Last week I posted about some book readings I've started in a Virtual World called InWorldz. I was there again this weekend, reading to a bunch of folks. I was only supposed to be there for an hour, but the people there are quite, quite mad. They kept wanting more. An hour turned into two, and then to two and a half - and I'm not complaining about that. It's always nice when people want to hear more .
That's not what I'm writing about today. After all, it never really happened, right? This whole Virtual World thing. It's not like it's real.
Or is it?
Sometimes things happen in a way that starts you thinking. Or thinking again. And this was one of those times. One of the people i know in one of those Virtual places, the ones that aren't really real, was talking to his (or her - there's no need to be precise ) parents about what they did in these places. And the reaction from said parents (and the person I'm talking about has children of her (yes, or his own) wasn't particularly unusual, if phrased a little more boldly than is sometimes the case. Said parents told them it was a waste of time. That they should 'get a life'. Get some 'real' friends.
'Get a life'. 'Real friends'. Because this /Virtual' stuff isn't really real, right?
Hold on to that thought. We'll get back to it.
Like I said. Sometimes things happen in a way that can make you think. Or think again. And later in the week, I came across this:
The people who got involved in that - they weren't Virtual Friends. Heck, they weren't really any kind of friends of the boy, or his parents, at all. But they did what they did anyway. And what they did? For that little boy, for that little boy's parents? What they did was about as real as real can be.
And that got me thinking. Again. Because I wasn't involved in that particular story. But it's a story I know isn't unique. The details change, the people involved change - but the story's the same. And it's a story about people. Real people.
Real people - being Real.
And reading that story reminded me of another one. One I know better, because it happened in one of those not-Real places a not-Real me has not-lived in for a long time. Over seven years. And it's a story that became a part of the not-real place in a very real way. I could just tell you the story, and I will. But, if I may, I'll tell it as it has been told now few times to new players in the game in question. Because it is a game. Not one of the newest, and there are prettier ones out there. But this is where the story happened.
Happened for Real.
So imagine you're a new player in Istaria - Chronicles of the Gifted (once upon a time it was called Horizons). You play on a server called Order, which happens to be a Role-Playing server. And one day you log in, and a passing character asks 'Have you been to Back Bay?'. Well, depending on who it is, they might say something more like 'Welcome young one. Have ye yet been to Back Bay?'. Like I said, it's an RP server . And you might say 'Er... no. Oh. Sorry. Er - no-eth. I have-eth not. Is that where I kill Ruxus for my sword quest?'. Well, you might. Or just say 'Huh?'. And the one who asked would likely pass on their way.
Then, some other day, you'd be happily wandering round, trying to avoid getting killed while, perhaps, gathering iron ore for a new sword, when someone would speak to you. You probably wouldn't see anyone near, but there are ways to speak to other players in game from a distance. And the person speaking would tell you it was time. Time to go. To go to Back Bay.
So you walk to the edge of the cliff. And the voice will tell you you stand - well that you stand on an edge. And edge between what is, and what might be. What was, and what will be. And between what you know - and what you will find. And it tells you to turn, and to walk. So you walk along the edge of the cliff, all alone.
And as you walk along, you see something ahead. A figure. A figure doing something really silly. Standing on the edge of the cliff, and looking out to sea. And the voice will tell you that someone lived here once. Someone called Roxi. That they lived in this land you've found, the land of Istaria. And that they loved it. Loved being here, loved helping people, loved to talk. And that Roxi was a friend to anyone she met. And you'll walk. Because you probably already noticed the voice doesn't say 'is'. it says 'was'. And as you walk, as you draw near, the figure grows bigger.
As you get closer, you can see the figure isn't another player. It's some sort of statue. And the voice will tell you how, for all Roxi's brightness and joy, a dark day came. That Roxi fell ill. The real person behind the Roxi some people might call not-real. And it wasn't any light illness. And it got worse, and it got worse. Until Roxi was taken into hospital. But she loved the place called Istaria. And the people around her did something special. They managed to have a network connection set up, and a computer, and Roxi was still able to play, and none knew she was in hospital unless she told them.
Because yes, the voice will tell you, the owners of the game made this statue and put it here. But they did something else. The people who had known Roxi in the place most of them thought of as real, sent the game owners a picture. And when the statue was made, it wasn't made with a face like characters in the game had. It was made with Roxi's face. And if you look (OK. Click on. But pretend for a while) more closely at the staute, you'll see this:
'The Annatar'. That was Roxi's Guild. Her in-game family. And their name is on the memorial, because Roxi was one of them. But to this day, and I was there again last night, Roxi stands there. Watching. Looking. Because even though Roxi, or the 'real' person behind Roxi, was no longer with them, the players and the owners and the people she knew, they didn't want her story to end. And they knew Roxi would have wanted to be there. In the place that made her smile 'til her lips were like to bleed. And to this day she stands, looking out over the Edge of Forever. And the voice would tell you it would leave now, and leave you to find - whatever being there would help you find. And that if ever anyone asked - yes. You had Been to Back Bay. And to remember the words. For one day, if you chose - you too might be a voice. You too might speak on the wind, as someone else found something only they would know, but in that finding would share with all Istaria.
Blog posts are supposed to be - well, to be short. This is a long posting. But I don't regret one single word. Because, whatever my friend's parent's might think, whatever others might think, this is about as Real as it gets. Real friends, Real life. To me at least.
And I'll leave it there, if you're still with me. Or rather, if you're still with Roxi. Because now, even if you never log in to Istaria, you're one of us. You've Been to Back Bay. And I don;t know what you found there - but I'd be interested to know.
Was it worth the visit?