Experience the Drama of the ‘Human Mind’ in Second Life

or a quick case study of my role as SL designer, producer and builder in moving a film/book/stage ‘idea’, Thursday’s Fictions into the metaverse of Second Life. First, to give you a taste, a short video of my friend Kylie (who has gone a bit goth) walking through the environment. (note: An important thing missing on the video is Richard James Allen’s meditative texts that appear all around as you explore and of course visitations are usually at a much more relaxed pace.)


I have noticed that this blog is turning into mostly things I have created in Second Life or close friends, not a bad thing I suppose as long as those creations are worth singing about. I believe this one certainly is. I was lucky to work with Richard James Allen and Karen Pearlman (of Physical TV) who are the drivers behind an ‘idea’ called Thursday’s Fictions. This idea has been manifest in film, book, theatre and my task was to be the designer, producer, builder etc: in Second Life. It was only a small project compared with many of the multi sim creations I have done and are currently working on, but it excelled in being a worthy, experimental, artistic and aesthetic statement. It fell strongly into something I call Story Environments – spaces that have narrative embedded in them at varying degrees, more on that later.

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The basic premise of the story is a woman who lives for one day only is trying to take her most valued creative possession (her dancers in a trunk she carries with her) between various reincarnations. There is more to it than that of course and the themes of death, love, life, mind, body, spirit all intermingle to create a fascinating pot pourii of philosophy, psychology and self awareness.

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My challenge was to find appropriateness in Second Life which is itself an allegory of the themes of the piece from the outset. In other words, as I mentioned in this panel interview on SLCN.tv, (yes I talk!), SL is a space that is already routed in parallel existance, new incarnation and so on. It was about trying to find something that was different enough from quite a few existing ‘spiritual’ areas in SL but also providing links back to ‘real world’ perceptions of spiritual architecture.

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I haven’t time in this blog post to go into vast detail but to say the build was done very rapidly and I worked iteratively with the writers (that included script consultant Rock Sonic – SL name) who are all relatively new to the true creative potential of this world. Some of the techniques used to deliver the narrative elements included invisible sensors that talked to you randomly, spirit ‘spheres’ that whisper as they pass through you, moving and still texts of various forms on the walls, objects and nature that chats residual and direct thoughts, sound and embedded gate-keeper questions.

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There are effectively two longer form experiences at the moment. Purgatory, a series of halls and alcoves exploring a range of ideas mostly routed in one word ‘choice’. What life to go to next, what to take, decide what happened in the previous one, choose a state of mind and so on. The second experience is one life you inhabit, the ‘fractured’ mind of one of the characters. For the latter I created something that was slightly unnerving and disorientating yet also welcoming and familiar. It was loosely based on the sets of the film but I injected some play and elements of confusion. Go see and you will understand. The first main area purgatory is populated by Richard’s a range of texts, my favourite being the ‘self-destructive’ lines (in the floating spirits in the main hall) from his book Kamikaze Mind. I also wanted Purgatory to show how music, sound and visual effects, text, signs, places to explore and architecture create a new kind of experience in SL that becomes very cinematic. There were many compromises that had to be taken but happily they are all easily overcome in future experiences I will create in this and many other properties. I/we also wanted this experience to be as social as possible. In a full 3D social space anything that doesn’t allow a shared user journey through it is doomed so it has been great watching couples and small groups exploring.

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There are many more elements planned for this ‘idea’ of Richards and these will include another 6 or 7 more life journeys that will attempt to cover a broader spectrum of the ‘human drama’. To go to this experience now here is a link to the starting grove – SLURL.

Thursday's Fictions Visit

Posted by © Gary Hazlitt from inside Second Life

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