Sprung!

Spring around these parts is definitely in the air – it’s been lovely to walk home in daylight when leaving work after so long in the dark, i’m also getting mildly confused when waking in the mornings to find the light through the window is brighter than expected, which will only get worse now that the clocks have gone forward… already i’ve seen daffodils, snowdrops and primroses making an appearance, and it won’t be terribly long before we see new buds and shoots appearing and the first proper hints of new greenery in the hedgerows.

It’s always intrigued me how sl adapts to the seasons – from the outside it’s probably not immediately apparent and indeed, if we’re simply talking pixels, prims and textures, any need for sl to fall into a seasonal rhythm at all is apparently superfluous – after all, in a virtual environment like sl, artifices such as seasonal deviation and change are easily achieved to suit whatever purpose we have in mind. Whether we build the virtual environment to support the practicalities of our pursuits – snowscapes for winter sports, beaches for sunbathing etc, or purely for their aesthetic appeal – perhaps, for example, we have a fondness for the colours of autumn – there’s no apparent need for our season of choice to fit in with the real world we live in. Snow in summer is easily accomplished and a heatwave in midwinter is no problem. Why stop there? – There’s nothing to prevent us mixing and matching the seasons to suit our personal whims, or indeed, changing them on a daily basis – yet, this isn’t the norm for much of sl.

If we leave aside those more ‘specialised’ regions – the beaches and ski runs, along with the fantasy and sci-fi Sims, then there’s a very definite trend towards following the seasons… you’ll see plenty of snow and bare trees in winter, with ice-cream parlours, picnic rugs and summer foliage proliferating at the warmer times of the year. Many choose to go further and will decorate their land with spring flowers and autumn colours as well, to complement what is happening in the real world. Our inworld attire and behaviours tend to tie in with these artificial simulations of rl conditions too – the sl fashion industry follows its rl cousin, with seasonal collections that change with the weather and, come the colder months, our we swap out pixel bikinis, summer dresses and shorts for sweaters, overcoats and hoodies – when you think about it, it’s all highly illogical… Here we are in virtual world, where we can choose our weather, the time of day and even play with the clouds and the sun, yet we frequently and consistently fall into a routine that mirrors and matches the changing physical world around us.

Those of you into online gaming or MMORPGS will be able to speak from personal experience, but i wouldn’t mind betting that the effect is far less pronounced in these other virtual environments than that which you’ll find in sl. Play Lines of Bloodcraft or whatever and i’m pretty sure that your average vampire/zombie/combat mercenary/rollercoaster empressario is going to spend far more time looking for ideal opportunities and hideouts to bite, blatter or otherwise rollercoast, than they’ll spend deciding on the perfect depth of snow for a chilly December experience or whether their lovely warm Ugg boots are going to clash with their camouflage. Here lies one of the great distinctions that defines sl as a virtual world, as opposed to a game.

In sl, a significant majority spend a great deal of their time building a world – they’ll invest in creating businesses and social ventures and do everything they can to make their environment as convincing as possible. It doesn’t really matter if they’re attempting to make something that couldn’t possibly exist in reality… but they’ll go all out to make it feel and seem as real as possible. The same is true of those places in sl that resemble the real world – it simply may not be enough to have it look like the real thing: For it to truly be a ‘world’, it has to sound like the real thing too; it has to act like the real thing and our interactions with it have to be guided into resembling how we would interact with the real thing. It stands to reason that climate, weather and seasons all play a huge part in defining what is ‘real’… The more convincing our environment can be made through the use of these  – nature’s tools – the more like a natural world the virtual environment becomes.

There’s another great thing about seasons in sl – not only do they make the virtual world feel more like a world, but because we are in control, they can be far better than the real thing itself – idealised seasons, for an ideal world… you can’t say fairer than that!

s. x

It’s a beautiful day,
Don’t let it get away
It’s a beautiful day,
Touch me, take me to that other place
Teach me love, I know I’m not a hopeless case
U2 – Beautiful Day 

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