The Drax Files 23: it’s all about empowerment

The 23rd video instalment of the Drax Files: World Makers series turns the spotlight onto Loz Hyde of Meshworx fame, and the designer of the iconic pier setting for The Arcade – a design based on England’s Brighton pier.

This is another fascinating look at the appeal of Second Life which comes with a unique perspective: in the physical world, Loz is a visual effects creator working in the US entertainments industry, and he’s worked on some pretty major movies in his time – 2012, Terminator Salvation, and Guardians of the Galaxy – as well as providing VFx for commercials, etc.,  yet he’s at least as engaged in SL as he is in his work for films, etc., if not more so.

“Coming into Second Life, I realised [that] here, I could create an entire world with real people in it. That really got me,” he says early on in the piece, before going on to encapsulate the magic of creativity and sharing in Second Life in a few simple, but powerful statements.

As a creator, commerce in SL is obviously of interest to Loz, and this gets a good amount of exposure through the conversation, with Drax underlining the potential for people to generate a revenue stream through the platform and Loz talking about some of the broader aspects of commerce in SL – notably it’s 24/7 nature and the nigh-on unlimited availability of goods.

Loz's iconic The Arcade pier under development in Maya
Loz’s iconic The Arcade pier under development in Maya (image: Loz Hyde / The Drax Files)

It is around the mid-point in the segment, however that  – for those of us familiar with SL at least – that things kick-up a notch, as we enter into Loz’s physical world, seeing him out and about in Los Angeles, camera in hand, and witness how it melds with his in-world creativity back at his studio.

“For me, creating a mood is really important,” he says of his approach to his work. “Taking reality, and what is there, and bringing it into Second Life is an organic process that take time to do. It takes me a month to do one building,” he says.

Clearly, as someone engaged in the VFx industry, where attention to detail is critic in creating an effective illusion that’s going to be projected onto a huge screen were even the smallest imperfection will be hugely magnified, potentially shattering the magic, attention to detail is bound to be a focus for Loz; but there is something more here. Listening to him talk about his work, you can’t fail but hear his passion and enthusiasm for the platform – and perhaps something else as well, an unabashed awe with the idea that one platform can offer so much. “I changed my career into 3D at the age of 40,” he says, pointing to another aspect of the magic of digital creation. “If I can do it at the age of 40, I think anyone can do it.”

Loz Hyde at work in the physical world
Loz Hyde at work in the physical world (image via The Drax Files)

But it’s not all about the content creation or the commercial opportunities; far from it. “People have tried to analyse why Second Life is so successful,” Loz observes. “There’s the environments themselves, and then there’s the people inside the environments, and I think I’m more deeply touched by the people. In Second Life, you get to know people from the inside out. There’s this protective layer that allows a more intimate relationship right from the start. you tend to focus more on stuff that really matters.”

There’s a fair chance that these observations will draw comments and finger-pointing at the likes of Facebook and their determination to focus on wallet identities for their users. However, such comments, if made, are really by-the-by in this context. Loz’s views are clear-cut and strike the nail on the head: Second Life in and of itself is a place where people are  – to use his words – more open to being open.

Whether this is a result of the anonymity presented to users of the platform or whether it is driven out of our self-identification with the avatars we create, or whether it is a combination of the two in whatever measure, is really irrelevant; it is the fact that Second Life does lead people in that direction, allowing them to express more of themselves in a positive, honest way that is important. That’s the very special magic of Second Life, and it is something that isn’t, as Loz again rightly points out, dependent upon having special gadgets.

This entire piece is about empowerment and – whether it be through creativity, running a business or in opening ourselves to others within the virtual domain – the ability of Second life to present ways and means for each of us to be positively empowered. This is perhaps the biggest thing detractors of the platform don’t get about it. Which is a shame, because as Loz notes at the end of the video, “If people on the outside could really see what is possible in Second Life, there would be a lot more people doing it.”