Few of us would turn down anything worthwhile if it was ‘handed to us on a plate’, particularly since such opportunities are few and far between – it would be foolish not to, if we had everything to gain and nothing to lose from taking advantage of such a situation. Whether we just happen to be in the right place at the right time, or the gods of generosity choose to smile upon us, there aren’t many of us who would pass on a golden opportunity, given half a chance.
Even so, not everything in life is necessarily better, simply by virtue of it being free, accessible or without requiring some sort of effort on our part. Indeed, some of the most challenging and difficult achievements we may attain in life are primarily worthwhile because they are hard to reach and – in all likelihood – if we were to be offered the easy route to attaining them, we might very well turn it down in favour of taking the more difficult, but infinitely more satisfying path to success.
Part of the satisfaction of mastering a musical instrument, achieving a qualification or advancing in a chosen field lies in the knowledge that we have struggled and worked hard to achieve our goal. Along the way, we have learned not only about our particular challenge, but also about ourselves… the harder the journey, the greater our strength of character and, ultimately, the more rewarding our accomplishment.
Just because something is hard, does not mean it is insurmountable, neither does it mean we should balk at the challenge and hunt for an easier alternative. Some things, by their very nature demand that we face up to and overcome our limitations, simply because there is no other way. If we’re honest, we probably wouldn’t have it any other way – life without challenge is a life that’s lacking one of its essential qualities.
Whereas sl may be far less challenging than the real thing, it is not without its own – sometimes difficult – hurdles to leap. There’s the perennial complaint that the virtual world’s greatest attribute – its complexity – is also its biggest failing. We frequently hear the argument that one of the biggest obstacles to new user retention lies in how hard it is to make any sense of the both the viewer interface and the nature of sl itself, yet those who persevere beyond that initial nightmarish few days, weeks and months find the virtual world to be hugely rewarding and will have learned an enormous amount about how things work, and what doesn’t, in the process.
For many, that’s as far as it goes: once walking, flight, customising and clothing the avatar, finding friends to hang out with and locations to hang out at have been mastered SLife settles down into a gentle and enjoyable routine. There are others however – suckers for punishment – for whom this will never be enough: those who aspire to be builders, scripters, virtual artists and entrepreneurs: they will all face, to a greater or lesser extent just how hard the challenges are when it comes to taming the virtual world and developing the skills necessary to achieve their aims. And, in the sl arena, there are relatively few short cuts and easy solutions – instead, we face hard work, struggles and the prospect of testing ourselves beyond what we might feel is reasonable.
SL – unlike the real world – is not always as forgiving as we might expect either. The complexity of the things we attempt can often mean we have no recourse to others, handy references or past experience to draw upon; much of what we achieve is through trial and error and finding novel solutions to unique problems. The rules that sl follows are different to the real world too – physics, movement, visual and technical elements may not always perform as we’d expect them too and simple logic can sometimes feel totally illogical and arcane.
Yet – apart from perhaps making things more intuitive and ‘sensible’, i probably wouldn’t want to change any of the processes involved. Just as in rl, there is real pleasure and a sense of achievement to be gained from tackling, and overcoming, the thorny problems that sl can throw at us – and knowing that we have learned a new skill, developed a greater understanding and – ultimately – gained something worthwhile through our hard work and dedication makes it all worth the effort in the end.
To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go
Carter USM – The Impossible Dream