It is doing so using its social VR game Sansar and one aspect of that is creating a home for live music events.
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Monstercat: Call of the Wild Experience is a VR space where the music label will host artist meet and greets, giveaways, and more. Afterwards, I got to jump in the crowd, talk and interact with people and feel their excitement, which are some of my favorite things to do after my shows! Monstercat is no stranger to video games.
S econd Life was invented by a man named Philip Rosedale, the son of a U. Navy carrier pilot and an English teacher. As a boy, he was driven by an outsize sense of ambition.
It was never just a game.
In , just as Rosedale was starting Linden Lab, he attended Burning Man, the annual festival of performance art, sculptural installations, and hallucinogenic hedonism in the middle of the Nevada desert. This was the dream, but it was a hard sell for early investors. Linden Lab was proposing a world built by amateurs, and sustained by a different kind of revenue model—based not on paid subscriptions, but on commerce generated in-world.
Rosedale loved to explore Second Life as an avatar named Philip Linden. A lice Krueger first started noticing the symptoms of her illness when she was 20 years old.
During fieldwork for a college biology class, crouching down to watch bugs eating leaves, she felt overwhelmed by heat. Standing in the grocery store, she noticed that it felt as if her entire left leg had disappeared—not just gone numb, but disappeared. Whenever she went to a doctor, she was told it was all in her head. Alice was finally diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of By then she could barely walk. Her neighborhood association in Colorado prohibited her from building a ramp at the front of her house, so it was difficult for her to go anywhere.
Her three children were 11, 13, and She started suffering intense pain in her lower back and eventually had to have surgery to repair spinal vertebrae that had fused together, then ended up getting multidrug-resistant staph from her time in the hospital.
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At the age of 57, Alice found herself housebound and unemployed, often in excruciating pain, largely cared for by her daughter. She created an avatar named Gentle Heron, and loved seeking out waterslides—excited by the sheer thrill of doing what her body could not. What unites its members, Alice told me, is their sense of not being fully included in the world.
After our first conversation, she sent me 15 peer-reviewed scientific articles about digital avatars and embodiment. Alice told me about a man with Down syndrome who has become an important member of the Virtual Ability community. In the offline world, he lives with his parents—who were surprised to see he was capable of controlling his own avatar. After they eat dinner each night, as his parents are washing the dishes, he sits expectantly by the computer, waiting to return to Second Life, where he rents a duplex on an island called Cape Heron, part of the Virtual Ability archipelago.
He has turned the entire upper level into a massive aquarium, so he can walk among the fish, and the lower level into a garden, where he keeps a pet reindeer and feeds it Cheerios. W hen I initially envisioned writing this essay, I imagined falling under the thrall of Second Life: a wide-eyed observer seduced by the culture she had been dispatched to analyze. But instead I found myself wanting to write, Second Life makes me want to take a shower. Intellectually, my respect deepened by the day, when I learned about a Middle Eastern woman who could move through the world of Second Life without a hijab, and when I talked with a legally blind woman whose avatar has a rooftop balcony and who could see the view from it thanks to screen magnification more clearly than the world beyond her screen.
I heard about a veteran with PTSD who gave biweekly Italian cooking classes in an open-air gazebo, and I visited an online version of Yosemite created by a woman who had joined Second Life in the wake of several severe depressive episodes and hospitalizations. But despite my growing appreciation, and my fantasies of enchantment, a certain visceral distaste for Second Life endured—for the emptiness of its graphics, its nightclubs and mansions and pools and castles, their refusal of all the grit and imperfection that make the world feel like the world.
Whenever I tried to describe Second Life, I found it nearly impossible—or at least impossible to make interesting—because description finds its traction in flaws and fissures, and exploring the world of Second Life was more like moving through postcards. Nothing was ragged or broken or dilapidated—or if it was dilapidated, it was because that particular aesthetic had been chosen from a series of prefab choices.
Of course, my aversion to Second Life—as well as my embrace of flaw and imperfection in the physical world—testified to my own good fortune as much as anything. When I move through the real world, I am buffered by my relative youth, my relative health, and my relative freedom.
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One day when Alice and I met up as avatars, she took me to a beach on one of the Virtual Ability islands and invited me to practice tai chi. All I needed to do was click on one of the poseballs levitating in the middle of a grassy circle, and it would automatically animate my avatar.
But I did not feel that I was doing tai chi. I felt that I was sitting at my laptop, watching my two-dimensional avatar do tai chi. I thought of Bridgette in Atlanta, waking up early to sit beside a virtual pool. And yet Bridgette must get something powerful from sitting beside a virtual pool—pleasure that dwells not in the physical experience itself but in the anticipation, the documentation, the recollection, and the contrast to her daily obligations.
F rom the beginning, I was terrible at navigating Second Life. Body part failed to download , my interface kept saying. On my first day in-world, I wandered around Orientation Island like a drunk person trying to find a bathroom. The island was full of marble columns and trim greenery, with a faint soundtrack of gurgling water, but it looked less like a Delphic temple and more like a corporate retreat center inspired by a Delphic temple.
The graphics seemed incomplete and uncompelling, the motion full of glitches and lags. I tried to talk to someone named Del Agnos, but got nothing. I felt surprisingly ashamed by his rebuff, transported back to the paralyzing shyness of my junior-high-school days. But I was trying to do too many things at once that afternoon: reply to 16 dangling work emails, make my stepdaughter a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich before her final rehearsal for a production of Peter Pan. With my jam-sticky fingers, I clicked on a dance poseball and started a conga line—except no one joined my conga line; it just got me stuck between a potted plant and the stage, trying to conga and going nowhere.
My embarrassment—more than any sense of having fun—was what made me feel implicated and engaged, aware that I was sharing the world with others. Each time I signed off Second Life, I was eager to plunge back into the obligations of my ordinary life: Pick up my stepdaughter from drama class? Reply to my department chair about hiring a replacement for the faculty member taking an unexpected leave?
I was on it! These obligations felt real in a way that Second Life did not, and they allowed me to inhabit a particular version of myself as someone capable and necessary. It felt like returning to the air after struggling to find my breath underwater. I came up gasping, desperate, ready for entanglement and contact, ready to say: Yes!
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This is the real world! In all its vexed logistical glory! When I spoke with users, however, the stubborn inaccessibility of Second Life seemed to have become a crucial part of their narratives as Second Life residents. They looked back on their early embarrassment with nostalgia. She called this a classic SecondLifeProblem.
I knew what she meant. If it feels like you are back in junior high school, then at least it feels like you are somewhere. It presents you with a world, and it lets you to your own devices, tutorial be damned.
The hero of Snow Crash , aptly named Hiro Protagonist, lives with his roommate in a U-Stor-It unit, but in the Metaverse he is a sword-fighting prince and a legendary hacker. Many residents of Second Life understand it as a utopia connecting people from all over the world—across income levels, across disparate vocations and geographies and disabilities, a place where the ill can live in healthy bodies and the immobilized can move freely.
Because for once, I can pass. Sara Skinner, an African American woman who has always given her avatars skin tones similar to her own, told me the story of trying to build a digital black-history museum in a seaside town called Bay City. Another avatar playing a cop immediately built walls and, eventually, a courthouse that blocked the museum from view. Au told me that initially he was deeply excited by the premise of Second Life, particularly the possibilities of its user-generated content, but that most people turned out to be less interested in exercising the limits of their creative potential than in becoming consumers of a young, sexy, rich world, clubbing like somethings with infinite money.
Rosedale told me he thought the landscape of Second Life would be hyper-fantastic, artistic and insane, full of spaceships and bizarre topographies, but what ended up emerging looked more like Malibu. People were building mansions and Ferraris. They came to Second Life for what their physical lives lacked: the concentration, density, and connective potential of urban spaces; the sense of things happening all around them; the possibility of being part of that happening.
J onas Tancred first joined Second Life in , after his corporate-headhunting company folded during the recession. Subscribe to the new agenda and lead the way in business and beyond. Sign in. Become an FT subscriber to read: Giving old tech a second life Explore the new agenda We live in a time of disruption but where others see difficulty, we see opportunity - not just to survive but to thrive.
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