PC Gamer unboxes Second Life

Strawberry Singh, 2014, on FlickrOne of my favourite self-portraits by Berry, from 2014 (Flickr)

Second Life is a virtual world with an infamous reputation. If you’ve never played, you may only be familiar with the tales of kinky sex rooms and the YouTubers who troll the locals for a cheap laugh. But Second Life is so much more than that—a point driven home after I spent a whole evening reading a Second Life beauty blog.

So opens Second Life’s makeup unboxing videos are surreal and wonderful, by Steven Messner, writing for PC Gamer. It’s a refreshing look at the platform through the eyes of someone who may well have been aware of the SL’s reputation, but may not have spent much (if any) time in-world himself – and it makes for a pleasing read.

Steven Messner

The focus – as can be gleaned from the title of the piece – is Berry’s popular unboxing videos. These are actually a clever way of offering non-SL users an alternative point-of-view on the platform simply because, as Mr. Messner points out, unboxing events do permeate modern consumer culture. Hence, it’s a neat hook on which to hang a look at Second Life as seen through the eyes of a knowledgeable, empathic ambassador for the platform, and Mr Messner wisely allows Berry’s own words frame the important aspects of the exchange – the attraction of the platform as a social medium, as a mean for personal growth, and as a powerful means of personal and creative expression.

It is in the latter regard that the article particularly frames things, with Berry correctly pointing out that the pseudonymous nature of Second Life is a powerful enabler. Not only does it provide us with a means of being fully engaged in the platform and with one another whilst keeping whatever comfortable separation we feel we need between our digital and physical lives, it also allows us to enjoy a much wider canvas for creative expression if we so wish – video, photography, etc., utilising platforms such as YouTube and Flickr. It also allows use, if we wish to present our art and creativity to the physical world through our digital personas, as the likes of Toysoldier Thor and Bryn Oh have done.

As Berry also points out, this freedom can also something of a two-edged sword; frustration can be born out of a desire of wanting to more fully reveal oneself whilst knowing circumstance, the attitude of friends, the potential reaction (which is somewhat born out by some of the comments which follow the article), do much to push one away from doing so as much as any concerns vis career, etc.

The other attractive aspect of the article is Mr. Messner’s own approach. He writes frankly and openly, without any lean towards personal bias of the subject matter or need to add any snide pokes at the platform – a trait not always apparent in pieces about Second Life, even when well-intentioned. It’s also clear he’s come aware from his conversations with Berry with a new awareness and – dare I say – respect for the platform:

My conversation with Berry has given me a rare glimpse into a world that is often negatively branded as bizarre. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll find a community of artists and creators who have banded together to share and celebrate each other. It’s not something you see in other massively multi-player games, but it’s something I wish there is more of. It makes me a bit sad, then, that Second Life will always be labelled by its strip joints and sex clubs. As Berry tells me, “That’s just not what Second Life is about, there’s so much more you can do here.”

All told, a nicely written piece which makes a very worthwhile read – so do please follow the link at the top of this article and see for yourself, if you haven’t already. Kudos, Berry and Steven.

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Red balloons in the wood

DiXmiX Gallery: Red Balloons In The Wood

Now open at DiXmiX Gallery, is Red Balloons in the Wood, an exhibition of work by the gallery’s owner, Dixmix Source. The byline for the exhibition reads simply, when unusual avatars are wandering in the forest, and it comprises seventeen woodland scenes, each of which, in keeping with the title and the byline, feature both red balloons and an avatar.

This is a hauntingly beautiful collection, featuring some marvellous pieces, each with a story to tell – or at least suggested; quite what it might be is down to the person seeing these pictures, which range from what might be considered a “simple” capture of a horse (Horse Walk) through the pieces of fantasy (So Trees Have Gender; Cute Elf Was There Too) to some with a darker edge, despite the title (Every Way Is A Good Way, When it’s the right Time), to others with a more erotic edge.

DiXmiX Gallery: Red Balloons In The Wood

Adding to the atmosphere of the exhibit is the use of denuded saplings and trees, some with the signature red balloon tied to them. These add to the feeling of being in a woodland setting, such that with camming, some of the images can be seen through the bare branches, extending the sense of presence within the pictures. At the same time, the soft tones used within the pictures contrast powerfully with the red balloons. The latter serve to draw the eyes to them after initially taking in the broad essence of a picture, before the eyes are drawn back to the canvas as a whole, and the story it contains.

All told, this is a masterpiece collection of the artist’s talent, one well worth visiting; and while there, do be sure to enjoy the exhibitions by Lam Erin and Tintin Tuxing, both of which are due to be coming to the end of their run (and you can also read about them here).

DiXmiX Gallery: Red Balloons In The Woods

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