A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away (2002), I was one of the first 16,000 residents of ‘The Sims Online’, otherwise known as a ‘Founder’ (that’s my founder’s certificate above, we also had a founder’s trophy we could display on our property in-world). What really caught my attention was that Neal Stephenson was supposed to have consulted with Maxis/EA on the design of this virtual world (being the one who envisioned the ‘Metaverse’ in his novel Snowcrash). This had me hooked at first rez during the BETA.
I ended up spending over a year virtually living in this early online world. I made many friends and shared one of the top properties with a small group of people. Our property was built around a theater where people would come nightly to perform. Since traffic on your property equaled income, this kept a steady flow of Simoleons coming in (the currency of this world). There were nightly poetry readings, plays, and performances of all types. When nothing was scheduled we would simply improvise or remodel the property. It was a lot of fun, and really one of the only games in town (online) at the time. Remember, this was pre-SL.
I am taking a long overdue vacation this next week. I already have my vacation book set aside. I was in San Francisco a few weeks ago for the Sun Worldwide Education and Research Conference. One night I was wandering the Borders on Union Square and stumbled on a copy of ‘The Second Life Herald: The Virtual Tabloid That Witnessed The Dawn Of The Metaverse’. While the book has ‘Second Life’ in the title, a large portion of the book is dedicated to ‘The Sims Online’, and all the social elements that grew out of that world.
Here’s a quote from the book cover:
“Peter Ludlow and Mark Wallace offer a fascinating frontline perspective on life in the emerging multiverses–rich, immersive multiperson game worlds where people live, conduct business, engage in politics, and struggle with crime, corruption, and other forms of moral transgression. The issues that The Second Life Herald examines will be ones with which society will be grappling for years to come, but they come alive here through vivid portraits of the settlers, politicos, griefers, entrepreneurs, and con artists who are the early adapters of these online worlds.”
–Henry Jenkins, Codirector, Comparative Media Studies Program, MIT, and author of Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide
The Sims Online eventually fell out of favor with its residents. This was due to a wide range of issues, some introduced by the makers of the world, others inflicted on residents by other players. The game servers were shut down in 2007. Having been a founder and BETA tester, the server I was a resident on was ‘Alphaville’.
Well, imagine my surprise when I found out recently that The Sims Online has been reborn as ‘EA-Land’?
In mid 2007, a team was assembled to create a game based on a re-engineered The Sims Online architecture. After months of ongoing hard work, we can say proudly that we have been successful and we have made this game fun again! (sign up for free account)
While I don’t think Second Life or any other emerging virtual world platform has anything to worry about with the relaunching of this platform, it is nice to see that this world will be preserved and expanded instead of being added to the graveyard of yesterday’s games.