Saturday, April 16, 2011

52 Posts: Week 3 - Reflections on Play

Lately it seems many of us have been driven to reflect on our role(s) in and in relation to Second Life.   For me this reflection was kicked off when I ran across an article in January/February (yes I am behind in my reading) Technology Review.  In the magazine section was an article titled Serious Games * by Julian Diebell.  The tag line to the title captures the topic well:
“The online world of Second Life seemed like the next big thing, only to be largely written off.  Neither hypers nor detractors understood it.”

(*This article requires a paid subscription or use of ‘reading credits’ with a ‘free’ subscription.  I find the review fascinating and worth the cash.  I did think about just copying it to this blog post - too long to quote; however, if you are curious about the article I will be happy to email it to the email account of your choice.)

Despite the use of the past tense “understood” implying Second Life is some long buried artifact of a rapidly changing digital world, I was surprised to see it was a reasonably well balanced discussion of how Second life is fundamentally an arena for Play:
“Second Life as it is really lived doesn’t even gesture toward the broad utility its creators aimed for.  It’s not the promise of the Metaverse. It’s just a lot of people giving rein to one form or another of a basic human impulse: playing.” 

As a social worker & educator I am gratified to see the concept of play acknowledged as a basic human impulse.  In my opinion Play is one of our most devalued impulses.   Play tends to be thought of as ‘child’s play’ (on the devaluing of children – don’t get me started).  When I speak to others about the importance of play I find it often helps if we define it.  I see Play as the unstructured* exploration of our world AND our role in that world.  (*there is not the necessity of a predefined specific goal… while not mutually exclusive, just because it is a game doesn’t make it play.) In this sense children do have a lot to tell and show us about the value of play.  In the way they try on adult roles, navigate social boundaries and seek the pleasure of fulfillment in the act of exploration.  If you ask me children are our true scientists.   Yes the science of play… consider the following links.
In this light, it saddened me to read of the impending departure of two of Second Life’s most prominent artists (Feathers Boa & AM Radio).  Both going on to other areas of play I am sure, yet still leaving this one.
It was in this state of melancholy that I read sororNishi’s post from last Monday in which she discusses the mixed feelings we ‘veterans’ of Second Life rightly may have regarding our role in supporting new comers – should we be doing the work Linden Labs should be doing by...
...going down to the Arrival Hell and helping”… to rescue newbies… “…as they arrive, unprepared, into a pack of idiot griefers” ? 
Perhaps it is time for me to visit a ‘welcome’ area.

Reports from the my creative side – no pictures to post, but I have been enjoying continuing my reading about Web Design, thinking about user experiences and enjoying the problem solving process; mostly, this week has been about tuning up and validating the code on my single homepage.  (Tripping before walking before…). 

As for appreciating the creative efforts of others… I must say I found Bryn Oh’s Rusted Gears to be deeply moving and painfully beautiful.

With that bit of inspiration... Onward...

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