I may as well do this now, since I had a dream last night which probably came from Second Life. I won’t go into the details (it involved an escape from a grey, office-like building on broomsticks – the symbolism of which is too obvious to discuss, and probably I share too much even there).
But it got me back to thinking about Second Life, which is like a dream. Sometimes it resembles a dream only in that the glitches and wayward animations cause it to resemble the fractured, twisted version of reality we experience in our sleep. Walking through walls, wandering haphazardly through still, weightless oceans and watching the landscape resolve slowly out of the mist all combine to disjoint the smoothly consistent world Linden Labs have created for us. Sometimes frustratingly, sometimes hilariously, sometimes just plain bafflingly.
But it’s the intentionally unreal elements which really make it a dream. One can walk across open ground – in a manner of one’s choosing, once you have mastered animation replacement – and, at a whim, bound into the air and stay there. Hovering. Then push forward and you’re flying. It’s an immense feeling of freedom. Gravity is suddenly optional, effortless flight simply another way to get around – in fact, one of the best ways to get around. It beats walking, and cars need roads. It’s a dream we’ve all had at some point, I’m sure. It’s reached the point of cliche, but its integration into Second Life reinvigorates it, infuses it with some of the simple joy of unconscious wish-granting.
Getting long now, so I won’t go too much into teleportation. The black screen, the whizzing, thumping background noises, the sudden arrival – unruffled, with no jet lag – at a new location… I think it’s obvious how this mimics the jerky narrative jump-cuts of dream stories. It’s like dozing your way through several scenarios; will you open your eyes and see a rolling landscape of trees and fireflies or will it be a writhing mass of simulated humanity? You know, because you choose your location, but you don’t know. You can’t count on anything. It’s a dream.