Has it ever struck you that we spend an awful lot of time extolling the virtues of sl as a 3D environment and yet the fact that our real lives are spent entirely in another 3D environment seems to almost completely pass us by.
Somehow, thinking of the real world in the same sort of terms that we constantly use as reference points in SL only rarely occurs to us in the massively richer and more complex environment of the real world. Is it simply that we just take the world around us for granted or are there other more subtle factors that come into play regarding how we relate to things around us?
Whilst inworld we’re often acutely aware that we’re functioning in three dimensions – our actions, activities and movements are plotted, determined and calculated by coordinates: our location is a set of numbers and every item and object that surrounds us has a fixed point in space to which it has been allocated.
Contrast this with our everyday world where the only time we get excited about coordinates is when programming the satnav, or if our work profession requires us to. Most of the time, despite spending our entire lives in a three dimensional environment, we tend to spend most of it only thinking in two dimensions.
X and Y give us little trouble, but Z -otherwise known as ‘up’ and ‘down’ is left very much in the background. Even when it does occur to us that we can occupy those planes that fall above and below the couple of metres which form the focus of most of our daily activity we tend to do so within fairly limited constraints – up and down tend to fall within the boundaries of where the stairs lead to, or which floors the elevator is stopping, with an occasional foray into the heady heights of the odd mountain range. If we do consider the sky, it’s either in terms of what we can see in it, or paying what is literally a flying visit during a plane journey.
In rl, the Z axis is there, but as long as it doesn’t bother us, we don’t bother it. Consequently, despite living in a rich and wide ranging three dimensional world, most of the time we really only ever consider it in two dimensions.
Sl is very different, unlike the real physical world, Z is as accessible as X and Y. We’re not as profoundly limited to exploring the world on a single flat plane: we have all the possibilities that the sky and even below ground level also have to offer. There can be few people in possession of a plot of land who haven’t also taken the opportunity to exploit the sky above it too. Building platforms, sky boxes, changing rooms and discrete private hideaways abound, indeed some parts of the sky are more cluttered than the ground below them.
The parts of SL beneath the surface are perhaps less utilised, but that’s not to say that you won’t find a fair bit going on there. There are some constraints as to what can be achieved, depending on the lie of the land, but there are any number of enterprising and creative people out there who’ve come up with a few neat ideas that open up all sorts of possibilities. (Indeed, you can always cheat and build a skybox as a faux underground environment, something of a mind-bending inversion, but it does give you pretty much limitless ‘depth’ for an ‘underground’ build!) Cheats aside, there are plenty of mine shafts, caverns, sewers and underwater grottoes throughout SL to keep even the most discerning and demanding of virtual troglodytes and water sprites more than happy.
The ease with which we can access the virtual vertical plane is no doubt an important factor too. Unlike the real world, we don’t need specialist equipment or vehicles to plumb the ocean depths, or the sky’s limits; there’s no need to worry about drowning, explosive gases, depressurisation or any of the other hazards that we face when exploring the vertical in RL; It really is no more challenging than a walk in the park. This is why, in some ways, SL is actually far superior to the real world – even in the most crowded inworld spaces there can still be an enormous amount of room – often I’ve checked a out a spot on the world map, stuffed with green dots, only to find that none of those people can be seen: They’re hanging out at some subterranean club or partying away somewhere high above my head.
That’s the real beauty of a world that’s accessible in three dimensions, the amount of space you have to explore and available to use, is cubed whereas in the real world – until someone can come up with RL skyboxes – we may as well be living in just the two remain dimensions for most of the time.
I’m higher than high
Lower than deep
I’m doing it wrong
Metric – Twilight Galaxy