And, so it was that i found myself in conversation with two separate people, in two different places, both on the same day reminiscing about how things used to be in sl, with that wistful tone in their, erm… typing.
Funny isn’t it, how people will tell you how awful sl used to be ‘way back when’, with all the problems that the fledgling virtual world experienced with monotonous regularity… broken logins, failed teleports, extreme lag, bake fail, ‘rollout Tuesdays’ and all those other glitches, hitches and annoyances that the old-timers were beset with. “Quit yer moaning, youngster”, they tell us, “you should have been around in the frontier days of ’06… you just don’t know how good you’ve got it these days!”
All of which is perfectly true and, if you happen to ask anyone who experienced sl back when you felt yourself fortunate to spend more than half an hour logged in without any problems, there are few who’d want to return to those less than perfect times. At least, that’s what they’ll tell you, and then they’ll get that misty look in their eyes and that slightly vacant look on their faces, as the faint outline of a smile crosses their lips: “Ah, those were the days…”
In this respect, virtual life is much the same as real life – despite the very real problems of the past, on reflection most of us have a nostalgic yearning for those good times that have somehow changed as the world marched forwards. It’s not really a case of rose-tinted spectacles – few people, if any would really want to travel back in time to the days when sl was about as reliable as a dodgy Rolex bought from some bloke down the market, but there was something about the past that people really do yearn for.
Take me – although i wasn’t around in the pioneering days of sl, i can’t help wishing i had been: i’m an inveterate collector of nostalgic memorabilia: only today i’ve discovered a potential source for a t-shirt from the very first SLB celebration! The latest addition to my collection is a complete collection of Greenies, and i’d sell my soul for a Starax’s Wand, (even though it almost certainly wouldn’t work any more)… none of which will mean anything to any modern day avatar: you had to be there man! There are legendary sims, gone forever, that i’ll never explore and notable names from the past that i’ll never have the good fortune to meet. Those places and people are evocative mementos of the past, but there’s also something that runs deeper than that.
Whether we’re talking about the real or virtual world, some things hold true for the past: firstly, we were younger then, with minds more open, a greater sense of wonder and an innocence that fades with time. The world really did seem a better place – bigger, brighter, more exciting and far less burdensome than our present reality. Secondly, the world of the past was often less accommodating, more demanding and a bit more rough around the edges than what we’re used to today. Just compare an up-to-date episode of Dr Who with one from from the 1970’s, and you’ll see what i mean… but i bet you got terribly nostalgic about the dinosaur clip! There’s something about those more trying times that invokes in us a sense of community with those whom we shared our past experiences: in much the same way as those who speak of the sense of community that developed in the air raid shelters and Underground stations during The Blitz – it’s not as if they’d want to go back to those terrible times, but there’s something compelling that they can’t dismiss.
Maybe those pioneers and early residents who braved the technical problems of early sl, kept a stiff upper lip and stuck together in their brave new virtual world, had something that may be lacking today. Now that we’re used to the miracle of 3D immersive experiences, blasé about the wonders of technology and intimately familiar with things that were still a pipedream not that long ago, we’ve lost something of that open-eyed wonder, and maybe that band of brothers community too?
Then again, we’ll look back to 2014 in a few years time, with misty eyes and hanker for those good old days!
There are places I’ll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
The Beatles – In My Life