Friday, 14 September 2012

Proposing the Second Life® Games

Here's my September column for AVENUE magazine. I had a lot of fun thinking up and writing this article; the cherry on the cake, however, was Eve Kazan's quite amazing photography to accompany it.

As I write this, the London Olympics is drawing to a close. Much to everyone’s surprise, we did rather well this year. Third place on the medal table, in fact. Not that I want to gloat or anything, but… wow. An historic bronze in gymnastics. A gold in the heptathalon. A victory for Andy Murray over Roger Federer at Wimbledon that – following his defeat at the Wimbledon finals just a month earlier (in itself an historic event) – felt like the climax to a summer release feelgood movie. In fact, a more or less flawless games, North Korean flag incident notwithstanding. And an opening ceremony that somehow captured everything we would like as a nation to have captured about us. We even managed to help Mitt Romney make himself look like an idiot.

It’s been quite a year for us Brits. The memory of the Diamond Jubilee still in our hearts, the Olympics came along at just the right moment to catch us standing at our tallest for as long as I can remember. Right now, I have this feeling in my chest I’ve not felt before with respect to being British; there must be a word for it… sort of a swelling… It’s probably just indigestion.

All this has got me thinking about Second Life® and the current lack therein of such positive feelings. We need our own Olympics, I’ve decided; something that brings us together, celebrates our skills and similarly swells our chests at being part of the amazing metaverse revolution. And, after much reflection, I propose the following events:

100m Lag Hurdles. The more spectators the better in this exciting and dramatic event. Flying is of course prohibited and competitors receive penalties for sailing through hurdles in a lag bubble. Although it’s tempting to propose that the hurdles themselves be made physical so that they fall on impact, a scripted response to contact will probably be preferable in order to avoid hurdles flying around the stadium according to Linden’s somewhat bizarre laws of motion. Alternatively, hurdles could be made physical and unlinked, the resulting prim explosions serving the additional function of a celebratory firework display. Expect the event to take about five hours and several sim-restarts to complete.

Championship Outfit Changing. Starting with plain white gym shorts and t-shirts, competitors race to be the first to strip down (underwear is obligatory in this popular family event) and put on – item-by-item, and in a pre-determined order – an outfit supplied by one of the games sponsors. Extra points can be earned for added flair through improvised emotes, as judged by a panel of literary experts.

Mainland Sim Marathon. Starting at Bear InfoHub (being the originator of the SL Games, I get to decide such things) and following the main road, a minimum of 50 competitors race a track through 26 sims (or multiple thereof). This unticketed event will allow spectators from all over the grid to enjoy watching these prime avatar athletes battle it out, not to mention provide expanded advertising space. Security for this event will include air-to-ground missiles in case any car-owning residents should contemplate imposing their own ‘Tenpin Avatar Bowling’ contest upon it.

Synchronised Avatar Swimming. Teams of eight avatars present performances consisting of sequenced animations from stores of their choice, however a minimum of ten per cent of these must be from dollarbie vendors and include – in a contextually appropriate manner – at least one sitting-with-legs-crossed pose. Athletes are required to select each pose during the sequence from their inventory, a policy which is enforced trough random HUD testing.

Teleportation Triathlon. This trio of events aims to find the best overall TP Olympian. In Full Sim Sprint, avatars compete in groups of ten to be the first to spot a vacant space in a full mainland sim and teleport into it. In Accidental Random TP Acceptance, competitors must accept a TP request whilst running a four sim circuit and are then timed to see how quickly they can get back to the exact spot on the track they were at when they clicked on ‘Ok’. In Suspected Infidelity Speedway, avatars attempt to set the lowest time for teleporting into a named sim, locating the target avatar with their cam and teleporting back out again.

Championship Chat Spam Archery. In this individual event, competitors take it in turns to stand in the middle of a nightclub mock-up surrounded by twenty dancing avatars. At random intervals, one of the dancers spouts chat spam that fills up the screen (the werewolf howling thing, probably; a committee will make the final decision). The competitor is then timed to see how quickly s/he can locate the spammer and shoot them with a prim bow and arrow. Extra points will be earned for a shot between the eyes.

Team Gymnastics event: the TP Tower. Teams from each of the mainland continents compete under a time pressure to create the highest tower of avatars formed by teleporting in someone on top of their heads. Points are deducted for any avies that appear in ‘walking on the spot mode’ but added for upside down materialisations. On the issue of team entry, private islands will be divided into north, south, east and west so that they may form their own co-operatives. Team Zindra will carefully monitored.

Underground Exit Swimming. Less well-known than the TP of Death is the TP of Depth which, rather than sending you outworld following a teleport attempt, transports you to the waters beneath whatever building it had been your intention to leave. Swimmers compete individually in this event, which teleports them initially to the waters beneath a popular casualwear shopping destination, to be the fastest to find a point at which they can surface. As an extra complication, this voice event requires entrants to hold their breath in RL.

Championship IM Juggling. Starting at three, competitors must manage an increasing number of parallel instant message conversations, the time between a correspondent’s and their own Return key being hit (measured to the nearest hundredth of a second) being added to the correspondents’ ratings for the quality of conversation experienced. Topics are drawn from the last seven days of world affairs and use of the ‘lol’ term or any associated acronym (asses off or affixed) is strictly prohibited. Emoticons are permitted, but only as part of a sentence. This event employs the full-nosed smiley of a colon, a dash and a closed bracket; use of the abbreviated smiley of a colon and closed bracket only incurs a five point penalty.

Newbie Hoopla. No further explanation required. An adult only event.

Yes, I can see it now: the joy; the glory; the copybotted merchandise; the last minute hunt to find a sim to host the stadium; the arguments over how the medals table is calculated; the boycotting of the games by Gorean roleplayers in response to the controversial ‘no leashes’ rule. This is what SL needs to bring everyone together; a grid-wide event in which everyone can play a role.

And maybe – just possibly – we might – kind of like us Brits this year – come to realise along the way that actually we’re a pretty grand collection of people with more in common than we realise.

You never know.  HH

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