My oldest Second Life avatar, with the legacy name of Heath Homewood, was created on March 20th, 2007, which means that in a couple of weeks he will be sixteen years old! (And yes, I can blame a work committee at my university library for falling down that particular rabbit hole; more details here in a blogpost I wrote in 2017.)
This evening, on a whim, I loaded Heath up, opened up the landmarks folder in his voluminous, never-cleaned-out-in-sixteen-years inventory, and tried teleporting into various saved landmarks, out of curiosity, just to see if they were still around.
Many were long since gone, of course; over 16 years, sims had often changed hands. More often than not, I got an error message that the non-mainland destination no longer existed at all on the Second Life grid. Sometimes, the new owner of the sim or parcel had set up an intruder alert system, which warned me that I was trespassing on private property and that I needed to be somewhere else within X number of seconds (the rude ones set it to 5 seconds, and in one case, 1 second!).
Alas, the virtual recreation of a Tim Horton’s coffee shop, one of the few places where I could meet up with other Canadians in Second Life, has vanished into pixel dust now. (I have fond memories of sitting around a campfire, swapping stories with my fellow avatars. We used to get quite a varied crowd! It’s amazing how many virtual worlds recreated the concept of a central campfire as meeting spot, a concept we have seen again in newer metaverse platforms like AltspaceVR and VRChat.)
Similarly, the extremely detailed virtual recreation of Dresden’s Old Masters Picture Gallery, where I spent many hours wandering around the paintings, is no more (but you can get a sense of it from this September, 2007 WIRED article). Of course, Second Life is home to countless art galleries and museums, but I wish that this particular build were still around! It was a wonderful showcase.
Likewise, my landmark to the Body Doubles store, where you could purchase shapes and styling cards (with detailed information on what to buy where) to create avatars which looked like celebrities, past and present, is long gone. I suspect that they might have gotten into some trouble with the real-life lawyers representing the real-life agencies who owned and/or managed the rights to famous dead and living people! However, I still have my Marilyn Monroe alt (no doubt created using the style card from Body Doubles), and I like to trot her out for special occasions, just to surprise people.
I likewise have a late-stage Elvis Presley avatar, complete with black sideburns, sunglasses, a white glittery jumpsuit, a microphone with singing animations, and even some wearable, white-hot stage spotlights! I still pull him out from time to time, and have him sing and gyrate in some unsuspecting public space, like London City, just for the hell of it. Or wander around the grid, looking for Priscilla… 😜
But amazingly, my first-saved and oldest landmark still worked after all these years! The Lost Gardens of Apollo is one of those historical builds which appears to have been preserved for posterity by Linden Lab (which does happen sometimes), and it remains very much the same as it was when I first visited it in 2007, with no modern mesh additions or replacements.
You can even take a self-guided balloon tour of the sim (with narration in one of nine different languages), to explore the fantastical architecture: the harbour, the soaring towers, and the floating islands. This used to be a popular place back in the day!
Another venerable Second Life landmark, the Ivory Tower of Primitives, functioned as an immersive teaching centre, where the first generations of SL builders learned how to create, modify, and assemble primitives (prims), well before the advent of mesh on the grid. It sits on Natoma, one of the first 16 so-called “mainland” sims created by Linden Lab in 2003.
The importance of this place cannot be underestimated. Innumerable Second Life content creators, who perhaps have since moved on to design for other, newer metaverse platforms using tools such as Blender, first got their start by working through the detailed, step-by-step tutorials at the Ivory Tower of Primitives! I was one of them myself (although I never really designed anything truly beautiful or useful, or ever set up a store for my rather limited creations).
However, much to my surprise and delight, there were a few places in Heath Homewood’s landmarks folder that still were around, even sixteen years later! The oldest store landmark that still worked for me was the Bahia Tiki beach house and decor store, which is still in operation (albeit with more modern, mesh offerings). I must have bought something there for my very first set up, a sandy beach parcel on the Maso Ariol sim, a parcel I bought in 2007 and built on and tinkered with to for a little over a year, until I became one of the first tenants in the Bay City mid-century-themed neighbourhood in May of 2008.
Another sim from my landmarks folder, which has stood the test of time is Neufreistadt, inspired by the pubs, cafés, and narrow streets of the real-life Bavarian town, Rothenburg ob der Tauber (here’s a SLURL that takes you to their Marktplatz, where there is a charming bookstore which I had landmarked back in 2007). It was somehow reassuring that, in a virtual world that was full of changes, I had found yet another place where time seemed to stand still.
Neufreistadt is one of six regions operating under a long-running, over-arching government, the Confederation of Democratic Simulators, which bills itself as the oldest democracy in Second Life, dating back to 2004 (you can read more about its rich and eventful history here).
I had a very enjoyable evening teleporting around Second Life, and I plan to spend some more of my off-hours revisiting old landmarks in Heath Homewood’s inventory, and take a trip down memory lane! I have (re)discovered places that I haven’t thought about—or visited—in years!!