That is almost all that remains of my early days of 3d modeling and virtual reality chat worlds. A google search on “Myrth” (my old username) and “ActiveWorlds” will reveal several pages of where my hands dipped into the cyberpot. I won a world design contest or two–including the prestigious 2000 Cy Award for “Most Innovative Design” along with my co-creators Byte Me and Lurking Evil—was featured on some hip ActiveWorlds pages, created a world for a Bot Expo (that never happened), and generally was a huge nerd. I was pretty active for a 13–16 year old.

Imagine my surprise when this “SecondLife” thing started showing up in the news. I was taken aback. A new 3d chat world with build options? Whatever happened to ActiveWorlds? Research revealed ActiveWorlds was still kicking, and for $69.95/year. Citizenship in my day was $20. Then I started to realize Second Life’s draw. Avatars are customizable. You have to pay to build, which being an involved creative act, is not really for the masses. However, vainly adding doodads and gewgaws onto a virtual representation of yourself—now that’s ecommerce. How else would you convince someone to shell out for a virtual American Apparel t-shirt? This is the MySpace generation. TIME magazine voted “you” as the person of the year. “You” as in YouTube as in you fucking narcissist. I can’t judge, as my senior show is going to be entirely self-portraits, but that’s another matter. Building was why I loved ActiveWorlds. I’m obsessed with the miniature and recreating worlds. I love Legos, and I even love Christmas villages. I miss my train sets. These days I’m channeling my model making needs into painting and drawing, but the idea stays the same.

I still haven’t tried Second Life for myself, but I don’t think I want to. I want to build. Not look pretty. And buying land just doesn’t sound appealing in a virtual setting, but even ActiveWorlds, which once allowed tourists to build free, has been turning the option off to promote citizenship. I guess vanity was hinted at in ActiveWorld’s avatar structure too. Tourists can only be a faceless man or woman dressed in gray, labeled simply “tourist.” Paid citizens can choose from a much larger list, including exciting things like an alien and a bald German guy named Helmut. No customization. I left ActiveWorlds after 3.0. It’s now on 4.0. Maybe SecondLife’s success will cause the implementation of a customizable avatar.

Either way, both places are great for a cyber-lay.

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