Oh dear, I’m not one to moan, but when things don’t live up to expectations, I’m also not the sort to remain quiet, and there is the odd occasion when you really want to tell SL to buck up its ideas.

You may remember that I cried off participating in SL14B this year, but that didn’t mean that I was going to completely head off into the sunset and forget about the event, so I was more than willing to kill some time exploring the birthday sims, hoping to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the fruits of the exhibitors’ creative labours.

And I was more than a little disappointed, I’m sorry to say.

First of all, I thought they must have put the place in the washing machine at too high a temperature… That was the only conclusion I could arrive at since it seemed to have shrunk to half its size. Not only that, but the exhibition space itself was much, much smaller than I’ve seen before, and even that was pretty sparsely populated. Even with the massive Welcome Area, four huge stages and giant auditorium, it was pretty clear that it had been a struggle this year to fill all the vacant plots – evidenced by a number of randomly decorated areas, clearly only serving as space fillers – not quite what you’d expect from an expo of everything great about SL!

I suppose you could say that some of the blame for that could also lie at my own door – my missing contribution didn’t help, but I found it hard to feel guilty, knowing that so many others seemed have made the same decision.

I wish I could say that was my only disappointment, but many of the exhibits themselves were pretty lacklustre. My own fears about the birthday theme – ‘Carnivalesque’ – were fully realised, with a slew of marquees, tents and merry-go-rounds on every other plot. Amongst them were dotted many of the same old tired and recycled exhibits that seem to be wheeled out year after year, with little attempt to acknowledge the party theme or disguise their familiar appearance, other than a fresh lick of paint and the addition of a few candy stripes, here and there. I was left with the same remark in mind that frequently used to appear in my school reports: “Could do better!”

Speaking of better, there were some redeeming features, which it would only be fair to mention: The impressive Welcome Area, with its host of dragons and rocky aspect was pretty impressive, outdone only by the magnificent Guardian, perched atop the somewhat unimaginatively named Stage Left Stage, (seriously, you couldn’t come up with anything better than that?), and the riot of colour and animal pageantry surrounding the DJ Stage, was a delight. However, Mikati Slade’s Cake Stage – a triumph of sugary-sweet pinkness, completely dominating the region, just left me with feelings of deja vu. Mikati is an incredibly talented builder, but I’m afraid that huge 8-bit, glowing pastel constructions aren’t everybody’s cup of tea, and this year’s contribution bore more than a passing resemblance to the other stages she’s created for SLB in the past… Sometimes, it’s nice to have something different.

I won’t say much about the Live stage, other than it struck me as having been constructed from some of the leftovers from the cake stage… A sort of “Oh crap, we’ve still got a stage to build and no time, let’s knock together an Ikea flat pack and chuck some neon tubes over it” kind of affair. Oh dear.

I came away with an overwhelming feeling of disappointment and, truth to say, after trudging around for a bit, I was actually quite bored with the whole thing, so the several visits I’d planned turned into just a couple, and not terribly satisfying ones at that.

Maybe this was just a glitch, and next year – for SL15B – we’ll be firing on all cylinders again; I hope so, because this year, the celebrations just felt tired, rather flat and hardly the great party they should have been to celebrate 14 glorious years of our venerable old virtual world.

s. x

Boxcars are pulling a carnival of sorts
Out of town, out of town
REM – Carnival Of Sorts

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