Perplexing: A word I frequently associate with SL, and particularly when it comes to some of the messages that pop into my IM box on a regular basis. Much of the time I simply ignore the junk that comes my way, it’s little different to the spam that we all have to deal with in our emails on a daily basis, the only difference being that many inworld messages are sent to me by supposedly rational and intelligent people.
Just occasionally though, an unexpectedly thought-provoking missive will find its way through, causing me to ponder further the confusing virtual world that we choose to inhabit.
Take, for example, the random offline message that appeared in my inbox recently:
[9:54] Musiclover Resident: plz miss you hvse most beutful musi in world i ever hear my lif …. but i cannt listen it because animal sound? i am not a complainer & noy new. 7 yers all uo al do is soo pefect … but i wish let you now i am a fisher all my life & reapect all nature but you muiic so peferfect , i cry ask you this
[9:55] Musiclover Resident: birds inscet too loud
Once I’d figured out what on earth the message was about – at least, I think I have – that feeling of perplexity descended. What was the point being made here?
As far as I can tell, this was a visitor to my parcel at Nowhere Land whom, it seems, was particularly enamored by my choice of music stream, but was somewhat disappointed that the ambient soundscape I’ve provided detracted from the music.
That puzzled me somewhat – I wouldn’t call the nature sounds I’ve strategically placed around the parcel particularly intrusive, neither would I say they’re at all out of place; as for being so loud that you’re not able to appreciate the music, well there are a couple of spots where you might experience a veritable choir of frogs, crickets and birdsong, but you’d have to station yourself right in the midst of a bunch of bullrushes to do so.
In my opinion, the countryside ambience doesn’t detract from the audio stream, if anything it works in harmony with it, and if I was pushed to choose, I’d plump for the sounds of nature over music any day. Creating an environment in SL, as far as I’m concerned is an holistic exercise – it’s about making something that is intrinsically right, whether it’s a beach, the countryside, an urban ghetto, or an alien planet – and it’s the attention to detail and the little touches that convince the mind that those pixels are the real thing, that really make a difference.
That’s what works for me, but I also appreciate that it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s one area where SL really comes into its own. Unlike RL, our virtual world is infinitely customisable – you don’t like the music, you can always turn it off; birds singing too loudly? Turn them down; don’t like the sunset, change it to one more suited to your tastes… You can derender the scenery, alter the time of day and even restrict your vision to your immediate vicinity; there really little, if any excuse for SL to be anything but appealing.
Which brings me back to my music loving visitor and their IM. Can it really be the case that someone who has been abroad in SL for seven years doesn’t know about such basic stuff? How can it be possible that such an established resident should be experiencing a virtual experience that – to their mind – is sub-optimal? And yet, this is something I come across time and time again – experienced, knowledgeable and capable SL users who lack the knowledge that I would consider to be a basic skill for survival in the virtual world. You often hear the argument made that the SL viewer interface is just too complicated for noobs to get to grips with, however it seems that the viewer’s complexity has never stood in the way of many veterans with years of experience, whom – despite their experience, still have little, if any, idea about the most basic of viewer functions. I’m frequently astonished by the questions I’m asked by residents with years more experience than myself, accomplished builders and scripters, yet with a gaping hole where basic SL knowledge should be.
But then again, I’m a geek.