Support Virtuality — Help Game A Netflix Popularity Contest!!!

by Alphaville Herald on 02/07/09 at 11:47 am

by Idoru Wellman, staff writer

The Netflix “Find Your Voice film competition” is a great new game where everyone can participate by forming gangs to vote for the independent film maker that best represents their community and interests. Consider this a more positive version of the gang abuse report used in Second Life to get the Linden Governance team to ban enemy players. However, instead of helping bring the ban hammer down, in the Netflix Find Your Voice game, you can help a few lucky filmmakers receive some financial and in-kind support for filmmaking.

To play the Netflix game, you’ll need a working e-mail address – but Google, Yahoo, and Hotmail and others are happy to hand out spare alt account e-mail addresses for a reason — so you can play games that want e-mail addresses! What are you waiting for? Vote early and vote often.

Here at the Herald we are partial to SARAHN_12 – an entry from Sasie Sealy with a plot that should strike a chord among the Second Life players. The director’s statement tells the tale:

They say he raped them thatnight. They say he did it with a cunning little doll, fashioned in theirimage and imbued with the power to make them do whatever he desired.They say that by manipulating the doll he forced them to have sex withhim, and with each other, and to do horrible, brutal things to theirown bodies. And though I wasn’t there that night, I think I can assureyou that what they say is true, because it all happened right in theliving room — right there amid the well-stocked bookcases and the sofasand the fireplace — of a house I came later to think of as my secondhome.

                    -Julian Dibbell,“A Rape in Cyberspace” 

Julian Dibbell published hisarticle  “A Rape in Cyberspace” in 1993, just one year afterNeal Stephenson’s Snow Crash first described the idea of a“metaverse” and ten years before the founders of Linden Lab wouldbring that idea to life. It was a fascinating piece that described therepercussions of a “cyber rape” within the virtual community, astory that stayed in my head months after I read it.  And whatfascinated me most was the reaction of the players – the emotionaltrauma created by an “imaginary” crime and their pursuit of vengeancein the real world.   

Dibbell’s story was consideredgroundbreaking at the time, but it has also proven to be remarkablyprescient in the issues it raised, issues that are still populatingthe headlines: a MySpace suicide, divorces filed over Second Lifeaffairs, a woman in Korea jailed for virtual murder.  I am fascinatedby the growing extension of an alternate  “cyber world” –whether made up of merely a collection of web pages or more sophisticatedonline and gaming spaces like Second Life – and its effecton the “real” world.  Entire generations are growing up online,creating communities and identities in virtual space, while the rulesand morals of this brave new world remain unclear.  Issues of privacy,identity, and accountability are still being determined as we struggleto understand and establish rules in spaces like Second Life. When does what we say or do online cross legal boundaries?  Ormoral boundaries?  Do we have the right to stay anonymous in cyberspace? Are our fantasies and curiosities on the web able to condemn us? And if they are, will the establishment of rules and regulations, notto mention commercial interests, end the free expression and exchangethat was the ideal behind the birth of the Internet?  Driving allof these questions is the very human desire to create a place to liveout our fantasies. 

SarahN_12 is my attempt toaddress some of these questions in a human story.  Sarah is a womanwho is trying to find answers after her boyfriend is brutally murderedin their apartment.  And so her search for answers into his unsolveddeath only leads to more questions, as she discovers that the man she thought she knew led an entirely separate existence online, – asecret life that may hold the key to his murder.   For Sarah,someone who has always had answers, this brush with unruly, messy realityleaves her reeling, and her journey towards acceptance that there maybe no easy answers provides the heart and spine of the story.  

As a director, I am excitedby the aesthetic possibilities of the story and the chance to portraya virtual world in unexpected ways.  Too often, virtual realitieshave been depicted as highly stylized cartoon versions of what audiencesexpect “computer games” to look like – some neo-futurist slickvision that can actually separate the viewer from what is happeningemotionally in the story.   What I am interested in doingis creating a vision of Alt Life that is visceral and immediate,more real that the real world.  Gamers can have an intense,emotional connection to their lives online, and this is what I wantto convey.  Alt Life scenes will be stylized live action,paying homage to the camera work of the Dardenne brothers, while realworld scenes will be much more formal and distant.  I have outlinedsome of my visual ideas in the pages that follow, but primarily I aminteresting in creating something in the footsteps of Pi or Primer,a film that melds form and function to create something that peoplehave never seen. 

Like both Pi and Primer, myconcept of Sarah_N12 falls into the space between science and sciencefiction, which is fitting considering the origins of virtual worlds. The founders of Linden Lab, the company behind Second Life, haveexpressly stated that they were inspired by Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash and other cyberpunk works, and leaders of the emergingtechnology like Ian Hughes of IBM refer to themselves as “metaverseevangelists,” borrowing Stephenson’s term.   Yet whilescience and technology have long chased the dreams of science fiction,the reality of our evolving “cyber worlds” has led us to questionsyet to be tackled by the likes of William Gibson.  Whether we aretalking about MySpace or Facebook, Second Lifeor Maple Story, we are merely dealing with the first iterationof our science fiction fantasies.  The rules are still being written. And the human implications of our imagination have yet to be determined.

One Response to “Support Virtuality — Help Game A Netflix Popularity Contest!!!”

  1. anonymous

    Jul 2nd, 2009

    Not your personal army.

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