An announcement has been made by Linden Lab that this year’s Second Life Birthday celebrations are all about the community – and that the focus will be on the community events that residents throw in their own communities.
In one sense, this makes good sense. Every year that I can remember, the Second Life Birthday celebrations have been attended by acrimony or rows. There are always arguments about what constitutes adult, or advertising or one of numerous other issues that sours the run-up to the event and even, sometimes, the event itself. At least this year we are spared the sight of people declaring that they are withdrawing their support – there’s going to be nothing, really, to withdraw their support from.
We’re also spared the cringe-making sight of Lindens being forced to mingle with the community – clearly drawing the short straw and having to appear before the mob and make bright little speeches. There are still Lindens who enjoy being out and about in the community – although many of those have left the Lab now. But they are not necessarily the ones who have to appear at the Birthday celebrations and even when appearing as an avatar, there’s a vast difference between hanging and chatting with friends, and giving a public address to a hundred or so people – especially when all you have on the speech card is platitudes.
But there are huge losses too. For one thing, the Birthday was the opportunity for ordinary residents to share their creativity with the wider grid. As you wandered around, you’d find small parcels with the most fascinating creations – made by people who would never have the opportunity to display their work elsewhere to a wider audience. Cheek by jowl with the well-known names, there would be something fresh, unusual, surprising – and frequently great fun.
I made discoveries too – who knew you could play golf in Second Life? Well, presumably large communities of golfers. But I didn’t know … nor did I know about the Chang High sisters before they blew me away with their performance in one of the main venues at last year’s Birthday celebrations – and then I resolved we had to have them on Designing Worlds. And then there was the Japanese marching band I found on the deck o0f an ocean liner, their act a gesture of thanks to people who had supported Japan through the terrible tsunami and its aftermath.
And it was free – every other event now in Second Life, you have to pay to be a part of. The great Fairs and Expos are either charitable or commercial ventures; even Burn 2 now charges its exhibitors (apart from those specially invited to display). But you could apply for a plot at the Birthday celebrations and all you needed was a compelling idea.
And there were the great builds. The centres of the events – music stages, great gathering venues that occupied four sims for maximum attendance. There have been sme stunning builds – and a huge amount of diversity. Remember Prad Prithivi’s futuristic space craft and domes at SL6B? Or Paige Raven’s great Country Fair style music venue at SL8B?
So this year, the events are to be staged within the communities. I’m not sure we’ll see great builds especially for the Birthday – following the Linden lead, I suspect that – without encouragement – most people will hold a birthday party where they already are. And the chance for people to come together, to find new things unexpectedly next to each other – that will be gone.
So too, of course, will the rows.
Except, probably, the one about the fact that there isn’t going to be a central birthday event this year.