OpenSim is an appealing open source virtual world platform for hardcore coders and such, but user friendly it is not. Veteran SL/OpenSim developer Fred Beckhusen has a solution for that, and he just made it open source: "It copies the necessary files to disk, sets up Firestorm all ready to log in, and has pre-configured avatars that can log in to a Western town all ready to explore on a horse." Get it here on Github.
Lumiya, the SL viewer for Android devices, recently got a whole host of updates that longtime SL artist Douglas Story just e-mailed me excitedly about. (Disclosure: Lumiya and its talented creator, Alina Lyvette, were NWN media partners a few years ago, but I sadly haven't heard from her in awhile.) I don't regularly use an Android device or currently have one on-hand, so let Mr. Story tell you what's in store:
This is the Nicolas Cage/Tangled/OpenSim Mash-Up You Didn't Know You Wanted But Now You're Glad You Did
Hypnotic, disturbing, glorious:
Acclaimed Metaverse Artist Bryn Oh Creates Virtual Therapy Environment to Help Treat Military Personnel With PTSD
Violence continues shredding the real world, but virtual worlds may be able to help. Acclaimed Second Life artist Bryn Oh (pseudonym of a Canadian painter), recently announced a project she did with the US military, creating a tranquil, beautiful virtual space as therapy for military personnel suffering from PTSD.
To the uninitiated, this may seem like a strange idea, but veterans and active duty service members have been using Second Life for just that purpose for years:
After all, some vets are uncomfortable about discussing their PTSD in public for many reasons, and are often physically disabled and/or live in remote areas, making it logistically difficult for them to commune in person with fellow service people. In these cases and others, a virtual community of avatars embodied in a shared space seemed like an ideal solution. That intuition was recently confirmed by an individual infinitely more qualified to speak on the subject: retired Marine Lt. Col. Jay Kopelman, who's now director of the vet support organization Freedom Is Not Free. In a speech at East Carolina University, which is experimenting with SL as a PSTD treatment platform, Kopelman addressed the subject of Second Life as a therapy tool: “I know Marines that say that Second Life is working when nothing else has," he said.
Today (like many other days), with real world news of terrorism and violent unrest at a fevered pitch, it's somewhat difficult to write about virtual worlds and games, but knowing that they can offer some healing to the wounds we keep inflicting on ourselves may offer some solace. Bryn writes on a similar theme in her announcement:
Links, events, opinions, news, blogs, Flickrs, Tumblrs, Vines, .gifs, gfycats, etc... go!
I recently told you that Crista "Diva Canto" Lopes, a longtime pioneer of OpenSimulator, won this year's Pizzigati Prize for Software in the Public Interest, so naturally, I should also share how she helps develops the open source virtual world:
"There's a special place I go to when I work," she recently wrote. "I login to my vLab, move the window to the right-most screen of my four-screen workstation, turn on the chill-out radio station there, zoom the camera out, and enjoy sun rises and sun sets over the shore every couple of hours. It's my work place, a happy, calm, beautiful place. I've been doing this for so many years, that it has become second nature: I find it hard to focus when I'm not there, and I miss it almost as much as I miss home when I travel with just a small laptop."
Have to love her setup (if not her electric bill). I used to do something like this with SL when I had a halfway decent desktop PC. Though for Crista, this is just an intermediary step:
Video via Joyce Bettencourt
Crista Videira Lopes, a longtime pioneer of OpenSimulator (the open source spinoff of Second Life), just won this year's Pizzigati Prize for Software in the Public Interest, awarded to developers of "open source software product of significant value to the nonprofit sector and movements for social change", and backed by the massive and prestigious Tides Foundation. Considering OpenSim's use by a small but dedicated group of educators and others, and Christa's talented contributions to it, it's a well-deserved.
Along with the award, she's winning a $10,000 prize, and for OpenSim users, there's good news there:
Live right now, here's Jessica Pixel's stream from an OpenSim grid, a good-bye party for OpenSimulator pioneer Justin Clark-Casey. "Justin CC is a big deal in the OpenSim world," as Jessica puts it, "he was one of the major contributors, but he has to move on to other things so we're having a 'good luck have fun' party for him." And as you might have noticed, this stream is happening through YouTube's live streaming feature, so you can also participate with the OpenSim party from Jessica's YouTube page right here.
The open forum on the success of Minecraft versus SL has attracted some really interesting reader comments, one of my favorites being this one from Jo Kay, an educator deeply involved with Second Life and OpenSim as a teaching tool:
One of the key factors IMHO is Minecraft's simplicity AND its complexity. A small child can quickly learn how to negotiate the space (without lengthy tutorials or clunky viewer software to learn) and get almost instant satisfaction from exploring and socializing, monster slaying and/or building a little house, castle, secret base etc.
Meanwhile at the other end of the spectrum, Minecraft allows for complex modding which has seen developers from around and world and across a huge age range creating their own versions and flavors of the game - from themed servers (Hunger Mines, Harry Potter etc) to Factions, Feed the Beast and PVP).
Additionally the extensive "metagame" that exists around the game is compelling - from YouTube stars to kids writing epic Minecraft theme stories and beyond, the eco-system of fan created media is endless and amazing and operates from beginner to elite. Kids are able to join that community easily via Twitch, Youtube, fan sites and Forums, and via coding communities like Bukkit.
... all of which leads to several advantages of Minecraft as a pedagogical platform:
Open Forum: Why Has Minecraft Captured a Mass Market and the Education Space Where Second Life Has Not?
Mimi Ito has a really interesting Boing Boing post on the rising popularity of Minecraft as an educational tool, which emerged very soon after Minecraft becoming extremely popular -- over 100 million players, in recent estimates. Then she makes this point:
Minecraft isn't the first virtual world to value player creativity. Remember Second Life? But, what makes the DNA of Minecraft fundamentally different from Second Life or WoW is that any player can set up and administer their own server. This makes the Minecraft scene a breeding ground not only for digital creativity, but social innovation. Players are building their own server-based communities in Minecraft governed by the values and rules that they develop and enforce. No corporate overlord dictating the rules of property and play here. The mod world in Minecraft is teeming with social engineering tools, ranging from chat moderation add-ons to systems that assign plots and different privileges to players to minimize griefing. Lessons in digital citizenship anyone?
OpenSim, the open source spinoff of Second Life, also enables player-owned servers, so that doesn't make Minecraft unique. Also, Minecraft player-owned servers did not exist for some time after the game launched - it was originally a single-player experience.
All that to one side, what remains true is that Minecraft has captured both the mass consumer market and the education space where Second Life and OpenSim tried and failed. So let me put the question to readers (especially virtual world educators and those who play both): Why?
Please discuss in Comments. I plan on featuring the best insights in a future post.