On the first two episodes of The Drax Files Radio Hour

To say I lcropped-draxfiles_logofinal_1-1ike Draxtor Despres‘ video series “The Drax Files: World Makers” would be an understatement. His work on the series has been excellent and I’ve tried, within the constraints imposed on me by my RL, to cover it as much as possible. There are, of course, certain episodes I’ve missed; some because RL has been extremely hectic lately and I never got around to watching them (to be honest, there’s been very little blogging activity here in the past few weeks), and some because I had doubts regarding my own suitability to cover them, as well as what the message I would end up sending to the readers (especially regarding very sensitive matters that are far beyond my own area of knowledge in RL) would be.

Taking the lead from The Drax Files series of videos, the machinima creator has moved to the creation of a series of radio-like broadcasts, titled The Drax Files Radio Hour, hosted by him and Jo Yardley who runs the 1920s Berlin project. The show is all about the community of Second Life; it is driven by it and the community is its target group. The show offers commentary and also features interviews with people relevant to various topics.

The show is not about investigative journalism, as Drax himself quickly admits in the beginning of the second instalment. It serves as a way to extend the discussion of topics related to Second Life outside its confines; beyond blogs, beyond social networks, beyond forums and, to be honest, beyond the drama that is all too often present there. Now, podcasts about virtual worlds are not new at all, so no prizes won for novelty here. Still, Draxtor is a very friendly host who succeeds in getting people to speak about various topics, and the interplay between him and Jo further relaxes the show’s atmosphere.

One of the things Drax succeeded in with The Drax Files was to portray Second Life in a positive manner, in spite of all the bad rap it has been getting ever since… Quite possibly, ever since its launch; at least, already after I had first joined it in September 2006 with my first account, controversies, gossip, drama and scandalmongering have been the order of the day, and that’s without taking into account all the instances in which the Press gave both Linden Lab and Second Life a serious beating for various reasons. In The Drax Files, Drax focused on the positive side of Second Life, aptly demonstrating that it really is not a pastime for losers at all.

As I can infer from Ciaran Laval’s coverage of The Drax Files Radio Hour, Drax effectively does what many people would hope to see from Linden Lab themselves. But, as we all know, expecting such an offering would be in vain, as the Lab is not exactly known for its willingness and/or ability to communicate with the user base.

Show 1: Oculus + NSA + Fitted Mesh = ?

Introduced by Torley Linden, the show kicks off featuring the recent developments on the Oculus Rift project as its first subject; a new version, which was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, is being worked on, with head tracking capabilities and a low latency screen. Personally, I wasn’t surprised by this choice: Jo is a huge fan of the Oculus Rift. I’ve watched the Rift’s development, especially where it concerns Second Life, and blogged about it in the past. Besides Linden Lab’s own official work on integrating the Oculus Rift with Second Life, Dave Rowe (Strachan Ofarrel in SL) has been working on a version of his CtrlAltStudio viewer for it. Dave will also be featured in an upcoming instalment of the show.

As I’ve already stated in my own coverage of the Rift, I believe there’s a lot of hype surrounding it and that it won’t bring about the revolution many people claim it will. It will certainly have its uses, but will it become “the norm”? I highly doubt it. At least for me, and for numerous other people out there that are saddled with all sorts of RL distractions and need to multi-task between SL and RL, it just doesn’t fit the typical use-case scenario. Furthermore, the Oculus Rift comes on the market at a very bad time. Let me explain.

As I’ve explained in an earlier post, Second Life has certainly been affected by the global financial crisis. If my blog’s statistics are anything to go by, a significant portion of SL’s users are European. And Europe is being strangled by the neoliberal fanatics that call the shots in Brussels. Well, not all of Europe; only the 99%: the middle and lower classes. I’ve got news for you, by the way: it seems that it is exactly these lower and middle classes that are Linden Lab’s clientele. Why am I saying this?

As has been mentioned quite a few times in Linden Lab User Group meetings, there are a lot of people who use extremely old machines to enjoy Second Life. Why would that be? Certainly, some can’t be bothered to upgrade. But, if someone could afford to replace their breathless old computer or give it a new lease of life, don’t you think they’d do it? In austerity-stricken economies, people whose income and buying power has been halved (or worse), upgrading the family computer becomes a matter of zero importance. I personally know many people who used to have a very decent income and are now struggling to put food on the table. How can we expect these people to be persuaded to buy an Oculus Rift and other accessories that would enhance its usability?

And yes, people are also abandoning their virtual land because they can no longer afford to keep it. Many people I’ve spoken to are considering going on a long hiatus from Second Life until they manage to have a job that will provide them a living wage again. In other words: It’s the economy, stupid. That said, I’ve no reason to believe the Oculus Rift will be the runaway success certain circles believe and/or claim it will be.

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