I’ve been having a lot of fun (and spending a lot of time) in Second Life. My original avatar, created on November 20, 2006, is Otenth Paderborn. Otenth has dabbled in land speculation, done a fair amount of shopping, and created a Quaker meeting in SL (First Friends Church of Second Life, SLurl: Quaker/155/22). He’s about to teach a four‐week Quakerism class.
I’ve also created several alts, including one for work purposes named Thoreau Alcott. Only one of my alts is active, howeverâ€”but she is very active. Hermione Fussbudget was created on January 22, 2007 in order to try out a new part of the orientation experience. Due to technical glitches, I wasn’t able to do that, and I thought, “oh well.” (Part of Hermione’s genesis is the result of how one creates an account in Second Life: You are presented with a limited number of surnames from which to pick; you can then add any forename that results in a unique combination. How could I pass up “Fussbudget”? And “Hermione,” well, I have very fond memories of Hermione Gingold on talk shows when I was a child, and it’s a killer combination. My friend Sonja then helped me create a realistic female shape, in contrast to the many, many Barbie‐doll figures found in SL.)
Hermione was on her way to the inactive list with my other alts, until I discovered Caledon, a multi‐sim, privately‐owned area with a Victorian Steampunk theme. It’s a beautifully executed environment, less cluttered and more manageable in size than the mainland, and with a thriving social community. And thus Miss Hermione Fussbudget found an engaging home and secured her future.
One of the activities in SL is the Second Life Relay for Life (SLRFL), an adjunct to the American Cancer Society’s annual fundraiser, the Relay for Life. It’s a major activity in Caledon, and there are many fundraising acitivities. Hermione invited Miss Ida Keen, the creator of very fine animated knitting needles, to create a special set of needles for Caledon, and she really outdid herself, creating needles that, when worn in SL, actually result in clothing and objects that you can give away. (You can get a set from the SLRFL vendor beside Hermione’s house in Caledon Tamrannoch.)
So, this year’s meta‐theme for the Caledon SLRFL is a “war” with Port Neualtenberg, another region on the mainland of SL. So far, so good. Hermione’s knitting fundraisers used the trope of “keep our boys warm,” appropriating images used by the American Red Cross during the First World War. She also bought a commission in the Caledon Militia, along with a suitable uniform and weapons (She is, apparently, not a Quaker!). So far, still so good!
But the people organizing the “war” events held an event last night that took a bizarre and, to me, offputting, turn. There was a Reconciliation Ball to which all the militia were invited, as well as Neualtenbergers. Broad hints were proffered that all was not as it seemed. And indeed, explicit instructions were delivered that a machinima was being filmed and that principals in the event had scripted roles. Since the war talk had been going on for quite a while, I thought it a good idea that some slight would be offered one way or the other during the ball and that, finally, we would arrange a straightforward shooting melee at some civilized, appointed time. I was happy for Hermione to attend the ball and, in effect, serve as an extra.
What happened, though, was a complicated (and long!) bit of scripted interplay that involved armed conflict between citizens of Caledon, with a confused conclusion.
As an inexperienced role‐player, I don’t know what to make of it. I’m happy to role‐play a slightly saucy Victorian spinster. I’m happy to be an extra in a machinima (albeit that part was extraordinarily boring!) I was happy to make low‐key war talk in a good cause. But I’m not happy, as the real person sitting at the computer enjoying myself in SL, to be made confused and at loose ends by some unknown group’s script. As a bystander last night, Hermione saw one of her neighbors in Caledon act reprehensibly as part of the scripted RP. What does an RPer who isn’t in on the larger picture do? Ignore it all until there’s another scripted event? Write and play my own script? Shun the neighbor?
I guess what I’ve discovered about myself is that I do not want, personally, to experience confusion and conflict that was created on purpose by other people RPing in SL. I felt like I was used as an object for other people’s enjoyment, rather than as a participant. (Once the scripted violence started, we were instructed to move back and shut up, in effect.) And I’ve discovered that I’m not sure how I feel about creating a mock war as a fundraiser. (War as a metaphor is fine. Even defined as “armed conflict against an enemy,” I don’t think all weapons are physical. The Lamb’s War is a sadly ignored concept from early Quakerism.)
And now I’m rambling, so I should end!
(P.S. Otenth and Hermione share a blog: Tenth Life.)