When I was sitting in a darkened movie theatre contemplating gouging my eyes out, I would never have guessed that I’d fall in love.
That’s just what happened during the Chicago Underground FIlm Festival when we recently went to “Galaxian,” a collection of experimental short films made with video games. We had just sat through a criminally boring video made from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. As far as I can tell, here’s what happened: someone hooked a VCR up to their TV and turned on GTA, hoping to make a totally sweet video. Then they got a phone call, went out to lunch, or engaged in some sort of high-speed pursuit, I don’t know. I just know we sat through about 10 minutes of Carl “CJ” Johnson staring at flowers as a result. It drained my will to continue.
So it was a disappointment when the next film turned out to be made with Second Life. I had tried it a long time ago, but didn’t find it particularly captivating. So if these auteurs could make GTA boring… well, I was having difficulty deciding between suicide or a murder-suicide to also save my date from such a cruel fate.
That was before I saw a three-way sex scene between a male, female, and bear where the woman’s neck forcefully spewed blood throughout the experience, courtesy of Valerie Brewer’s Untitled #2. As the camera switched from being an observer to shooting the scene from the hollow interior of the woman’s ever-flowing neck, I was gripped with a child-like wonder.
I never knew you could do this in Second Life.
While I have no desire to replicate that scene per se, the fact that such a thing is possible in SL made me beyond curious. So today I finally managed to find the time to try it out.
Apparently Second Life was bound and determined to give me bizarre semi-sexual experiences however, as my first sight upon entering the training world was two entirely gray women-oids doing, well, something to me and someone else. Or I to them, not entirely sure.
So far the game seemed like what would happen if David Lynch woke up one morning, decided he was tired of short films about rabbits, and instead started designing a video game.
Eventually though, my clothes and skin appeared and some help text popped up. True, I could only see every third or fourth help screen, so I’m certain I missed a few things. The charm was already wearing thin however, and the interface matched only by the retchedness that is Ultima Online was aggravating. Regardless, I guessed-and-checked my way to the last of the tutorials, the “what to do in Second Life” tutorial.
My hideous uber-blonde avatar looked on upon a stage, showing different “events” that I could partake in. Behind a stage was a slideshow of eHipsters just sitting around. In front of that was a rotating selection of avatar examples.
At this point, I feared I had only looking pretty and standing around in my future. Most people discover I’m phenomenally bad at both within the first 90 seconds of meeting me, so I was less than thrilled about the prospect. It was with a heavy heart that I left tutorial island and instead teleported to Welcome Island, the first “real” area for most SL players.
My first sight upon entering the “real” world was gently bouncing, flat images of Mario proclaiming “its-a-me, Mario!” before each one spawned several more which proceeded to do the same, ad infinitum.
I knew in an instant what I was seeing. Having played a variety of online games, this was clearly griefing. Normally it takes the form of team killing, spraypainting of pornography across every surface, or the typical stream of expletives yelled in the unmistakable high pitch of 10 year old boys that sends dogs running everywhere. Stills from the Super Mario Bros cartoon show? That’s entirely new. That’s almost clever.
I hunted after these flying Marios and Luigis with a childlike wonder, looking for their source. They would drift through the sky and I would fly with them, taking in the sights as I went. Finally I found their creator, a series of giant spinning cubes sending smaller versions shooting throughout the world. It was incredible, and incredibly creative for griefers. I followed them around for quite some time, seeing how these endless cubes and rectangles caused everyone to disperse in a hurry.
Despite watching two hours of “experimental” film in a theatre, some 14 year old in his parents’ basement came up with somethng more visually interesting, more beautiful than any machinima I’ve seen.
Once I saw that great rotating phantasmagoria of plumbers in the sky, I knew that I was going to love this place.