Wonko the Sane famously quit reality and constructed The Asylum so that he wouldn’t have to live in a world which had clearly gone bananas – for him, the final nail in the coffin was that humanity apparently required instructions for using toothpicks. In my case, it was discovering that the jumbo pack of toilet rolls I recently stocked up on included, on the rear of the pack, a set of instructions on how to wipe one’s bottom after attending to one’s business.
If a world that requires instructions to operate a toothpick is insane, then how the hell do you define a world that requires instructions for the use of toilet paper?
In comparison, SL can seem positively blessed with intelligence, even though we may sometimes convince ourselves to the contrary, and in fact, when you consider the various hoops you have to jump through, and daily challenges that face all of us inworld, you may come to the same – surprising – conclusion, that I arrived at. Just to cope with the basics of living in our virtual world takes more than a modicum of commonsense and practical intelligence. Indeed, one of the arguments often used against SL is that the learning curve for newbies is far too steep and can be responsible for the failure of some to engage and stay.
That, I suppose, is true to an extent, but the learning curve doesn’t stop there. Should you wish to pursue a particular avenue once signed up, you may find yourself embarking on a difficult journey that will challenge you in a whole manner of ways, sometimes more so than pursuing the same path in the real world. Fancy being a successful builder, retailer, fashion designer, photographer, entrepeneur or any of a myriad of business pursuits, or undertake them just for pleasure, and you can find yourself facing a range of challenging and demanding situations, problems that require novel and unusual resolutions and an enormous investment in terms of time, effort and even hard cash, if you want to reach the pinnacle of your chosen virtual career. And all of us thought, at one time, it would be a doddle to make it big inworld… Then again, nobody ever thought to give us any instructions on how to do it!
SL can still be mentally demanding for those who don’t have any aspirations to greatness and just want to have a fun time dressing up and dancing. Clothes shopping and even wearing what we buy can be horrifically complex: Unlike RL, where we can just throw on an outfit and head off, the fashion-conscious of SL have to juggle alphas, fiddle with HUDs and make sure that when they buy, their clothing is compatible with their body. If, like me, you’re an old fuddy duddy that has yet to succumb to the allure of mesh body parts, shopping can be a nightmare, especially if I’m after footwear, and I’ve had to develop almost ninja-like skills to ensure I’m not throwing away my money on an outfit I’ll never be able to wear, or that it’s a brand that I know I can get away with, provided it’s a certain type and my cobbled-together stock of spare alphas is going to work with it.
Then there are still additional things to consider before we head off to the club… Complexity, draw distance, scripts, graphics levels – it’s rarely as straightforward as it might be, and in the real world, some of the things that we just get on and do in SL would merit the awarding of a doctorate or two in arcane science, technology and engineering if we were to have to cope with the same in RL.
And the best part of it, of course, is that there are no instructions. Most of what we learn is by experimentation, trial and error, with a bit of sheer luck thrown in. There are sources of information that we can turn to, but they are rarely attuned to our needs, often rather dated, frequently unintelligable, and – far too often – wrong! So we’re left to our own devices and, by and large, we actually manage to do rather well, despite lacking any assistance.
And if we can cope with SL with the bare minimum of instructions, I’m pretty sure that we don’t need to be told how to use toilet paper…
though I saw it all around
never thought I could be affected
thought that we’d be the last to go
it is so strange the way things turn
Peter Gabriel – Don’t Give Up