The Wolf who worked for ABC

27 02 2014

I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey

The Criminologist from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

They all kept telling me that I should do it, they told me over and over again, those friends of mine on a forum I was on, It could do this, it could do that, I wasn’t interested, because Second Life looked too much like a game, and I wasn’t a gamer, there would be no way that I’d ever use it.

Then I saw it on “Beyond Tomorrow” on Channel Seven, and decided that I could try it, and if I didn’t like it, I could simply leave.

I signed up.

I found myself on an island where avatars were born, and I couldn’t get off that Island, I was getting frustrated and may have logged out forever, except a friend found me and teleported me, to her.

Things started to look better, except I was still somewhat lost, but I found other friends were already in there, and they helped me get started. One of the first things I wanted to do, was to shed my human form, something many of us furries would eagerly do in real life, if it were possible.

One of my friends felt he could see the potential of Second Life and so bought us an island, which would be our home base, I was kind of shocked, buying an island was expensive, but I couldn’t stop him from getting one, and about a week later, there it was.

We were just feeling our way around, the experience was like being on another planet, and one where we were free to be ourselves completely, like some sort of hippy commune, we would walk around “naked” in this world. It’s funny, but it doesn’t take long for the avatar to feel as though it’s an extension of yourself, so when someone catches you naked, it’s a little bit embarrassing.

Furry culture thinks that sex, of any kind, is quite a normal thing, and that genitals are merely another part of the body.

I had genitals, multiple kinds for each avatar… human, equine, canine and dragon and we wore these proudly and flashed them about with gay abandon.

Psychologically it was quite interesting, there was a certain child-like thing about this stage of our lives in this virtual world.

Then I found out, via a friends forum, that ABC were investing in an island, and they wanted help, So I offered to help which was accepted, but it took months before the island opened, and there was lots of speculation and rumour about the island.

Abi, who was going to be the owner of the island, met with us on our own island, and we had a talk about how we’d set up our island, I think in general, most people want newbies to set up an island just like theirs, I think it’s an ego thing, I think we had a certain amount of pride in our island too.

The island did finally have a grand opening and loads of people went in to see it, I thought it started off really well, and I would meet some new people that day who I would get to know well over the next few years…

…Oh yes, did I say I was using Second Life every day now? It was now my main reason for using the internet, it ate data like crazy.

Later that day, a group of us were made Admins of the island, which allowed us to look after it, the fact was that ABC staff couldn’t keep an eye on it 24 hours a day, but the users could.

We could remove pests from the island, if we needed to, and we could report any technical issues with the island if anything went wrong.

Once something went very wrong, the island had pretty much vanished, and we thought that it was due to “Griefers” (a sort of internet vandal). Before we could get a definite reason for what went wrong, the story, and a photo of me flying around a deserted island, was published… but of course the story was laughable, it was a complete cockup, but loads of people read the story and many believed it.

The real story was that the computer which runs each island on Second Life, makes a backup of the island, every twelve hours or so, and during one backup, either the power failed or the computer crashed, resulting in a partial backup… so when the faulty backup was used to re-start the island, it looked as though someone had destroyed the place.

The people who run Second Life were told, and the island was started using an earlier backup, and everything went back to normal.

That’s all it was, but it’s not as exciting as the first story, is it?

I was on ABC Island a lot, trying hard to get people to come in and use it, but most people, like me at the start of this story, didn’t want to, and refused to even try it.

If they did, they’d get to the difficult first stage and give up.

Or their computer was too old and too slow to cope with Second Life.

Some people found the learning curve too steep, they either just wanted to play a game, or chat, this was over-complicated.

Or they lived way out in the country with extremely slow, or no broadband.

I knew that If we had the NBN back then, Then Second Life would have been wonderful for people in small communities around Australia, but sadly, with the woeful internet we have in regional areas, that wasn’t possible.

The Admins worked hard to get people to try Second Life, and especially our ABC Island which we were very proud of.

I should say at this point that many people thought I worked at ABC, because I was on ABC island so often, I told them that wasn’t the case, but  I did work *for* ABC, though only on a voluntary basis… Oh yes, it was work, it was surprising how much work there was, just to keep it going. If I had kept my own home that clean, the place would have been spotless.

But it was like having a really serious hobby which I was heavily involved with, so I enjoyed it.

I never had been put in a position of responsibility before, and because I wanted this project to work, I put as much into it as I could. and now I was dealing with new psychological changes, I found myself becoming strict, and if anyone disobeyed the rules, I’d get cranky about it and they’d suddenly “leave” the island.

Eventually there was another point where I gave myself a really good shake-up and told myself to lighten-up, I didn’t like what I was becoming, I wasn’t nearly as nice to people as I ought to be, at least that’s how I felt, I’ll let any of you who met me in world be the judge.

I had also, mostly been left with the job, You see, the other Admins, although they liked ABC Island a lot, and certainly helped me when I needed it, had found other creative interests and had decided to set up their own islands. They had developed and wanted to do their own things, which was great, but it had the effect of fragmenting the group.

A documentary crew had asked me to make a film about Second Life with them, which I did, but sadly, a lot of the facts about what I did on Second Life were dropped, I knew this at the time, but felt that making a film would still be fun. There was no mention of ABC because the film was made for another network, so a big part of what I really did on Second Life was left out.

I don’t blame the Director, She was under pressure from the network, who, after all, were funding the thing, but I was really quite unhappy about the result… ahh well, at least I had a few free meals and some fun.

The Doco involved Katie, My Alaskan Malamute, She had a few car rides out of it so she was happy.

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Katie and I, Taken during filming of Alter Ego: Photo – Matt Calissi, December Films.

I waited for a long time to see this Doco on air, and find out what people thought, but the network held onto it for ages, and then had some sort of review and changed from a station which played documentaries, into something which was more about general entertainment, the doco was shelved until one night, at 11pm on a December 23rd, thus, very few saw it.

As a good friend says “That’s Showbiz”.

Alas ABC was getting fewer visitors in later years, and I found myself standing around for hours, hoping someone would turn up, it was clear to me that Second Life wasn’t working, I had created Rockit, a music quiz show which did get people back to the island, but I was the only host, for what would always be a very small audience, as only a small number of people could ever be on an island at one time, We needed more hosts and more shows, Whenever anything was done which would draw an audience, it often did… but the logistics of getting it done were always difficult, there were roadblocks from ABCs side which couldn’t be overcome.

Second Life was an idea which came along at a point when computers weren’t up to the task and the internet wasn’t up to it either, If Second Life can hang in there for another ten years, then maybe it can regain some ground, but it’s going to take some imagination and some serious forward thinking, something we might have, but our government (like any right wing government) completely lacks.

This was also a time when I thought the ABC could do no wrong, but I have since seen it’s other face, and didn’t like it one bit.

When ABC Island closed down, I left Second Life completely, I had no purpose there anymore.

Wolfie Rankin

* I didn’t explain what Second Life was, Those who were there know exactly what it is, and those who weren’t, won’t care.

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