SL9B: end of an era?

Linden Lab have issued a call to help with SL9B celebrations, which reads in part:

Second Life’s 9th Birthday is coming up in June! This year it’s all about you — the denizens of the grid, the sultans of Second Life  and connoisseurs of creativity— and we want to highlight the many unique and innovative ways the community has made Second Life their own.

This year we will focus the spotlight on community events.  No one throws a better event or party than the Second Life community! If you’re having an event to celebrate Second Life turning nine, we want to know about it!

On the surface, this sounds great – until one realises that what is in fact being announced here is effectively the end of an era.

In previous years, Second life’s birthday has been marked through a coming-together of the community as a whole on a set of regions supplied by Linden Lab, to create a glorious theme park of builds and ideas created around a central theme, and in and around which parties and celebrations can be held. While not always free from controversy and acrimony, this approach provided a focal point for events and activities marking SL’s birthday, and helped to bring together residents from across the grid.

SL8B sims – not this year

Well, not any more.

Hidden within this announcement is the fact that this year there will be no large-scale provisioning of regions by LL; no central place to explore (lag and all) and see builds great and small and enjoy the thrill of celebration and discovery.

And this is a shame.

The SL8B events have traditionally been a marvellous way for the many talents and groups across SL to showcase their work, their talent and their vision. It’s hard to see how such an infinite diversity of ideas and vision can be replicated through a process of complete de-centralisation; one cannot imagine sim / estate owners  / groups developing large-scale builds specifically for SL9B, especially with so broad a theme as has been offered.

NY HealthScape roller coaster, SL8B – just one of the amazing and informative builds

I’ll personally miss the great gatherings like SL8B and its predecessors. I’ll miss the ability to wander through sim after sim of incredible builds, meeting talented content creators and designers and learning about the unique work of groups such as NY HealthScape.

Why LL have chosen to go this route is hard to fathom. Certainly, as mentioned above, previous SLB events haven’t been entirely free from controversy or headaches – but such upsets have rarely intruded into people’s overall enjoyment of the events themselves, and it is fair to say that where drama has occurred, it’s been somewhat confined to those involved, going largely unnoticed among those from across the grid who have attended events within the SLB sims and spent time exploring the exhibits.

As it stands, this announcement in some way reads less like a call for celebration and more like a renouncement of involvement in a key event in SL’s annual calendar.

And at the risk of repeating myself, that’s a shame.