Yep, whether in the real world or SL, I find the grimy, the dilapidated, the dark and the seedy somewhat attractive and appealing. It’s not that I actually like that sort of thing as a matter of personal taste – I’d much rather the things in my life to be clean, tidy and ordered any day, but there’s something about grunge that I find compelling and disturbingly engaging.
If I try to rationalise it, I come to the conclusion that there’s something inherently affirmative about entropy, decay and the inexorable, inevitable descent into disorder – it is, after all, the natural state of the progression of time and it is, ultimately where we are all eventually headed. It’s a stark reminder that nothing is permanent and all things come to an end. There’s an honesty and integrity, even an innate beauty to such things that becomes ever more evident as we transcend our initial feelings of distrust and aversion. Then there’s the gritty reality of grunge: it is what it is, not prettied up, not disguised, but it’s there – right in your face – you simply have to deal with it, one way or another.
Even grunge can have aesthetic appeal: Whether you look at the majesty of the overall big picture – a crumbling warehouse – or the intricacy and artistry of the rusting beams and puddles of oily water; it’s a natural beauty, just as much as we’d consider a meadow in bloom to be beautiful. And I can appreciate both – to me, the failing, flaking factory and the wild beauty of the moors share that commonality: They are exciting and stimulating to the senses, full of intrigue and unexpected charm… never boring or bland.
If you were to examine my travels in SL in any detail, you’d see that what attracts me in RL is little different in the virtual world. I’ll swing from one extreme to another – today, crawling through scenes of urban blight and disorder; tomorrow, dancing through mist-filled forests. I find both types of environment stimulating and capable of bringing out a sense of wonder and excitement in me that is no different to what I might experience in the real world.
Similarly, I struggle with blandness in the virtual world, particularly – since unlike RL, there’s nothing really to be gained from pure utility alone when inworld – and I find it puzzling that there are vast swathes of SL that seem to have had little, if any, effort expended upon them to create anything remotely appealing. It’s partly for this reason that I tend to avoid much of the mainland, where the hotchpotch of styles, vacant plots, abandonment and sheer ugliness of much of the continents combines to be almost offensive in its ability to disillusion.
Give me instead a perfectly rendered cornfield, or idyllic country scene, where care and attention has been given to the experience the observer will enjoy. Alternatively, I’ll happily take a thoughtfully crafted and well-conceived post-apocalyptic wasteland or grotty skid row! In both cases, someone has taken the time, and made the effort to capture something of the very nature of what they wish to depict. The painstaking attention to detail is what makes me want to explore and inspires me about these virtual locations – but, if I really had to make a choice, I’d go for the grunge over the trees and flowers every time.
Why, you might ask , should I prefer the shabbier side of SL? It’s not that I’ve anything against pretty, but it’s not hugely difficult to achieve – anyone with land and a modicum of ability can put together a fairly stunning landscape, but whilst there are thousands of items inworld and on the Marketplace to beautify your world, there’s a fairly limited supply of landscaping and environmental tools that go down the grunge route. Indeed, many of the more blighted and downtrodden areas in SL are very much a personal vision of dystopia, lovingly hand-crafted from scratch and – for that reason – unique and the only one of their kind. That’s something that the inner adventurer in me appreciates… throw in a suitably industrial music stream, a touch of disquieting Windlight and a few burning wrecks of cars, and I’d say that was damn near perfect.
But, don’t take my word for it – why not try a walk on the wildside yourself… go on, why not?
Why don’t you, come down to
It’s such a brutal planet
It’s such an ugly world
Why won’t you, come down to
Alice Cooper – Brutal Planet