The generation of artists who came into Second Life (SL) three or four years ago finds itself at a crossroads. Other virtual platforms are growing in strength and reliability. More and more people are figuring out how they can run their own small 3D world – á la ‘sim on a stick’ – on their personal computer. They have outgrown SL. It is time to move out of their family home.
SL’s staff, known collectively as the Lindens, are the “sad dad” in this scenario, ridiculed and demonized by many residents for a whole raft of blunders from promoting the inane doodles of ex-CEO Mark Linden to allegedly appropriating IP rights to banning artist Rose Borchovski’s work The Kiss from last year’s Burning Life art festival because it showed a naked human nipple. Artists pushing boundaries in both creative expression and new ways to sell their work frequently accuse Linden Labs of being prudish, paranoid, and downright deceitful.
Censorship and freedom are the first words most artists use when asked why they have moved to Craft, a small grid that has seen its population swell from a mere handful to over five hundred creatives in just under one year. Artists come here for the freedom to express themselves and to control ownership and distribution of their work.
Life on Craft is a compromise between the almost feral existence of making 3D art in one’s own personal ‘sim on a stick’, adrift in OSgrid or moving to other commercial grids like Inworldz, the ‘SL–Lite’ of virtual worlds. Those concerned about ownership of their deathless masterpieces can simply attach their own regions to the grid and still be part of a real community where people drop by to say hello, always ready with advice and sympathy.
Of course, moving out of the family home to the virtual equivalent of bed-sit-land involves sacrifices. It is lonely being away from one’s virtual siblings back in SL. The art community thrives on gallery openings, gossip, and big events. Seeing and being seen is an essential part of the virtual lifestyle, as is selling art, whether for Linden dollars or the real thing. There is no money to be made or spent in Craft, yet artwork perfected in the privacy of Craft can easily be exported to SL for shows and competitions, and for some, it is nice to get away from the bitchy coteries and just make art in peace. Of course, you have to do so without your beloved Steampunk accessories, high quality shoes, and live music available at any hour of the night or day. Many, however, see this as a purer experience of the virtual world, an opportunity to flex technical muscles developed in SL and experience what it must have been like in SL’s mythical Golden Age when everyone on the grid knew each other, spoke to each other, and shared their wealth of knowledge.
By Julia Vale (AKA Thirza Ember)