The class has finally come to a close, and it seems longer than just a few months ago since it was first started. With this closing, I’ve included my comments about the final project, the class in general, and my involvement in both.
However, I decided to give it a theme.
This is The End Complete.
I - The Fall Of House Atlantic
“Noooooo, no, no, nooooooo, no, no, nooooooo!”
After noticing the titles of sections for this entry (and noticing that they are links to music through Napster associated with them), one could possibly think that maybe I’m being too harsh with my opinions of the class and Second Life in general.
Hear me out.
This isn’t to completely bash the concept or the execution, but to give my opinions on how well the experience went for me and what I’ve gained out of it all. I’ve had a lot of difficulty with Second Life, tried to do what I could when working with it and writing about it, and had some interesting experiences along the way. I’ve also had problems with keeping up with text-based chats in class, been part of one group that basically took over and negated other members’ participation, and had even been privately accused of non-participation by a member of a different group. This is my write up of my Second Life experience, as well as my defense for what I have accomplished with this class and what I’ve gained out of it.
Plus, the music is great to listen to and is just brilliant with its overall story… very sci-fi intense.
II – Radio Bye Bye
The most complicated part of SL that I experienced was… communication. I think we all did in this class.
Trying to set up voice chat for everyone to use was interesting, and it took me some time to research why I couldn’t do it from my home. Thankfully, a change of the router in my house made it work for me, and we were able to have a full class or two with voice. But for a majority of the semester, it would be everyone chatting in text (with the exception for one class when voice chat had an epic fail, and Prof. Erde went into all voice while the rest of the class wrote back in text). So, around 10 or so students are all throwing their text-based input to the professor and back again in a tiny chat box…
Why don’t we just load up an IRC chat?
Seriously though, scanning through a sea of text just trying to catch up with the discussion and who-is-replying-to-who was very difficult to do. I actually gained a few headaches from trying to read the text.
Also, connection to the server was a bit off as well. Second Life kept giving me problems, regardless of version number and OS/hardware operations, when trying to either connect or stay connected to the server. One of the classes I had made it clear that I needed to leave class early for a business meeting in Stamford, and during the class I kept getting booted from the server. When I tried to ask about a topic being discussed (because my chat history kept getting erased each time I got disconnected), the response from Prof. Erde was, “Try to keep up, Wii.”
Whether that was a joke to keep me laughing through the disconnects, or if he thought I honestly was not trying to keep up with the discussion or the news around me, it still annoyed me. The next time the server dropped me, I shut down the computer and left for my meeting early, frustrated and annoyed with SL.
In working with projects, sometimes people’s personal schedules got in the way of working as a group, or working as individuals. I have past blog entries about group work to reflect on this, as well as Section III of this entry. But even trying to communicate with users within SL, outside of the class, it seemed like I was on my own for the most part when it came to working on projects and learning SL code. Either people didn’t have time to help (which is understandable), or people wanted to just sell me things. It went from being an academic study to watching people failingly attempt to make money.
Being in the Interactive Communications program, I originally thought that the Virtual Worlds class would have given me more insight into a whole new world of virtual communication. Instead, I got headaches.
But, I’ve done the best I could with trying to work and go to class, as well as writing blog entries, for a system that didn’t cooperate with me. Besides, it always made for great conversation with non-classmates, as they were interested in what the class was about.
“We’re throwing all caution to the wind.
It’s better to think about what’s ahead than behind.
Then maybe I’ve got a better chance at failure.
But my mind has a clever way of turning all the worst to right, I’ve found…”
III – The End Complete
The final project has been completed for our group, and in most part, I believe it was a complete success. Naimya, Gigii, and I all contributed to getting the store set up, constructed, and business booming for its grand opening. That opening night definitely helped with grabbing people’s attention to the store, and I think my going around and telling people about the opening (as well as trying to give away cards and shirts) really helped bring in people. I was honestly surprised by the amount of people who took time out of their busy SL schedule and stopped by to say hi. Gigii even reported a large amount of sales for the evening, which is great considering very few people still know about the store’s existence.
When I started working with the project, I chose to work on the ability to have two people share a shirt together as one – a Siamese-Twin shirt. With this task, I wanted to educate myself in the ways of coding for SL. However, because of coding difficulties, it was hard to get it pulled together before the semester ended. Therefore, I moved to making something usable as apposed to trying to learn more SL coding. After meetings with the group, we all agreed that the quickest and simplest solutions with the time we had would be best. It would have been nice to have more, but we took what we could get.
Even though I hadn’t been around for much of the store location and land purchasing processes, I was around for set up of the store and for promotions. I figured the best methods for promotions would be word-of-mouth, avatar-to-avatar. Dressing up in a Gizmo costume really attracted people to the grand opening. Hopefully, Gigii can take this newly found popularity into the future for ecoutee.
However, what bothered me the most about the project is (again) the communication that our group had to work with. Like mentioned before, I’ve had problems with staying logged into SL and with communicating with people over SL, but it just became more of a hassle to meet online than it would have been to meet in person. We probably should have just met in person, but with the fact that we had to be at a computer anyways, trying to bring people and computers together would have been even more difficult. Then, with the times we could meet, we would either show up for a short time, or not all the group would be present because one member would be late (and I’m guilty of that one as well). We were still able to get things done, but we would have to stick to e-mail and phone communications for really important information that couldn’t wait to be discussed.
Also, I had an issue with one group member that seemed to take control of the project from almost every aspect, even though it was not their project to continue on past this class. I’m not going to single anyone out with names (even though there’s a 50/50 shot at getting the member correct in guessing), but this particular individual took control particularly in the way the store was going to be operated (again, which wasn’t their store), both in person and in writing. In one occurrence, it was told to me that this individual questioned my involvement with the group, and questioned if we would fail the class altogether.
Makes you feel really good when you try your best to put all you can into a project, and people still manage to associate the work with “nothing accomplished”, doesn’t it?
Yes, every group needs to have someone who can take charge and get things done, but that didn’t mean that the rest of the group wasn’t getting anything done at all. As I recall, a lot of people who showed up came because of my advertising. We could have put a lot of money into that store, picked a high-traffic area, and even made some kick-ass products… and it wouldn’t have meant a damn thing if no one knew we existed. I’m not saying that I was the only one who did advertisements. Both of the other group members did a very fine job spreading the word. I’m just saying that, for being in the background a lot, I did a fine job with the project and did a fair share of work for the project.
And everyone should have a right to complain about something that’s bothering them. In this case, I chose to do so after the project was completed, for the sake of not wanting to make enemies and getting the project completed and successful. I didn’t do it just to get it done; I did what I did to give ecoutee the best chance of survival it can get in SL.
QUICK NOTE: Just before posting this blog entry online, I found out that the particular group member in question apologized to another for their behavior throughout the process of the class. Although it would have been nice to receive one myself, I’m at the very least happy that this individual has recognized the potential problems, both constructively and personally, with worrying about something for too long then trying to take over at the last minute.
“Dig deeper. Remember all you’ve been and all you’ve left behind.
Wave goodbye, my dear.
Dig deeper. Remember all you’ve been and all you’ve left behind.
Welcome home, my dear.”
With what seems like me ranting the whole time about the class, there was a lot of good that I’ve learned as well. SL does offer a great place to have as an educational ground for learning about interactivity in a virtual environment, and I agree that the future will be in some sort of virtual environment. SL also has great possibilities and potentials if they keep working on the format more. With some software tweaks and better servers for traffic, as well as some more ways to educate users on how things work in SL (and some out-of-world advertising), SL could really start hitting it off again.
But the one question that friends and colleagues have asked me about the class as a whole was, “If the class is about Virtual Worlds, why did your class only focus on one?”
My answer was in the fact that trying to get everyone to work with just one program only was a hassle. Plus, the ability to expand in creation and imagination can only be achieved through a platform like SL.
The flip-side of that, however, was that there are other alternatives to it. A friend of mine was telling me that the program, “There,” has been expanding to allow more customized creation of objects and communities, and there was even a commerce as well (almost competitive with SL). He admitted that the avatars were more “cartoony” than SL, but most people don’t even notice. The basic element of communication is still there, and the support and stability of There is better (in his opinion) than that of SL.
One opinion I even joked about once was how we could have had a week in World of Warcraft. The 10-day free passes are given out at stores and in game boxes like candy, and have a wide range of support for graphics, as well as support for voice chat. It could have been as simple as one or two classes to play around in (and Blizzard would have loved the advertising and the possibility of gaining full-time users afterwards). It was a funny idea, but it would have touched on another virtual world.
In terms of sticking with SL, if I were to have done the class again, I would have been happy with staying in the classroom, instead of being remote, spending a good part of the class talking as people and then logging online for an activity. Coming from someone who only came to class remotely, one could criticize my thinking. Then again, even if I showed up to the classroom, we still would have done all communication through chat in game and not in class. So, what would have been the point of showing up in class at all? I think having the online experience should be in addition to face-to-face interaction, and not a replacement for it. It obviously doesn’t completely work.
“I believed in the world once in front of me.
Well, now that’s gone…”
V – On The Brink
When I started taking this class, I had very high hopes for enjoyment in my education of how virtual worlds worked (knowing it was all going to be in SL, I called it the “Second Life Class”). I figured it would be the one class I would have the most fun in, and would want to talk about it for a long time.
I honestly want to forget it happened, now.
I know that’s a harsh thing to say, and yes it definitely was an experience, but with the bad outweighing the good during the semester, it was really not what I was expecting at all. I was expecting to learn to code things and create objects and stores that would sell well and meet new people and so on and so on.
I learned to code things, but not enough to create complex items. With the lack of resources out there and lack of help from avid SL users who didn’t have time, I was on my own. That sucked. I can’t even think of a more academic term to describe the feeling of being alone in a world about community and communication. I felt almost sucked away from whatever was potentially there in SL to learn and interact with. I have books and contacts, and I still feel lost and alone when I log in.
I created objects, but nothing that was amazing enough to pass as quality work in the eyes of hardcore developers in SL. I know, 3D modeling takes a long time to do, but even basic objects were difficult to work with and, again, I had little resources to go by to teach modeling techniques in SL.
I worked with a store, but that experience has been written about a couple of times before.
I met people, and discovered that most people who are in SL are people who are avidly logged in every day for several hours a day. Some make their living in SL. It’s almost like an addiction; once you’ve found your niche there, it’s hard to let go. But, I feel like a “noob” every time I log in, and I’ve had my account for well over a year now.
It would be one thing if the class was boring. At least I could talk about visiting different islands, making machinima, and opening an online store. But every time I had to think about Second Life, I would either be frustrated, upset, or even depressed by the thought of having to log in for any reason. I even tried to log in for recreational purposes (as the game it is, I tried to treat it like a game), and I felt completely out of place (and that would be before I’d have issues with server slow-downs and bootings). SL wasn’t meant for gaming, but for producing things and making connections in its community.
But, in the grand scheme of things, it’s still just a game to me. There is a future in online communications, and SL can advance further than it is now. However, if SL stays the way it is now, I don’t see it being the future of anything, other than a dying platform.
Throughout the semester, I would search for information to assist me with coding or 3D shaping or even locations to buy land. About half the time, I came across an article from The Long Tail, titled, “Why I gave up on Second Life.” There, the author explains how he made a presence for a book signing in SL for, “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More.” Apparently, the signing only gained like 30 people in SL, yet the blog is popular in traffic and audience. He has decided to give up on SL because, even though he had a good turn-out in SL, he says:
“…in terms of things that I value, such as links, smart comments, traffic to my blog, etc, the SL appearance might as well have never happened. It didn’t leave a ripple in the world I live in (AKA Real Life).”
He finishes by saying that, “I can defend our SL investment on educational grounds, but not on any other.”
Seeing this article time and time again coming up when searching for “Second Life” online did not make me feel any better about doing work, and going online, for this class. I did the best that I could, and I believe my work was well done considering my patience for the platform. But I think it could have been done differently, and for me personally, I did not enjoy it.
I, too, will be giving up on Second Life.
With that being said, I have a couple thousand Linden Dollars available which I know I won’t use and can’t cash out. If anyone would like them, please send me a comment or a message in SL, and the next time I log in (which will only be for the purpose of giving the Lindens to said person), I will send them off. Then I will retire Wii Xi (or have him commit virtual suicide, whichever is more appropriate to call it).
I might try to revisit the idea of Second Life someday. Maybe after I spend some time away from it, I can get a better experience out of it.
“These words need now an ending, as they did at the start.
But I’ll keep on pretending,
I won’t go.
Don’t cry no more, boy.
You’ve got the other side of your life, so enjoy.
I’ll move out the front door,
And take out your trash,
But I’ll no longer be haunting here,
I’m not coming back.”
Chris Anderson. “The Long Tail: Why I gave up on Second Life.” July 30th, 2007. http://www.longtail.com/the_long_tail/2007/07/why-i-gave-up-o.html
Coheed and Cambria. “Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Vol. II: No World For Tomorrow.” 2007.