Saturday, March 10, 2007

/Me no <3 2nd life /me ducks!

I'm about to say something which could get me crucified in the blogosphere. Especially among avatar lovin' librarians. But the long-time-gamer in me can't sit idly by any longer. And I have to get this off my chest. Because if I'm silent everyone will be in the choppy motion bad graphics bliss forever. Ready?
/wait for it
//deep breath

I don't really like Second Life. Okay -- there I said it. I will now wait for the onslaught of 2nd-life-fan-boy/girls to reign their wrath down upon me. Create your virtual rocks, rotten tomatoes, and sticks and pummel me with them. I'll even bring in my avatar and await your fury. But let me explain first -- because I don't want to be like a former ALA-President disliking blogging. It's not that Second Life is evil or doesn't have a purpose. And it is doing wonderful social networking things and allowing a wonderful opportunity for the mainstream to enter the virtual world. It's just that well...I'm a snob.

When it comes to graphics and game play I want smooth lines and classy feel and the ability to play a game. Blame the graphics and game play work of earlier years like Final Fantasy or the Diablo series. I want beauty and detail in my virtual worlds and I want the game developers to do that work for me. I don't play WoW because I don't want to have to craft everything myself -- and besides that the graphics aren't that good.

///waiting for WoW-fan-boy/girls wrath now

Let me go forth and follow a story line and complete major plot accomplishments. That's why I play the mmorpgs that I currently play -- they are beautiful and tell a story or have an end I need to reach. The game play is a form of literacy a type of choose your own adventure book. I never enjoyed playing house as a kid and I can't stand to bake because I refuse to clean up afterwords -- why on earth do I want to spend time in my games doing all that? I was a book reader and sports player. I need to have a goal to reach. Mind you there are games that require some level of micromanaging I love like Sid Meier's games such as Alpha Centauri and the Civs. And perhaps it's because of the the later two games that I'm anticipating Spore so much.

In fact Spore is the one game I would love to see a massive influx of librarians when it releases. So what is Spore?

At first glance, Spore is a "teleological evolution" game, or "god game": the player molds and guides a species across many generations, growing it from a single-celled organism into a more complex animal. Eventually, the species becomes intelligent. At this point the player begins molding and guiding this species' society, progressing it towards a space-faring civilization. Spore's main innovation is the use of procedural generation for many of the components of the game, providing vast scope and open-endedness. Said Wright, "I didn't want to make players feel like Luke Skywalker or Frodo Baggins. I wanted them to be like George Lucas or J.R.R. Tolkien."

You can see an early demo of Spore here. So imagine with me, if you would, a universe filled of worlds populated with librarian created entities. The purpose of the little critters from the first gulp of air bubble in the ooze and all the way through to the ether is a quest for knowledge and obtaining knowledge from all the other worlds. And organizing that knowledge in a logical way. Dominating all the other universes not but force but by superior intelligence. (FYI almost all of my Civ wins were cultural dominance). And seeing exactly how far those intelligence seeking entities could go in the Spore universe. Wouldn't that be so much fun? Or what if library teen groups were to develop worlds? How fun of a summer program would it be to have your teen group create a virtual organism by using library resources to determine what evolutionary features would help it survive and thrive the fastest and best? Think about all the possibilities!
Ok, so now you know why I don't like Second Life. Let me know when I need to bring my avatar in for a virtual pelting...but truth be told I bet I'm not alone.


Guy Gadbois said...

I agree. 2nd Life doesn't do it for me either. I'm unhip in that I still like to interact with people face to face, a silly little characteristic one might appreciate in a librarian.

Max Case said...

hey. I don't think you should worry about the wrath of sl'ers. Most are smart reasonable people.
The thing is, you confuse what it is now with what (many of us) see it turning into. Of course the graphics, and things like lag are annoying. But these are technical problems, which with time will most likely be solved.
What you seem to be saying is you wish Second Life was a game, which it isn't. Initially it's just easier to market sl as a game i would imagine, since it was the paradigm most people were familiar.
But in reality it's a platform. As a game, SL kinda sucks, but as an emerging space, canvas and sandbox, well, that's another story.

Adri said...

Thanks for the comments folks.

And yes I realize SL is not traditional game. I might be a newb to SL but I'm not a n00b. ;-) And whereas my initial post was meant to be slightly informational and remotely humorous – this comment will be a little more serious.

The thing is SL was meant to be an escape from reality or at least an escape from people's first lives. But because of the lag issues, horrid graphics, and sparseness of players it isn't even a good escape from people's first lives.

I guess my question would be -- What do SLers see SL turning into? I know what I see it turning into – a fad. The technology issues are all things that could resolved with existing techniques used in the more traditional mmogs – so why aren’t they? Don’t get me wrong -- I do sincerely hope the technology being played with in SL will, hopefully, go on to enrich other online venues such as online education and work environments for telecommuters. But as far as libraries and librarians investing tons of times into SL virtual libraries I'm very cautious for my colleagues who are not as familiar or comfortable with technologies and only see the fan-boy/girl write ups in the news.

I had a friend, who is an administrator at a large university library, contact me and ask me about SL. She said one of her librarians wanted to hire a part time person to develop a presence in SL and was eager to start immediately. I told her not to waste her time on it -- especially if they were doing it under the guise of reaching local users. The numbers just don’t support it. It would be money and (wo)man power better spent on enhancing their existing services. For instance why should a library develop a SL presence when they don’t have decent existing instructional program or outreach initiative?

My other apprehension of libraries getting swept up in the SL fantasy is the danger of neglecting those library users who, either because of technological, economic, geographical, or educational restrictions aren’t able to “embrace” this strange new world. I fully believe it is the responsibility of every library to be a gateway to knowledge and self improvement for Everyman. Libraries need to be community culture centers and need to be the public’s university. I’ve seen nothing to persuade me that SL will be a great equalizer for those who are the technological and economic have-nots.

Max Case said...

I think you are making a leap as to what SL was supposed to be. I don't think it necessarily was supposed to be an escape from reality.
Based on public comments phillip made at last year's SLCC, you could say SL itself was an accident (or emergent?), where they realized people were having fun making things (dunno if his talk was you-tubed).

But that's neither here nor there. My own personal favourite analogy of SL is it's that it's basically like the web. There's no 'one' use for it. It's just a platform for people to do what they want.

One thing you are missing is that SL isn't a traditional mmog - SL has to stream content - the same way every web page in the world isn't stored on your machine at home, there's no way for SL to store every piece of content on your machine, unlike something like a traditional game where assets are all on your HD. SL is like when you visit web page, your browser downloads it. The SL client is nothing more than a browser, really.

I agree that SL is not necessarily ready for 'prime time' and a lot of different orgs are jumping in possibly to soon - but I think the primary reason is that organizations don't want to be caught flat-footed like they many were with the web itself.

In your example, yes, they probably wouldn't be well served if their reason for getting into SL was to service the local community. But as a fact finding and research, why not? To explore, and get some experience in a new medium, there's no reason libraries shouldn't invest some resourcees in that, especially one belonging to a large uni.

I think your last point really has nothing to do about SL. As far as I know, no one is advocating libraries shutting down their brick & mortar operations in favour of setting up shop in SL. But again, see my point about people just getting their feet wet, not wanting to play catch up like they did with the web in a lot of cases.

And yes, I'm very excited for spore too :D

Adri said...

Ah -- so you see SL similar to that episode of Futurama -- where they all venture into the internet. :)

Sarah Clark said...


It ain't just you. Maybe it's an okie thing? I certainly don't think anybody needs to be hiring part-time SL librarians. The navigation stuff doesn't bug me as much as the fact that there doesn't actually seem to be much "there" there, in terms of actual reference or outreach activities. It strikes me as more of a toy than a tool (not that toys don't have a place, but...) Of course I haven't spent much time with it, so...*shrug*