Just when you thought Linden Lab’s intentions for SL lacked ambition, they sneak a choice phrase into an overly-wordy document that few people will ever read, and go from one extreme to another. The document in question is the utterly mind-numblingly over-cautious lawyer-speak spiel that they felt it necessary to produce for the recent Creepy Crawl Costume Contest; the Lab’s annual round up of all things Halloweenish.
Quite why it’s deemed necessary that a simple fancy dress competition should merit a set of rules and regulations that would put a small country’s constitution to shame is beyond me; maybe it’s an American thing, rather than a Lab thing, but to any reasonable person it really is overkill of gargantuan proportions. Back in the day when I might have considered participating in fancy dress competitions myself, we had far simpler rules, usually along the lines of:
- Dress up
- Don’t pinch your sister
Short, sweet and simple.
However, buried amongst all that litigation-speak, is a short phrase that I’ve never come across before in connection with SL – a phrase that, when used in such an official document, is presumably achnowledged and endorsed by the Lab. What, I imagine I hear you ask, is the phrase in question?
‘the Second Life universe’
If ever there was a phrase that promised greater things, that is it. In four simple words, SL it seems has joined the rarefied heights of, amongst others, the Marvel Universe, the Tolkien Universe, the Harry Potter Universe, and so on. All of which is a bit weird, I would submit, for the following reasons:
- SL is clearly a single, virtual world. There are no Linden endorsed or tolerated alternatives, derivatives or parallels. To suggest it’s a universe is like saying that the Earth is the universe. Whilst, philosophically that might be argued to be true, in real, practical terms it is not. The Earth, and SL, are both worlds by any definition and therefore are a part of the greater universal whole, not its entirety.
- SL is not canonical. Within those other fictional universes mentioned above, canon is everything. Each related story, account, character or situation is a jigsaw piece that is clearly linked to the big picture. Let’s face it, even inworld SL is not canonical – as you wander from sim to sim, the one thing that strikes you like a slap across the face with a wet cod is the complete anarchic disarray and disconnectedness of each individual’s personal interpretation of the virtual world. Even if there were alternatives, it would be a nightmare task to try and create anything like a cohesive big picture.
- Where is the evidence? Much as it’s pretty easy to make big claims about practically anything, the proof of the pudding lies in the eating. You can argue until you’re blue in any part of your body you choose that there is life on Mars, but if you can’t back that up with solid proof, it’s just an unfounded statement. If there truly is an SL Universe, then where the heck is it? Where’s the fanfiction, the alternative timelines, the contextual reassignment and the crossovers? And please don’t try to argue that blogs, vlogs and such like count in this regard, because the vast majority of them are just a regurgitation of what we already know, or at best, opinion. I’ve yet to find anything out there that seriously attempts to take SL and develop new themes, contexts and dimensions.
- This is Linden Lab speaking. You just know that some junior staffer came up with ‘the Second Life Universe’ on a whim, thought it would look good in legalese, and nobody’s noticed it until just now, when I pointed it out (you don’t read The Lab’s legal stuff, you don’t honestly believe that they can be bothered to read it themselves?). It’s a bit like the inspiritaneous way I randomly invent words – unless they’re adopted by the world at large, or they form the vanguard of a planned, strategic plan to create something noteworthy, they mean very little. Much as I would love to think that this first glimpsoid of ‘the Second Life Universe’ is a hint of greater things to come, I know that it’s not; more’s the pity.
Such a shame really, because just imagine how amazing it could be? The collectables, the movie franchises, the conventions and cons… but frankly, this is SL and all it will ever really be is a small, unregarded world somewhere in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the virtual arm of the metaverse.
And personally, I’m just fine with that.
Our universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding,
In all of the directions it can whiz;
As fast as it can go, at the speed of light, you know,
Twelve million miles a minute and that’s the fastest speed there is.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus – The Galaxy Song