If you happened to read the first post in this two-part series last week (“Found: Real Civilization in Second Life! (part 1)“), then you already know that I visited the Confederation of Democratic Simulators and found very few people there, but that the first person I did find turned out to be uncommonly friendly.
The second person was, if anything, even friendlier.
I had a little trouble figuring where I should go to hopefully find the person belonging to the second green blip I’d seen. I hoped it was someone in a public area instead of a private house, because I wasn’t about to go up and ring a doorbell.
After some blundering around through areas that didn’t look like they were leading anywhere I was actually supposed to be (since I was cutting across country rather than following the roads), I eventually came around a wall to see a woman named Naftali wearing a neat hat and standing in a plaza by a Mahjong table.
Naftali, it turns out, is a First Life violinist who loves world music and who runs a beautiful taverna in the Alpine Meadow sim of the CDS.
She was clearing out her inventory, and my showing up either interrupted her or offered a welcome break, I don’t know which — but either way, she stopped immediately to talk to me, and it wasn’t long before she offered to give me a little tour of the region on a tandem bike. How fun is that?
When I hopped on the bike, I’d forgotten that we were in an Alpine meadow. Once I was seated, Naftali aimed us at the nearest slope and took us flying down it. That was twice in one day that immortality came in handy, because trying that in First Life, I would’ve been scared to death!
She took me first to an ice cream cart by the sea, and when we had our ice cream, we hopped back on the bike and pedaled through the rest of the sim. Some of it seemed Italian, all grand and blocky with columns of white marble, while the rest looked more (I’m guessing here, I’ve never been) like Switzerland.
Now, I’ve been in beautiful builds before. I’ve even been in beautiful builds once or twice that you could bike through — and there are free bike rezzers (that’s probably not a word, is it?) in this region, by the way, so that’s an option even for visitors. So I was delighted and impressed with the build … but that wasn’t what was amazing to me. What was amazing was that we would bike past a house and Naftali would say something like “Oh, that’s where so-and-so lives, she does all of the plants and trees” or “That’s this person’s house, he plays this kind of music.”
Not only were there neighbors, but Naftali actually knew them! Here was a place in Second Life that operates like things used to operate in First Life, where you know your neighbors — and in this case, like them. These weren’t short-timers, either. Some of the people Naftali told me about had lived in CDS for years, as had Naftali (and for that matter Lilith, whom I mentioned last time).
The bike ride eventually took us up a long, steep road to the monastery, where a vegetable garden had been planted.
Past that was an aerodrome, but the section with the planes had gone temporarily offline due to (I imagine) a server problem somewhere. That place existed only as a gap, as though there had been a sudden but quiet earthquake that had swallowed the place whole. Off to the side of the airstrip from where we looked out over the nothingness, a tree floated.
It’s amazing to me what the CDS has accomplished. They’ve managed to create a place that really feels like a place, that attracts wonderful people, that is beautiful and engaging, and where people know and like each other. In a world where sites come into existence, move, reconfigure, grow, shrink, and vanish, here is a place that changes slowly but endures. Here’s a place you could actually call a home, and go back to, where you could feel like part of a community.
Having said all that, though, they haven’t overcome one of the basic problems of Second Life, the problem that people are scattered. I visited the CDS a few times in the week since that first outing, and each time I only found one or two or three people. I can understand that: even residents of the CDS sims who are online would probably want to be off doing different things much of the time. Still, I can’t help but hope that a place with this much heart and guidance might eventually find a way to bring people together in one spot.
^^^\ Kate /^^^