Just like the real world, SL has its limitations, although often we may well argue quite the opposite. It is true that SL gives us opportunities that we wouldn’t have elsewhere and the freedom to do things that would be undesirable, untenable and often downright impossible in the real world. Even so, the virtual world still has its rules and strictures that we are compelled to work within, not to mention some of the same impositions that we have to cope with in RL… Resources, space, time and skills, to name just a few.
In the real world, we’re well aware that compromise and making concessions are very much part of everyday life, and often that means we have to settle for the illusion of what we’d wish for, rather than the real thing. Everything from fake handbags to mock Tudor beams – substitutions for what we can’t have, because sometimes that’s just the way things are.
The same is true for SL too, and is never more acutely felt than when building. The need to limit land impact, cater for camera angles, reduce costs and complexity means that builders will often take shortcuts to stay within SL constraints – using textures instead of 3-dimensional fixtures, false windows and doors in lieu of practical versions, empty space, fillers and facades. None of this really matters in structural terms, since the natural laws of physics and construction simply don’t hold any sway in SL – but it can nevertheless be disappointing to be exploring an interesting structure inworld only to find it’s not quite what it appears.
Such difficulties can be exacerbated for the builder attempting to replicate the real world in virtual form. Buildings in the real world tend to have awkward shapes and forms that may be difficult to reproduce inworld, and unless they are locations that we are intimately familiar with and have unrestricted access to, there will inevitably be a lot of guesswork when it comes to those hidden parts to which we are not privy. The real challenge though lies for the builder wishing to create accurate reconstructions of historical locations: something that I’ve struggled to achieve first hand.
I have a particular penchant for recreating iconic, culturally significant, British music venues. My portfolio so far includes, Wigan Casino – instrumental in the rise of Northern Soul; Holyhead Youth Club – arguably the birthplace of 2 Tone; and, The Roxy, Covent Garden – the spiritual home of punk rock. At times, this has been absurdly challenging. In the absence of architectural drawings and any quality records of what these places were like, it’s incredibly difficult to produce accurate renderings of such places. Even the most diligent research often only produces a few grainy, black and white photographs of the exterior of these buildings, and you rapidly discover that hardly anyone ever thought to document or photograph the inside of 1970’s music venues, leaving questions about interior decor, colours and layout down to (hopefully) intelligent guesswork and a large degree of artistic licence.
There are, however SL residents for whom these were once real places – fondly remembered as where they learned to pogo, had their first proper kiss, or managed to get locked in the toilets after closing time! It’s these people whom I live in fear of… Petrified that one day they’ll turn up and tell me that I’ve got it all wrong and that it’s nothing like the real thing at all! I suppose that’s the risk you take, and for me at least, I feel it’s more important to preserve the memory and the essence of these iconic places than the accurate colour of the gloss paint in the toilets, (vibrant orange, bubbled and cracked using blowtorches, at the Roxy, apparently!)
It’s just another one of those constraints that the aspiring SL historical architect has to work within, I suppose: A very clear reminder that, when it comes to the past, once it’s gone, our really is gone!
There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
The Beatles – In My Life