There’s an argument about Second Life which is as old as the platform itself: is it or isn’t it a game? The majority of active Second Life users most likely fall on the side of the line which says it is not a “game”, and I’d be among them for many and varied reasons. However, one thing that Second Life can be, is a platform for a wide range of games.
This is demonstrated in segment #39 of The Drax Files World Makers, which explores the work of content creator and designer of in-world games, Sergio Delacruz. However, in typical Draxtor style, there’s a hidden depth to this piece which makes it yet another fascinating exploration of the potentials and opportunities which are open to anyone engaging in Second Life.
When it comes to games, Sergio is the man behind Drone Wars (which I can remember playing back in 2009/10), a first-person shooter pitting players in combat against armed drones whilst attempting to locate and disarm a nuclear device. More recently, he has created Susan’s Diary, an immersive horror / mystery story players have to solve.
Like so many of us, he was drawn to Second Life out of curiosity, and was struck by the huge scope for creativity offered by the platform. “I was like a child with Lego,” he says of his early, sandbox-based days. However, and again like many of us, he quickly realised the potential of the platform for both creative expression and for learning new skills. Starting with a pair of primy sneakers, he progressed through teaching himself to script in LSL and onward into game design.
With the latter, he also recognised what is perhaps one of the more unique aspects in designing games within the platform: if the creator desires, they can be built so that people can play them using the avatar with which they are most comfortable with using, without the need to adopt a specific character and / or look, as is the way with console and computer games.
This is actually an important point. Because we can engage in games within Second Life using our avatarian familial, rather than being forced into the identity of a pre-defined character, it is possible to have a far more personal connection with the game – it becomes far more our adventure.
Second life also allows for a more open approach to games design and game play; designers can present games which are not necessarily constrained by a linear narrative, but become more of an exploration and discovery by the players, whether playing individually, or with a group of friends (something which further makes games in SL far more of a genuine social experience than those of other mediums can allow, again due to the limitations imposed by pre-determined characters, etc.).
The concept of “freedom” is perhaps where a good portion of the heart of this piece lies. At its core, Second Life is about giving anyone who uses it personal freedom and in a huge number of ways, be it through the creativity of actually making things, or through using the things other make to create an environment others can appreciate and enjoy, or through which we can find new ways and means to express ourselves through art, or through learning new skills. And of course, there is the freedom it gives us to express our personalities through our avatars and to socialise with others from all of the world in a huge variety of ways.
Of course, there’s a wide range of opportunities sitting around and between these examples, both within and beyond the platform. Nor are any of them mutually exclusive; most of us embrace two or more through our time in-world.
“In Second Life you are free,” Sergio says at the end of the piece. “Free without limits.” And that is perhaps the platform’s greatest gift to each of us.