Shivar (mostly), Second Life, much of 2006

almost a year ago i stepped into Second Life. i'm known as Pighed Stonecutter.

now you may remember that i hitch-hiked to baghdad in may of 2003, but i gotta confess that i've seen weirder things in Second Life than i did in Iraq.

the consequences are small, thus people have something like courage. despite the fake, second life is not a game. it's a gallery of dreams.

shortly after i was born, my house was turned into a nightclub and moved under a church. i captured a murderous bandito with my psychic skull-squash. i built a giant cheshire cat. i buried a prim-baby in an underwater grave. i watched animal-people called Furries get flogged by each other for fake sex. i built a small village. i developed a crush on an avatar-girl who turned out to be a real-life scam artist. i struggled to understand this quilt of dreams.

as any interactive narrative second life is a self-indulgent story. it began with my birth.

i was lucky to be fall into high society on an island called Shivar. Sparrowhawk Perhaps, a First Life friend of mine for more than 12 years, was my impetus and (since i've been building 3D online environments for about 12 years, and since 'hawk (or humdog as i knew her on The WELL in 1993) has always had the very best nose for online social spaces of anyone in the world) this is finally all her fault and credit.

Sparrowhawk Perhaps is the kestrel-queen of the island of shivar. 'hawk was the slave of a Gorean master named Rizado Dasilva when i was first born in second life, and i had to help her get untangled from that mess. she's a hot-head mealy-mouth and wasn't doing a very good job playing her role as a slave. so as her brother i had to apologise for her behavior while she got on her knees and Rizado acted royal and looked away. i was a little uncomfortable with this arrangement, but did the best i could. eventually of course he forgave her. a week or three later she, fortunately for us all, killed that persona and bought an island.

i wasnt in Second Life for a couple of months.

when i showed up the second time she gave me a title of "Prince of Tenaya," L$1000 so i could get properly dressed, a warm welcome, and a bouquet of friends. and she also gave me a little spot of land on the beach where i could build a home.

having been on the road so much in Real Life, and having had an emotionally exhausting year, it was nice to have a little home. it was a sort of spiral thing i made, learning how the system works (whenever you are born you have to learn The System) and so i called it Tenaya Spirals. Sparrowhawk would come over and we would sit down and talk with each other for hours on end about love, or history, or books, or what it means to enjoy a virtual glass of virtual wine, and if the brain, that is stuck inside of a dark, dank lockbox we call a skull can differentiate between the real and the virtual. we talked about her lover, the one she had to bow down to, who was really having an impact on her life.

then, when i finished Tenaya Spirals i found myself shirtless.

the story was clear enough: on february 18th a frog-human crawled out from under the island and said to me "i would like your shirt" and so i gave him my shirt and he disappeared into the seam of non-existence, that empty cyberplace between sims. this was a very mysterious story and the Lindens - the people that run Second Life - were notified of this crack-travelling frog. but while i was looking for my shirt Tenaya Spirals had become an art piece that required an unveiling and Sparrowhawk, bless her heart, had a big unveiling and hired a DJ and a Lighting Designer and my home was transformed into a nightclub.

(note; the people are paid, via in-world currency, for their services as DJs, lighting designers, etc).

so people arrived and YadNi Monde, who had built much of Shivar Island, came as a big spider and Dezire Moonlight and Raven Moonlight came and they invited Korya Sieyes, one night, and maybe twenty other people, we were all on the dance floor with live music being broadcast through the sim, and our avatars were doing the dance-step in time and we were giggling about Gwen Stefani and showing off moves to each other and smoking cigarettes. which is what one does at a dance.

i should pause here and talk about a few of these people.

now korya was hot. white hot. nebular hot. the music was pumping, dancelights were swinging, the two dozen or so of us were laughing and smoking little cigarettes, the stars twinkled gently above us (was there a warm breeze? i can't remember) as we shook that avatar bootie. and korya was sexy as a mink.

now you might say, "oh, puhlease, this is an avatar we are talking about." yes. but an image is a symbol of a symbol of an impulse. an avatar is an image is a porn model. my body shifts when i open a girlie mag. its the symbol thats important. you might say "oh, come on, that's just ink," and you'd be right. but its ink - or in the case of korya, pixels - lined up in just the right way to get my ticker tockin .

don't think i didn't notice what was going on. after all, in "reality" it was 8am in holland and outside it was snowing and all i had in the fridge were a few pieces of herring and some acidic orange juice. and i was starting to shiver. or was i? after a few hours, i logged out and took a much needed shower.

the next morning (i mean second life morning), my place looked like one's home always does after a party.

------------------image of rigging.

if you've ever had a party at your house, you know this feeling. it's a little depressing, and i wasnt sure what to do with all the rigging. but while i floated there above the post-party carnage, picking at my chin, YadNi showed up. we needed to move it, he said. oh, i replied. let's make it a permanent club, he said. oh, i said. uh, ok.

but my stomach fell when i heard this. it was bad enough the one home i had left was turned into an ashtray, but to have my own little ashtrayed home moved, well, it had an impact on me. but YadNi was a builder, and he was paid big money by sparrowhawk, and i figured he'd know best, and i was a visitor, so we went ahead and moved my homeclub underneath the big castle, and the beach was again just a beach.

it made sense; yadni had designed the island to look like a romantic pre-industrial peacepad. i was fucking with his metaphor. he came up with a solution. i'd have done the same thing were i him.

but i still missed my home.

as the weeks passed i played often or little, depending on real life demands. the time in SL was spent making sculptures, buildings, avatars, and an occasional script that would add a lot for a little bit of coding time. i'm not a scripter. about the best i can do is get something to spin. i prefer image over function. its more pure.

anyway the best project i had was in building a big cheshire cat for Raven and Dezire. they handed me the cheshire kitty from American McGee's game and (in part because i'm friends with American) but mostly because i really loved the project, i did the best job i could given the tools that SL gives us.

----------------------- image of kitty, cottages, etc

the world became much, much richer and much more beautiful when my girlfriend joined me.

naturally my avatar, my self-portrait, matured.

second life is not a game but a world. i told my mother about it.

"What, it's a videogame?"
"well it's kind of like a videogame but we build things and talk to each other in it."
"You talk to each other? In a videogame?"
"yeah, it's a 3D world and we have little puppets we run to entertain each other. its like a dollhouse, or a music video. and we can sell things to each other. several people made over US$100k last year selling virtual realestate."
"So this is a cyberspace?"
"Well, I don't understand this stuff you do. Why don't you spend time talking to people in person?"
"because the social constraints bore me. and anyway, you and i are in a cyberspace right now. the phone is a cyberspace."
"Ok. I can see that. Well, when you come to visit, I'd like to see it."

when i did go to visit her, we looked at it, and she was tempted to join by Sparrowhawk's invitation to make her the queen mother of shivar. fortunately for us all, my mother, an imaginative story teller and visual designer of no small ability, has more restraint than i and declined on the grounds that she is too busy with her first life.

this makes good sense, too.

eventually we'll have our avatar names on our business cards, like we do email. in a decade or so much of the web will be architectural. you'll meet people that make their living in these worlds. murders, lawsuits, jailtime, and new federal laws will emerge from them. people will play MMORPGs for a living. people will get married who have met there, just as they do from web pages now. and now, today, there are more people playing she will pay eight people to play her babies for her.


it was a visit. the intention was to do as i do with most games and spend only a month or so on it. well, by the end of february of 2006 i had spent my first nullified week, with dozens more to come. i had 9 nice days of nothing to do in diemen, holland and so i stepped across the threshold of the monitor.

the cycle started slowly, with maybe only 8 or 9 hours per day inworld. by the fourth day the sun was spinning around me as i went through 24-hour cycles punctuated only by crawling from the bed to the desk to the toilet to the fridge to the desk to the bed. i was in amsterdam (or, well, in Diemen, just south of Amsterdam) and didn't even go out to get pot or hookers or anything tourist like that.

but, then again, amsterdam is one of the most wired cities in the world, so it made sense.

when you spend more time in second life than you do in first life (count sleep if you want) there is a call for evaluation. so i did.

i looked at how i spent the days in first life and how i spent them in second life. i looked at my financial needs and considered that i would be making only about US$20 a day; about US$2 an hour. i considered my health which was deteriorating about as fast as my emotional wellbeing, and i thought about the need to have a recreational balance; computers are Bad For You. i thought about the social impact on my relations with friends in real life, the self development that might or might not occur, and the fact that i needed to get laid and certainly wouldnt find what i needed in SL.

then, with that done, i went back to my friends in-world. i chose second life.

but this wasnt (or isnt) sick behavior. this was just sensible. sometimes insanity makes sense. after all, i prefer to live (as 15 million other people that spend time in virtual worlds) in a world where i can fly, where there is no such thing as scarcity, where i can stretch out my hand and create castles, trees, carpets, mountains, and (most of all) where i can easily make smiles on the screen-lit faces of my far-flung friends as we dwell, laughing together, in the same dream. that is beautiful. and that is where i chose to spend my time. outside, holland was cold and it was raining and the ducks that normally swim in the canals walked on ice, and they hid from the sleet as best they could.

me, i wished them well, , and went back to the machine.

i have spent the majority of my life playing with various addictions more out of a joy of the discipline that things like A-Class Drugs and Role-Playing Games require than because of an already addictive personality, and i have hung my legs in the cool cool waters of dangerous dependancy and i can uncertifiably say that there is no addiction that is not fueled by its unsavory alternative. just as a lie is a gift to someone that can't handle the truth, addiction is a place that is more pleasant than where you came from. at some point, when the addiction really gets you by the scruff of the neck, this relationship changes, but the starter-cycles don't swing into gear unless there's something pushing them. anyway, what i'm saying is that i have found that first life more or less sucks these days and so things like second life are more needed than they were, say, before we had cars and plastic to keep us company. but this was during my Fucker Period

so much for that. i digress.

as i said, i was lucky to be born into high society.