Strange thing happened to me on my walk to the station today. It was a lovely sunny morning and I was feeling in a particularly good mood, enjoying the fresh air with a song in my head and a smile on my face.
A car drew up alongside me and the window slid down, ‘Somebody wants directions’, I thought.
The driver, a complete stranger, leaned towards me and, in a broad American accent, asked “Are you walking on purpose?”
That threw me a little, and the only response I could come up with was, “Yes, I am!”
“OK”, she replied, and drove off, laughing. I laughed too… It seemed the right thing to do!
I’m still at something of a loss to work out what on earth that was all about; I even canvassed it with friends inworld who came up with several possible theories for this strange roadside exchange, but to be honest, I’m still in the dark. I can’t help wondering what might have happened if I’d replied, “No, I’m walking by accident”, or better still as one friend suggested, I’d looked down at my feet in surprise and explained, “Oh no! It’s happened again!”.
It’s not just the odd circumstances, but also the surreal nature of the question itself that caught my interest: “Are you walking on purpose?”, well how else does one walk? However, I suppose it is a question that could reasonably be asked of someone in SL, where to walk to any destination is rarely the mode of travel of choice. It’s a world where teleportation is the most efficient and favoured manner of getting from A to B, and by virtue of its ease of use, can be employed for all but the shortest journeys. OK, I admit it, I have been known to double-click TP a few feet across a dance floor to grab a space, rather than take the more orthodox approach of walking – some might call it laziness, I call it efficiency!
SL provides us with any number of alternatives to using our feet for getting about… Flying, driving, sailing, riding and a multitude of other options all have their appeal and a great many of us will choose them over the more logical choice when it comes to traversing short distances, yet walking in the virtual world is not without its benefits.
To begin with, you see so much more when on foot than with any other method. Teleport, and you miss out on the whole travel experience; take any one of the varied forms of transport that SL affords, and you’re far more likely to be concentrating with gritted teeth on your controls, steering, and simply staying in one piece than you are on taking in the passing scenery; flying might seem an attractive alternative, but even those of us with years of experience can still contrive to effortlessly collide with buildings, crash into mountains, and entangle ourselves in trees. Quite apart from that, the simplest sim crossing can be horribly disorientating and send you into a flat spin… Yeehah! Jester’s dead!
Walking is also a much slower paced, more revealing and satisfying way in which to explore SL. When you’re on foot, you’re far more likely to find things to click, explore and investigate than you would with any other mode of travel – you have the time to look around at your leisure, wander off the beaten path, and discover the many hidden gems that are secreted inworld. Strolling about is by far the best way to explore the virtual world, and SL itself presents a vast and multi-faceted landscape where you can amble along all day.
If I’ve nowhere in particular to be, and have nothing in particular to do, I’ll often head off to the mainland and trudge the mostly empty roadways of SL, not heading anywhere in particular, just enjoying the walk – and there’s plenty of walking to be had, even if you only stick to the road network, which extends for hundreds of kilometres! And the best thing of all… No matter how far you walk, you never get aching feet or blisters, and home is just a teleport away!
All the kids in the marketplace say:
Walk like an Egyptian.
Line your feet astreet, bend your back,
Shift your arm, then you pull a clock.
Hakim Ft. Cleopatra – Walk Like An Egyptian