Yes, apparently Christmas is upon us already – at least that seems to be the word on the street. The stores around these parts are already filling their shelves with festive decorations, gift-wrapped goodies and Christmas fare and it’s only a matter of time before every shopping trip will be accompanied by the strains of ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ and ‘Walking in the Air’. It seems that every supermarket i’ve ever set foot in is determined to grab my custom this Christmas, as my inbox piles up with emails insisting that now is the time to book a seasonal delivery slot, before they’re all gone.
Urgent requests to sign up for the office party and get leave applications in have started crossing my desk, (forgive me, dear colleagues for accidentally filing them in the shredder), and the vexed questions of how soon can we put up tree and tinsel and, please can we have Christmas music in the office this year, are already being asked. (The answers to those questions are, by the way: ‘never’ and ‘no’!)
Perhaps most ridiculous of all are the range of festive foodstuffs beginning to usurp more banal commodities from the shop shelves – everything from mince pies to party nibbles, and all sporting ‘use by’ dates that expire somewhere in the region of early November – i predict botulism for Christmas dinner!
Christmas has been hopelessly hijacked and every year is mercilessly exploited by those out to make as much as possible from the gullible amongst us who feel we have little choice, other than to play along with our fake plastic smiles, as we decorate our fake plastic trees and send fake plastic sentiments to friends, family and those colleagues whose tea we’d normally spit in when doing the obligatory kitchen run.
Not me – i’ll probably hand-make any gifts i give this year, and my decorations will likely consist of whatever i can salvage from the local woodland, just as they were last year. i’ve opted out of the whole thing – not because i don’t like Christmas, but because i can’t stand the weeks of endless commercial hype and haranguing that that have overrun it like mould on damp loaf of bread.
So many things that used to be special have changed beyond all recognition as they’ve become popular, more commercial, and capable of making money. That special piece of music you’ve always loved gets itself featured on a TV ad, and suddenly it’s everywhere, being covered by crappy boy bands or becoming the latest ‘must have’ annoying ringtone. The book you once treasured becomes a hit film – bearing little resemblance to the original writing, of course – and suddenly it’s being read on the tube, reviewed on breakfast TV and turned into comic strips for kids. And something inside us is crushed – that ‘specialness’ is cheapened and lost, and things will never be the same again.
That particular worry is one that has crossed my mind, many a time, with regard to sl. Little danger, i know, of our virtual world becoming the Next Big Thing, at least as things stand at the moment – but stranger things have happened. Remember, there was a time when sl was really big news, both in technical and commercial terms – some of the world’s biggest and most influential companies had an inworld presence, (i was surprised to discover only recently that AMD/Radeon still do!) – and sl was regularly featured on prime time TV and in the international press. With the potential promised by the new raft of VR interface devices, Hi-Fidelity and SL-TNG, there’s every chance that virtual worlds – and sl, in particular – could once again become big news, and with that could potentially come an unprecedented amount interest from new users and commercial concerns.
What would that do to sl? Would our precious, quirky and ever-so special virtual world become the digital equivalent of Christmas – its original meaning, ethos and familiarity eroded away to the fundamental drivers of supply and demand, money-making and big business success. What if our cosy sims became crowded with hordes of 3D-thrill seeking noobs, trampling over our carefully crafted creations and riding roughshod over our cherished communities and institutions? How would we feel, and how would sl feel to us?
Maybe it won’t be all that bad, but who can really predict the future… all we can really do is enjoy what we have now, and stop moaning about the present, because there’s always a chance – no matter how slim – that things don’t always turn out for the best.
Oh… and happy Christmas!
“There’s no time to lose”, I heard her say
Catch your dreams before they slip away
Dying all the time
Lose your dreams and you will lose your mind
Ain’t life unkind?
The Rolling Stones – Ruby Tuesday