyberpunk ambience. We got into talking and quickly made friends with Bobmarley, the mech’s integrated pilot. At one point of the conversation I carelessly said, that at the very moment I will have 1000 L$ at my fingertips, I’d immediately buy a Kravatac. A second later a window pops up, telling me that Bobmarley was paying me 49 L$. He would have given me the whole outfit, he said, as he himself wasn’t really into robots, but it’s tagged as “no transfer”. Nevertheless he wanted to contribute to my project of buying one of those beasts, and would have liked to give me more, but those 49 were the last L$ he had. All right, now you may say, at yesterday’s rate he ‘just’ gave me 0.18 US$, but that’s not the point [by the way, even on the best paying dancepads in the hood, it would take you one hour and 40 minutes to earn this amount inworld], because if the Kravatac would be transferable, he would have given it to me—not a copy, the thing itself.


BobMarley then assumed his ‘real appearance’, respectively the appearance he is working on—grunge, underground, cyberpunk. We went on talking, he gave me the shape he made, and a lot of tips and hints about where to go in order to find what I am after.

Graphics insultory to my hardware? Yeah, mostly, but there is the real thing, too. The Kravatac is a huge example, but there are the details as well. Lovingly and professionally created perfect 3D-objects. Noticed the headphones around Bobmarley’s neck? They just blew me away. Realistic shape, wonderfully textured—zooming in to the set’s bow as close as possible reveals that it indeed is made of leather. The particle effect spawning notes while playing music nicely compliments the naturalistic looks of the device, adding that cartoony irony to the naturalism as a counter point :-) The result of my raving about the ‘phones was, that Bobmarley gave them to me as well … Now it’s my obligation to create something worthwhile which I can give to him—reciprocity, you know.

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