Can it really be that November and its annual writing contest – National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo, as those of us in the know and keen to benefit from a 50% discount in syllables refer to it) – is once again nearly upon us? Yes it can. Can it really be that I am able once more to present a series of virtual reality novel plots based tenuously on the events in and out of Second Life over the last twelve months? Yes it can, because the steering wheel of life is a neverending series of unexpected events and, in this respect (and pretty much this respect only), 2016 has not failed to disappoint.
It starts off as an experiment, a cutting edge fusion of griefer and breedable technology. Disillusioned with the virtual world as a result of too many failed virtual marriages, mesh pet creator Fairy Festinger winds up drunk and depressed, and wondering the streets of Gaeta at the exact location and time of the annual Second Life Griefers’ Convention. Held in secret inside a half metre pine cube using miniature avatars, Fairy at first mistakes the gathering of delegates as escaped prototypes from her very own virtual insect collection. Upon realising their discovery, the convention organisers create a distraction by attacking the sim with an unceasing cascade of Jeremy Clarkson action figures and rush their keynote speaker to safety. In an instant, Fairy realises her destiny lies in filling the virtual world with pocket-sized artificial avatars which can only be seen and captured through the Lumiya viewer. A craze is born. Within hours, residents are venting angry impatience at the Pokeprims not yet being available on their continent. Within days, commentators the world over are using sarcastic Pokeprim references to make themselves look wise and wholesome. Within weeks, everyone’s sick of the whole thing and watching prank videos on YouTube is popular again.
Second Life: Civil War
Division is the new unification. Hatred is the new love. Fabrication is the new truth. Across the Second Life grid, long-term mainland residents start voicing their discontent when the privately owned continent of Schachter is shut down (following newspaper revelations that it’s being used by a multinational internet company as a tax-deductible offshore base of operations) and its citizens migrate to the traditional Linden lands. Land prices and rents go up. Events become overcrowded. The residents of Zindra form an independence party and start campaigning for the power to curb immigration. Eventually, a referendum is forced and Zindra breaks away from the rest of the Second Life grid. Free trade with content creators from residents living elsewhere comes to an end. The ‘Zindran Groat’ becomes the new official currency of the continent, which non-Zindrans immediately start referring to as the ‘Zindran Grope.’ Torley and Xiola Linden and all their mates have a massive punch-up at New Horizons Airport when 90 per cent of watermelons across the grid are deleted due to a previously overlooked texture copyright infringement claim. As SL slowly slides into obscurity, new CEO Ronald Fart promises that everything’s going to be so much better in the future that ‘better’ is going to need replacing with a new word because it’s just not going to be big enough to convey what’s going on. His first act is to build a wall around Sansara “to prevent it from getting any bigger,” effectively mistaking SL’s oldest continent as “this new product that everyone’s going on about.” Satori starts marketing itself as “SL’s new destination for erotic adventure” and a group of terrorists claiming allegiance to the People’s Republic of Zindra take out the Satori servers and their back-ups, effectively nuking the continent out of existence. Before twelve hours have passed and despite repeated protests from its government that they had no affiliation with the terrorists, Zindra also is no more. Fart declares war on OpenSim. The metaverse collapses. Everyone decides that maybe playing board games and doing jigsaw puzzles wasn’t such a bad way to spend the time after all.
Unbeknownst to everyone, Linden’s much lauded project to bring additional knuckles and toe joints to Second Life avatars is in reality a secret project to develop a real world bodysuit capable of live movement mapping into the metaverse. The ultimate objective: Second Life as the first ever virtual host of the Olympic Games. No-one can deny that Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016 were each a huge success; the world is now bankrupt, however, and a way has to be found whereby athletes can compete on the world stage without having to travel any further than their local race track (or, if that’s more than five miles away, a nearby cycle lane). Project T-bone is an instant hit with the Olympic committee, whose only other option had seemed to be to require competitors to eat and drink the products of corporate sponsors whilst taking part in races (swigging from bottles of sponsorship cola was one thing, but hundred metre runners were up in arms over the proposal that they make their way through a whole bucket of fried chicken between the start and finish lines). Thus the stage is set for ‘Second Life 2024.’ In the six month run-up to the event there are the usual collection of pre-games scandals – the state of the athletes’ accommodation is heavily criticised by the press for its meagre fifteen prim rezzing allowance and the Russian competitors are almost banned when it emerges they’ve been using textures for their avatars that exceed the 2048 x 2048 pixels maximum – but the games launch on time in a spectacular opening ceremony that includes Snow Crash author Neal Stephenson swooping into the olympic stadium in a phoenix avatar (a promotional deal with Firestorm) to light the olympic cauldron. Everything appears to be going to plan but then disaster strikes when Team Sky choose the hard shoulder of the M25 as their cycletrack but forget to give their cyclists the correct change for the Dartford toll.
I am Elliot Resident, a loner, a thinker, a hacker, a dreamer, an employee, an outcast, a man of action, a creature of impossible ideas, a four year old avatar and the brains behind the most audacious plot ever conceived within Second Life to wipe out all permission restrictions on Marketplace items and at the same time delete those mailing lists you once signed up to thinking it was a good idea because it saved you having to join another group. Freedom. Freedom from slavery to the system. My plan is to encrypt all the databases and throw away the key, and to do this I need to install a modified Raspberry Pi behind a Dyson hand drier in some toilets I’m not supposed to be in. What do you make of that, silent reader who knows all my thoughts but never says anything? I am Mr Copybot. Mr Copybot is my father. My father is dead. We are F Metaverse. Are you following this? You’d better keep up, because in the sequel things will start to get complicated.