Add The Atlantic to the list of web-IRL-zines that link MetaFilter July 15, 2014 11:35 PM   Subscribe

What Happens When Digital Cities Are Abandoned?
Exploring the pristine ruins of Second Life and other online spaces
LAURA E. HALLJUL 13 2014, 6:55 AM ET

Metafilter user procrastinator wrote, “Obvious quality of graphics and art design aside, the writing in this game was really top-notch and was one of the main reasons why players were so enthusiastic about it, I think. From the naming of things to the bubble dialogues, every single line of writing was a positively essential part of that gleeful experience.”
Thank you, Laura!
posted by Buttons Bellbottom to MetaFilter-Related at 11:35 PM (8 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

MeFi's own
posted by unliteral at 12:14 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

And linked. GOOD, GOOD.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:40 AM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Another compelling case is Active Worlds and its main environment, AlphaWorld. It's one of the most fascinating digital artifacts I've ever seen, and frustratingly unknown.

It's an older, more primitive service than Second Life, and while it saw a relative amount of success, its heyday was (impressively) in the mid-to-late nineties, when most people were just barely starting to get online, much less run shared 3D virtual environments.

Despite the active population crashing to the mere dozens today, the service somehow lingers on -- and it's free, too.

Exploring it is an incredibly weird experience. Unlike Second Life, AlphaWorld is a single vast, seamless space the size of California. You can wander for hours along the primary compass points and never run out of things to see. Everything is eerily pristine and strangely of its time. Because of its age -- most core settlements date to the Clinton administration -- there is a charming innocence and lack of self-awareness. No spam. No vulgarity. No bullshit. Everything was built by grade-schoolers, shy geeks, utopian early adopters, and the other kinds of hopeful, friendly, bright-eyed sorts that made up the early web. Like a digital Burning Man playa, trapped in amber.

You can find memorials for departed internet friends, Buddhist learning centers, proud villages built by groups of friends in middle school, gardens of animated .GIFs, sprawling forests and lakes built by anonymous people just because they made their world more beautiful. My favorite is a huge monorail system and tour guide built in 2010 that cuts through the heart of the core neighborhoods, complete with walled-in "ruins" of enigmatic designs built by the earliest, nameless beta users in 1994. It recalls the crumbling Roman Forum or the Great Pyramids, surrounded by a modern city (if that city were itself long abandoned).

I love to revisit it every once in awhile, and it would kill me to see it go away. I hope they figure out someway to make it compatible with Oculus Rift and make a killing getting people to rediscover their fascinating lost world.
posted by Rhaomi at 7:35 AM on July 16, 2014 [8 favorites]

Here is another, though unlinked, mention of MetaFilter from the same site, mentioning the $5 cover charge and community discussions on the topic of moderation.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 8:09 AM on July 16, 2014

The Second Life folks that my husband hangs out/plays music with are both excited and a little worried about the Oculus Rift thing. It's been a semi-forgotten place for a while now; they have a lot of real-life meetups and jams, their own internal media, and a lot of their community is made up of folks who are disabled and use SL as a way to move around a more accessible world/meet people. A lot of them have money troubles; fundraisers are frequent. Will they be able to afford the new OR hardware? Will they have to, if they want to stay in SL?
posted by emjaybee at 8:57 AM on July 16, 2014

Reminds me of a MUD I used to play,which is a text based game, so the environment is much more personalized by how you read and interpret it. None the less, when you logged in at the opposite of peak hours, and wandered around, from room to room, there was a sense of waiting. It wasn't an abandoned space or forgotten, but a space waiting to be enjoyed and interacted with, be it from simply being read by the visitor or that visitor peering around at the things in the room designed for interaction. It was very much like a book sitting on a shelf, waiting for you to return to the adventure within its pages.
posted by Atreides at 9:48 AM on July 16, 2014

this was a really great article... i wish it were FPP'd, but at least I got a chance to read it.

I grew up on the internet and it is still my home. I've always felt a very strong sense of loss or disconnect with my internet friends. They are great while they last but ultimately transient because I feel simultaneously that I get to know them better than in real life, and that I don't know them at all.

Some of my closest friends online, I get their usernames mixed up, you know? Or I'll think they're like this when they're actually like that.

Having a wonderful friend online is like reading a wonderful book, which eventually closes. You can go back and re-read the book but no more is written.
posted by rebent at 12:29 PM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nosredna still sends me a monthly email to remind me to log into LambdaMOO. Over the years, the prodding has gone from a threat of character reaping & object deletion, to non-primary alias removal & possible object transfer after 12 months, to non-primary alias removal & possible object transfer after 18 months. And no wonder:
The lag is low; there are 34 connected.
I remember when it was tenfold more! But all the existing objects still work (mostly), and when I log in I find myself wandering for hours through an eerie text-based ghost town, poking at the things others have left behind -- a whole imagined city's worth to explore -- and returning to my own half-finished programs in a language I no longer remember to make toys nobody but me will ever play with.

Yet even though it's not as lively as it once was, it's still worth exploring (not only as a relic of the early web), and at 23 years old, Lambda is ready for a whole new generation to discover. telnet 8888. Explore it as a guest, create a character, build things. It's kinda wonderful.
posted by Westringia F. at 9:02 AM on July 17, 2014

« Older MeFi GISHWHES Team?   |   "Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!" Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments