Life is unpredictable – one minute everything is going swimmingly, the next you’re fighting against the tide and in danger of drowning. You just don’t know what it’s going to throw at you, and that’s probably a good thing when you consider some of the possibilities!
This has been painfully obvious to me over the past few weeks… It seems to have been the case that friends and relatives have recently been receiving more than their fair share of misfortune. Thankfully, little of it has directly affected me – I’ve been on the periphery, providing support, advice and solace, coffee and the occasional intervention. Life, for those concerned has not been easy.
It’s at times like this that you’re reminded that life is very much a game: A game in which we don’t get to make the rules, and in which we are merely players, subject to circumstance and situations that can change as arbitrarily as the role of a dice, or us happening to stumble upon on an unhelpful square.
And, you know what – it’s not fair.
Sure, we see those around us on the Monopoly board of life for whom fate seems to have dealt all the Community Chest cards: They’re the ones who got to choose, or were presented with, the scotty dogs and top hats, whilst we labour with the flat irons and old boots that life has seen fit to pass our way, and feel that there is something fundamentally wrong with this game. While we hang around, loitering for opportunities in Free Parking, they’re living it up in their hotels and passing ‘Go’ every other double-six roll of the dice.
Although that really isn’t strictly true. Certainly there are those for whom the game is a breeze, and those for whom it’s a storm; but that’s not to say that the bankers and builders can’t themselves land on hard times, or the ne’er do wells don’t occasionally win the game. It happens, and it happens to us all – indiscriminately and without rhyme or reason – it happens, because that’s the rules and they’re rules that we didn’t get to write.
What’s all this got to do with Second Life? Good question, and one to which there’s something of a surprising answer – particularly coming from me. I’ve always been a staunch proponent of the ‘SL is not a game’ school of thought, but my musings recently have made me question that stance, because if SL is indeed what it purports to be – a second life – then, by definition, if life itself is a game so too is SL.
You may argue that life is not a game; I’d argue that it most certainly is:
- It has definite goals – which may differ for each player – but are nonetheless what we aspire to;
- It has fixed rules, strategies and patterns – break them at your peril;
- Whilst we may have our own interpretation and methods of play, we have no choice but to follow the overall game plan;
- We are all subject to the rules, and there’s nothing we can do to change them;
- It has a definite beginning and end, and it is time-limited;
- Knowledge, experience and collaboration can all give us an advantage, but luck plays a large part too – and it can go both ways;
- There are winners, there are losers.
And what about SL? Yes, there are elements of some of the above to be found within the virtual world, but overwhelmingly it simply doesn’t fit within that definition – great news for the ‘SL isn’t a game’ brigade, like me – but if it’s not a game, then what the hell is it? Because by the same token it’s certainly not a second life!
So there you have it – caught in my own logic trap… I never expected that, and it leaves me in the rather embarrassing position of not actually knowing what exactly it is that I’ve been writing about for the last five years!
Time for a re-appraisal, maybe?
I’m left with a couple of potential definitions: The rather prosaic, but practical, ‘SL is a platform’, but that doesn’t sit entirely comfortably with me. To reduce SL to just a platform is to strip it of all the essential elements that make it, well… more than a platform – the things we build upon, in and around it; the constructs, ideas and derivations; the communities, the people and the relationships. To say that SL is a platform is akin to saying the internet is Unix – technically correct, but blatantly wrong. Besides which, if I’m, going to argue that SL is a platform then I’m basically saying it’s the equivalent of the Monopoly board… and surely that makes SL a game? QED – and I have a Babel Fish moment.
Which leaves me with one final possibility: Second Life is something far less definable, and far less physical than most of us would ever consider. It is an idea, a concept, an abstract rendition of an esoteric ‘ourself’ in an abstract space; timeless, practically limitless and – ultimately – it’s whatever we want it to be… because here, we make the rules.
Life is the game; it’s SL that’s real.
Oh, It’s my life
Don’t you forget
Oh, It’s my life
It never ends
No Doubt – It’s My Life