A ridiculous number of my inworld acquaintances are experts on everything and anything to do with Doctor Who, Marvel Comics, Star Trek, Star Wars, Gerry Anderson, Batman, Northern Soul, model trains, planes and automobiles, scooters, computers, childhood TV programmes… Actually, the list could go on forever and I’d still miss something out! Now that I think about it, some of my friends could probably rank themselves as experts and speak with authority in regard to pretty much each and every one of those subject areas that appear in the list above – quite remarkable!
It does make for some fascinating conversations, and – although some might think an in-depth discussion comparing the desirable characteristics of a variety of classic cars, and their requisite Airfix models could well be the most tedious and boring of topics that could ever be raised, I find that geeks, buffs and enthusiasts are amongst the most fascinating and engaging odds people when indulging their interests, and I love to listen in.
Inevitably there will be times when the conversation turns to that most geekish aspect of geekism: Collectables.
There is, of course a whole culture of collecting that underpins the vast range of geek topics. Whether it’s models, franchised objects, original pieces or surrounding paraphernalia, the lengths enthusiasts will go to in order to acquire and own their own particular objects of desire can be extraordinary. Today, thanks to the internet, there’s even more in the way of collectables that can be found – usually at a hefty price – and a huge array of specialist sites where such things can be paraded, traded, swapped and sold. To the outsider, it can all be a bit weird and may even be considered silly, but one person’s treasure is another person’s trash, and for every hoarder of handbags or He Man action figures, there will always be someone who simply cannot see the point.
That’s something that we, as SL residents, can often be all too conscious of. On the Seren Haven Geekological Scale SL scores pretty highly since it’s a classic example of compounded geekism, scoring points for being computerish; internetty; niche; virtual; alternative life; complex; multi-player; and, unlikely to be something you’d admit to amongst friends and family. The real acid test however is that when you do talk to others about SL, the only people who really understand what you’re on about, or can relate to you, are those who are themselves into SL.
With that in mind, it’s somewhat surprising that there is little, in the way of collectables and other paraphernalia associated with SL, available to those of us who have a leaning towards such things. It’s difficult, of course, to come up with physical mementos and the sort of items that lead themselves to collectability when we’re dealing with a virtual world, but no more difficult, really, than giving a cartoon character or comic franchise the same treatment. Where perhaps SL falls down in this respect is that, unlike other media, where those who own the rights and have control have seized upon opportunities for marketing and monetisation, outside of the core product. This is something that Linden Lab have never done, and probably never will, and that leaves very little for those who wish to gather together something more concrete about their SL experience.
The other essential aspect that makes a collectable something of value is its age, quality and scarcity. Again, in terms of SL, this is something that requires something of a stretch of the imagination to come up with anything at all. Here I’ll admit to having amassed my own collection of – now defunct – SL viewers, all of them utterly useless, of course, but I feel a certain sense of nostalgia from firing up an ancient V1 viewer, even though I’ll never get any further than the login screen.
Perhaps then, the real collectables are the intangibles – and surely, for a virtual world, it’s only logical that those things with the most intrinsic geek value should themselves be virtual. Ever since I’ve been inworld, I’ve unconsciously (at least, until recently, when it’s become a more concerted effort) collected virtual artefacts that are ‘old’, in terms of SL; hard to come by and, are significant to the virtual journey. In my inventory you will find folders stuffed with a host of virtual treasures, some of which are simply unobtainable any more… Ancient avatars, greenies, Linden bears, time capsule fillers and – possibly my most treasured possessions – a couple of Lightwaves’ sculptures. There are gaps: I’d sell my virtual soul to get my hands on a Starax’ Wand, a bit of a futile hope for a no-trans object, but anything can happen in SL! It wouldn’t even bother me that it wouldn’t work any more, it’s part of virtual history, and that’s where the value lies for me.
And there you have it… Seren Haven: Virtual geek, enthusiast, and bore!
But you knew that already!
Because we’re all so very twenty first century,
You’re probably listening to me on some kind of portable stereo
Maybe you’re sitting on the back of the bus
Frank Turner – Four Simple Words