In my previous article, a reader commented about the realism of SL aviation in general, and the point of concerning ourselves with aviation lighting or any other operating rule for that matter in Second Life. Indeed, SL aviation cannot be 100% realistic from a practical standpoint for several reasons:
- The scaling is all wrong. It would take five sims to realistically launch a 737.
- Realistic speed across region boundaries cannot be achieved.
- Passenger loads appropriate for larger sized aircraft are not possible.
- There are no penalties or consequences (other than possible reputation) for accidents.
So why do we bother?
This question goes beyond the limits of aviation in SL, and in fact goes to the very heart of SL itself. More examples:
Why does a large element of SL focus on virtual sex? After all, it’s just pixels on a screen. In the end any “real gratification” must be self motivated. Sometimes you don’t even know for sure if the person driving the avatar on the other end is the same gender as the avatar. Some don’t care. And if that’s all you want, why not just create another avatar and log them both in?
Why does HD make fire trucks and strive for realism at every aspect? Do they expect them to sit idle in an airport hangar or fire house and look pretty? Most of them probably do just that, but more on that later.
Why do plane makers like Tig, Carly, Kelly, DSA, Dani, Javatar, Erick, Cubey and many others do what they do, and make enough lindens to fill a virtual 747 doing so? And why do they strive so hard to make them realistic? Kelly Shergood even went so far as to create an airworthiness certificate for her new yet to be released Sikorsky helicopter. A small thing that adds an impressive touch.
Finally, why do many aviation enthusiasts choose the less than realistic SL model for aviation rather than the more realistic environment of FSX?
The answer to all of these questions rolls up into one word: interaction. SL would be a lonely place if you could not interact with others. Even Microsoft had to recognize that with Flight Simulator as aviation enthusiasts using FS developed their own ways of interacting with each other (VATSIM, IVAO, etc.).
At the end of the day, of course real aviation would trump pretend aviation, just as real sex feels better than the virtual kind, real food tastes better than the virtual kind and real fires burn more than the virtual kind. But not everyone can have the above. A virtual plane crash or fire doesn’t kill anyone. Virtual food doesn’t feed anyone and virtual sex doesn’t pass STDs or get women pregnant.
The previous comment pointed out that there is no responsibility to FAA or any other regulatory body. But there is no reason why there could NOT be a role played version of such operations, given players willing to participate. There is, after all, several virtual versions of Fire Departments, Coast Guards, Marines, Police, airlines, space aliens, talking animals and pretty much every other thing you can imagine.
The point is, the SL experience is whatever you wish it to be and choose to make it. No, you don’t have to turn on your strobe lights, or concern yourself with whether you get a 95 point landing score if you don’t want to. If you crash your plane, you don’t have to wait to be rescued. You can just derez it and teleport back to the airport and try again. That takes us to another point to ponder:
How real do YOU strive to make SL for fellow players?
Consider how enthused you would be about flying passenger planes, if there was no Passengers of SL group where you could announce flights and invite them to board your plane? How enthused would you be about flying combat planes if you didn’t have something to shoot at? And as mentioned above, how gratifying would the virtual sex be if that other avatar was just you running another SL client?
As players who rely on others to improve our experience, we must also consider doing so for others. Some ideas to consider:
- If you crash your plane, you can certainly derez it and just head back to the airport. But could you also get on gridtalkie channel 16 and call for help? Of course you don’t really need any help. But in playing it out, you create an experience for someone else that at some point you rely on others to help create for you.
- If your plane starts acting funny because of SL troubles, do you just derez it and go home, telling your passengers if you have any that it’s too rough to fly? Or might you declare a mayday and again call out for help.
- And why NOT have an SL NTSB that would investigate that plane crash? I suspect there are players interested in doing so.
While I am not really proposing a lot of willful staged accidents, certainly when something real goes wrong, why not turn it into an opportunity. The borked plane scenario above actually happened to me with several passengers on board. I called out for help and limped the plane back to the airport where we were greeted by fire trucks. The passengers and the ground crew loved it and it was totally unstaged.
Much of what we do in Second Life involves some kind of role play. And role play is not done in a vacuum, alone. That is why we are here, instead of in FSX flying alone, or on Sims 4 “interacting” with computer controlled avatars.
Make it what you want it to be, as simple as you want it to be or as complex as suits you. But above all, enjoy it.