Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Halloween Party at Park

The students in my Games & Society class held a Halloween party on the park School island the Thursday and Friday before Halloween. I wanted them to practice a couple of basic skills - shopping (they had to find decorations and costumes), building (they had to put their decorations in the right spot), and socializing (dancing and talking to the guests). They signed up for time slots and I put the event in the SL calendar and an announcement on the SL Educators list.  We had some visitors all but one party time so most of the students had practice talking and socializing. Students from two colleges in Ohio came with their professors.

I did the party assignment for a couple of reasons. The first is that I want the students to be a part of the Second Life community. People in SL are always looking for things to do, events to go to. Dancing and listening to music is a very popular thing to do. So the students' party was a way to add value to the community. The second reason is that I have seen many game companies hiring community managers to create events that help retain users in online games. Second Life is a good place to practice the skills needed by community managers.

Here some of their observations.
During my shift (11-12 Thursday) we met a women from Ohio who decided to stop by, as well as one other dude who left fairly quickly.

My enormous dancing squid avatar kept some people mildly entertained, but after the 10-11 team left, there were not many people left for the remainder of my time.

Riding on the spiders seemed to work out well, as I could move around the dance floor and look engaged without actually having to move my avatar manually.

I wasn't sure what to expect with the Halloween Event our class hosted on Second Life. I helped host the dance on Friday Night, but not many people showed up compared to Thursday night. I met an alum from Ithaca who is is an avid Second Life player. She wanted to keep her real identity separate from her second life one. I guess I didn't realize that Second Life is really a "second life" for some people. From talking to her, I found out that Second Life allows you to meet people and also make a living. I shopped for a costume and purchased one using some of my lindens. It was a pretty ridiculous costume, but I liked it. I also found free masks and t-shirts. I put them in a box for the event. I thought it was cool that you can actually make your avatar dance. I also liked that spiders and all of the decorations people brought and created to make the event good.

I was told before I knew about it that Second Life was just a breeding ground for sex and wasting money. This is not so, as I found out during my Halloween weekend. Thursday night, I witnessed a Kool Aid man dance, a bus ride through a dance floor, and a slave trade that never happened. This was the party which I hosted, along with two of my real life friends.
At first, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. My better judgment told me that it would be me, my two friends, and my professor. However, slowly but surely, other people started to show up from all over the world. Second Lifers from our own class, from Ohio and even from other countries showed up to party with us. We gave away a few of our freebies, played some fun music, and ended our shift feeling good about ourselves. Even while my roommate was using my computer, my avatar – dressed as Zero from the Megaman series – was dancing right along to the streaming music.
While it doesn’t have the same effect as an actual dance, a Second Life dance can be a fun way to meet people or simply play along with strangers. At one point, a very frighteningly dressed woman attempted to capture our professor for money. While I will never be sure if the sale was intended to actually happen, it was an interesting and almost nerve-wracking situation which we were all facing. Most people would consider being worried over such a thing only a trivial matter, but at one point I was actually begging. To me, the intensity of the predicament was quite real.
Overall, the dance was interesting not just as a dance but as a social event. People all over the world were only sitting in their chairs on their computers and talking, yet somewhere in cyberspace their digital counterparts were moving to the beat. While I am sure that this will bring about the downfall of person to person communication within the next century, I believe that it is the best alternative that we have right now.
Here are some photos the students took during their shifts. The students will be sending in reports of their perspectives of the parties and I will post them as well.


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