Second Life

[HMDS] The Island Takes Shape 

After a week, the Magicians were ready to show me some of the final versions of objects that would be featured throughout the essay contest. The contest essentially would be a series of activities, discovered through exploration, talking youth from a talking rock, to an Earth Throne that quizzed them on digital media issues, to a talking tree, and down into the volcano itself where they pat the bat, touch a crystal, and get this beautifully designed iguana.

During the activities various incentives are given, like the Global Kids t-shirt, a decoder ring, and more. This is all in the service of the Global Kids Digital Media Essay Contest. Each valid entry gets the applicant $2,500L, with a chance to win up to $200 US.

Over here I am meeting some of the talking objects for the first time. To the left is the globe that will rise from the lake when a teen sits on the Earth Throne. In the background, you can see the terraformed volcano beginning to take shape. To the right is the flowing lava that will be placed on the volcano.

[HMDS] A Day at Democracy Island 

While the island was still under construction, I was invited to participate in a gathering in San Diego organized by the University of Wisconsin, sponsored by the Spencer Foundation, to develop a white paper about games and learning. It was a real honor to be in a room with such accomplished and cool people and learn what I might have to offer.

As chance would have it, Democracy Island was holding an all day event at the same time, which I did not want to miss. I would visit just long enough to capture a text log of the presentations. Ironically, one of the people with me in San Diego was Cory Ondrejka, SL?s VP of Product Development. As he presented Second Life on his computer, projected on the overhead, I tagged along, from my own machine, occasionally waving to the room and saying ?Hi!?

Democracy Island is an interesting concept. They describe themselves as, ?Offering government entities, interest groups, and SL residents a space for conducting citizen consultation. ?

[HMDS] The Value of Play 

Combining my Magic Wand with other objects and activities was teaching me a deeper understanding of play in Second Life.

For example, Rhiannon met me on empty GK Island, produced a car, got in the driver?s seat, and, with me by her side, off we flew (it was a rather special car). As she drove us around the island I tried to thwart her with my wand, tossing objects in her path - elephants, lightening bolts, columns of fire, falling explosives, metal cages and more.

I knew it was all just animation on my screen, but the embodied nature of the experience, and the playful competition of pitting my mind against hers, was a blast.

In this photo, we experimented with ?rezzing? as many objects as we could with my wand before crashing the server.

As you might have noticed, I wasn?t finding much time to explore the adult grid. When I did, I was always surprised by what I found.

[HMDS] The Work of the Magicians 

The proposal from Kim?s team, now calling itself The Magicians, was excellent. They took our rough ideas, which bore no relationship to life in SL, and took it to places I could not have imagined. The work that lay ahead was thrilling, not only in its conception but in its tight two week timeframe.

However, there was more to be done than I realized. Many organizations have build islands within Second Life, but only in the adult grid, or for their own use. Global Kids would become the first organization to build an island for teens in Second Life; without being able to visit the space, the challenges presented to the Magicians were considerable.

We gathered on the undeveloped island to meet with Blue and Brent Linden to ask questions few had ever had need to ask. These would eventually be answered. The problems, however, lay with the ones no one knew to ask.

[HMDS] First Meeting 

I was so excited to hold the brainstorming meeting. I prepared note cards in advance, so I could provided background information all at once, and used the Groups Voting tool to announce the meeting (a little bit of a cheat, but it?s all we are offered). I said it was B.Y.O.C. (bring your own chair).

A number of people came but, to my surprise, they were all from Kim?s team. It was clear to me I had found what I was looking for. If I recall properly, Gus on the left did terraforming, Alex on the right did scripting, Wynx next to him sculpted creatures, and Kim designed and managed them all.

I described the project, explained my (to me) outrageous idea of the essay contest living inside a giant volcano, and not being able to enter it until you took some quiz by a globe that rises out of a lake. They didn?t flinch, added their own crazy ideas, and promised me a proposal within the week.

While waiting for the proposal, Blue prepared me for what lay ahead. In part that meant learning more about the two grids. What would happen to my 17 year-old students when they turned 18? Would they just get the boot?

[HMDS] A New Sim and a New Me 

Before I left for the holidays, my request was submitted to create Global Kids Island.

We needed an island since upon completion the entire mass would be transported to the teen grid. And since it was being constructed by adults it needed to be made in the main grid. Or so we thought.

I selected one of a number of generic island shapes - a lake circled by a mountain range.

After Blue Linden created the island, Harry, here as a warthog, helped me get started. I added a circular landing pad, branded with the Global Kids logo, and we were ready to build. All we needed was a team.

In a few days our open meeting of Global Kids allies would be held on a floating glass platform above the lake.

I had no idea who would show up. In the meantime, as I wanted to learn what they were capable of, I hired Kim and her team to do two things for me. The first was to create a Global Kids t-shirt. I was not yet sure how we would use it, but I knew it would come in handy.

[HMDS] Getting Funding and Finding a Team 

We finally got the funding we wanted from the MacArthur Foundation! We can now run the Global Kids' Digital Media Initiatives, an essay contest on digital media in the teen grid.

What did that mean? It was time to buy an island! Linden Labs introduced me to Blue, seen here as a cat (a "furry"). Blue showed me around the teen grid, eerily empty as it was closed during school hours. I saw a teen-run mall, making a profit.

Blue runs the teen grid. He would become my liaison and, over the holiday, take us through the process of setting up our new Global Kids Island, built first in the main grid, then moved to the teen grid for the February launch. In the meantime, he gave me some cool flotation devices and we tried them out.

I learned Linden was holding a holiday festival. Residents temporarily received land to build something, to give back to the community. What a perfect opportunity - creative, motivated individuals showing off their work. Time to shop for a team!

I arrived and teleported to the region. I got a new t-shirt, ice-skates, and an amazing snowball thrower. I put on a snowboard, flew up a mountain, and swooshed down. For each item, I could click to learn it's creators and send them an IM.

[HMDS] A New Home 

Having one home under my belt, I was ready to build a larger property for Global Kids, to challenge me to take my SL learning to the next level.

I decided to keep it as airy as possible, as for before. It meant I had to trust my neighbors, as their design would directly affect my own. I quickly doubled the plot, buying the adjacent land.

Everything would be close to the water. I began by taking a standard pier and repeating it over and over. Then I bought a diving board and a floatation device. It was the beginning.

I thought you acquired something in SL by either building or buying it. I had yet to understand Second Life's third way.

I met BigRick and Enchtris, my neighbors. They had a home next door and a new mall not far from that. Sure, they were concerned that their neighbors consider some basic uniform zoning guidelines, to maintain our region, but they sincerely wanted to help me out.

They gave me free piers I could play with and a modifiable teleportation device. They were always free with their time when I had a technical question. Their boundless generosity was striking, and these two would turn out to be the norm. People in SL love to share - their objects, their advice, and their skills.

[HMDS] My arrival to Second Life 

When I first arrived in Second Life, I decided I needed to buy some land and build.

I randomly chose a spot that did not cost more than $20US, taught myself to "terraform" the land to create this tower of earth, and learned how to make those brown platforms, then bought furniture and the waterfalls.

I liked all the air. I pad no attention to the land around me. It was a small accomplishment, but I was proud.

Little did I know what a mistake I had made.

I set up the platforms so that when you walked he edge you landed on the one below it. I also arranged a couch so two could view the water portal.

However, I had a surprise when I flew around looking for neighbors to show my new land. The first couple I found was having sex. The second was in the midst of a domination scene.

Once I found some avatars clothed somewhat like myself, they taught me my first SL lesson: most areas in Second Life are rated "me" for mature. I needed property in a "PG" region. But first before I sold it, I wanted to show off my work...