Thursday, 7 January 2010

Journey into the Metaverse

It must be 10 years or more now since I started using the internet, probably a little longer since I can't remember now how I got started. I think I saw it demonstrated in a mall. But, whatever, something prompted me and I signed on with AOL using my old Win95 PC. I do remember in those days you had to pay for every minute online so I didn't use it much and too often I couldn't get a page downloaded even when I did surf the web. But, eventually, I did find something I really wanted to use but for the cost of being online too long. Yahoo chat rooms.

I am a social animal so I quickly found myself wandering around the various chat rooms making friends and generally having a little fun gossiping and hurling abuse at trolls that never seemed to say anything but "ASL" (Age, sex and location for the un-initiated). My ignore list grew rapidly.

Soon enough I had made a social network but something was missing while all the time I was actually practicing exactly what it was that was missing from my experience. Role play.

In lots of ways I was role playing and generally being silly but at the time I didn't see it as role play. I saw it more as light fun and doing something while saying something. I might have picked up a rock and aimed it at some trolls head just before he got the iggy from me. I might have entered the chat room and pounced some friend or emoted hugging them. So there was lots of ways I was role playing but it was not exactly a game; not a role play game with a back story to it and rules that is, but I was acting out what I was imagining doing while I spoke to people. And, in that sense, I was already travelling in the Metaverse.

For quite some time I remained in Yahoo chat and eventually looked at the Arts and Entertainment rooms where I discovered 'real' role play going on. Indeed, there were many user rooms titled with such names as the 'Scarlet tavern', 'Golden Dragon's lair' and some more sexually orientated rooms like the 'Slave Auction.' Well I checked it all out of course. How could I resist?

What I had discovered was 'Aynee' (an abbreviation on Arts & Entertainment). It was incredibly popular with a huge number of chatters and I, with my vivid imagination, could experience the atmosphere of the rooms from some of the brilliant descriptions chatters added to their stories. I really did have a sense of being there in the setting. There were Elfs and Drow, Vampires and Werewolves. Pixies and Wizards. I was lost in a fantasy world of the most incredible make believe.

Eventually, I was drawn to the Adult rooms in another section of Yahoo and discovered Gor and BDSM. Well, I was not turned on in the least by BDSM and some of the rooms I did find really quite disgusting. But there were rooms that actually should perhaps have been in Aynee since they were much more given to wide rage of role play scenarios. Gor can be seen as BDSM but it is based on the SFI books written by John Norman about a fantasy world on the other side of the sun and never seen from Earth because it moves round the sun at the same speed as Earth. Well, the basic story is that Aliens abduct young girls from Earth and take them back to Gor where the aliens permit human Earthlings to live out their lives in a backward culture where survival of the fittest is all that counts. It is a male dominated world where women are seen as slaves just by virtue of their gender. You would read that those women that are free, are so because the men allow it and it is too easy for a woman to lose her freedom for any number of reasons.

I ventured to Gor and very soon I was captured and made a slave, or Kajira, as they are called (Yes, Gor has its own language drawn from the books). But the reason I cite Gor is that it has a rather beautiful side to it's culture. The settings or cities are always incredibly exotic with beautiful architecture and gardens. The Goreans call their homes and, indeed, their cities, Homestones. So it was that I found myself in a chat room of a group of Gorean males which we called Master,,, always Master, and suffered assorted punishments for the most minor breaches of slave etiquette. I guess I discovered the submissive in me at that time yet I can't deny how intrigued I was. The posting and descriptions were really quite exceptional. Anyone that has read the text of a Kajira dancing for her Master will know what I mean.

But I also played other roles as I gradually learned how to role play and this continued for a year or two until I discovered 3d chat rooms like 'Active Worlds.' Naturally I had to try it and it was my next step into the Metaverse. Now it was not just words and descriptions but actual immersion into a 3d environment. I had an avatar to represent myself and wandered around blocky landscapes and equally blocky buildings that seemed to take forever to load into my screen. Blocky it might of been but I was addicted to it.

In time I got DSL and a better computer with win98 which improved the experience no end and then I discovered Second Life which my graphics card couldn't handle very well. I upgraded but it was still hopelessly poor and yet I knew something was there for me that I really wanted. I had been reading Necromancer by William Gibson and had a hankering to play cyberpunk so there was no way out. I had to get a new PC with XP and a decent graphics card.

Now I was really on the path to the Metaverse. I have to say though, I didn't find much Cyberpunk, least not in the way I imagined it. It had moved on and become Steampunk but I did find Gor was already well established in Second Life. I was drawn to it of course because their world was exactly what I expected, harsh, exotic and highly active. And I knew Gor well so it was a good starting place for my role play.

In time I learned to make clothes and even build. I even learned to script so I spent a lot of time in SL and probably spent far too much money. But, you can't get enough of what you really enjoy so, for me, it was worth it even if Linden Labs rightly deserves the name of money grabbing profiteers that has very poor customer service and charges the earth for what is, after all, a hosting service that, in any other sphere or activity, would cost you much less. But Second Life was and still is a captive market since they have a well developed economy, huge content and massive traffic. Indeed, SL is a virtual monopoly.

I have been in SL for over three years now and I guess I know it as well as most and better than many. I don't think I am or could ever be tired of it but new things are on the horizon and as I take my first steps into the expanding Metaverse I want to write about it and take others with me on my journey. I will learn as I go and what I learn I will pass on in these pages. I don't intend to get all techie either. That's not my way. I will write about my role play experiences just as much as my discoveries in the Metaverse. I want to let my imagination run riot and absorb everything that will fire it. I will write about the means as well as the experience.

So, fellow travellers, come let us venture into the Metaverse.