There was a time when the words “Torley Linden” and “Second Life” were synonymous with one another. His was frequently the first Linden name and voice users would encounter on entering SL, where his weekly TuTORial and Tip of the Week videos were a much-loved and enjoyed Thursday event through the old (and vibrant) Second Life website.
While Torley has popped up in a couple of videos recently, his infectious enthusiasm, boundless love of Second Life and seemingly inexhaustible energy have been much in absence for well over a year now. It was thinking about this last night that brought me around to thinking about Torley island, always a much a mark of Torley’s personality as Torley himself, and a place I’ve not visited in at least three years – so I resolved to go and take a look today.
Torley is rare among the Lindens in that he still maintains a sizeable physical presence in SL even when absent it himself in the form of his island region, which is always open to the public, and frequently changing to reflect a whole range of influences on Torley himself.
The last time I visited, the island was an island, surrounded by water and with hills, rivers, trees and vivid colours – not just green and pink, but yellow and blue and red and orange and purple and … well, you get the point. Vivid and vivacious. Today, all that has gone, replaces by a decidedly “futuristic / sci-fi” approach which, while still undeniably “Torley”, seems to carry a strong subtext with it.
All the colours and vibrancy are still there, together with everything which is quintessentially Torley: the curios, the impish humour, the sense of fun. But – to me at least – it all seems somewhat subdued; perhaps it is just the impenetrable blackness surrounding the region which darkened my mood, although it does also seem to also cast a shadow across the region itself. There are also elements here which seem to at first poke gentle fun at the world at large and in keeping with the island’s subtitle of OMG! Cyberspace! Digital Frontier! – but which again seem to perhaps carry a deeper message.
Which is not to say the build is all doom and gloom – there is a lot to see and do and hear here. Torley is an accomplished musician and an immersionist, so having sound and media enable during a visit is a must. Down on the lowest level, where you arrive, there are bumper cars to be had – so visiting with friends can be fun. These appear to have guns mounted on one side of them (watermelon guns? :)), although if they are weapons, I totally failed to get mine to work – disabled? There are human-voiced musical instruments to poke out, and all manner of things large and small to see – and dodge.
Nevertheless, I have to say that throughout my roaming and pushing and prodding, I did find my visit a little somber. Torley’s infectious enthusiasm has been gone from videos and website for well over a year now, as mentioned above. It is hard to understand why; his ability to engage and inspire was already one of the great strengths Linden Lab had at their disposal. His videos were never anything less than a boon for people struggling to get to grips with SL and were perhaps a contributing factor in getting people to “stick” with Second Life and explore its capabilities and possibilities. Silencing him – assuming it was the result of a corporate decision – seems wholly counter-productive.
Even as subdued as it feels, a visit to Torley’s island, particularly for those of us who have been around a while, cannot help but raise a smile and roll back the memories. Bringing back his tuTORial and Tip of the Week videos may not bring hordes of people flooding in to Second Life – but given proper placement and promotion, they could do much to encourage people coming into SL to persevere in their efforts to get to grips with the viewer and everything else, and help people reach their “Eureka!” moments a lot sooner.
In short, they could help us all once again Amplify our Awesome.