Category Archives: Featured

Relay for Life (Second Life) 2009

A yearly highlight in Second Life is the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. The 2007 and 2008 events were big successes, with more than 55 million Linden Dollars (approximately 200 thousand US dollars).

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Teams have started forming and if any health-related teams are forming, do let us know and we’ll promote your fundraising efforts. The team registration form can be found here.

The Second Life version of the Relay achieves the same community vibe as the real-world one and it’s an opportunity to remember those lost to cancer, to support those currently fighting cancer and to help find more effective treatments for cancers.

Thanks to SL Entrepreneur Magazine for the heads-up.

The View From My Wheelchair

Australian Second Life resident, Seshat Czeret, provides a guest post, which appeared on The Metaverse Journal in the past week. Thanks Seshat!

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There is always a lot of talk about ‘accessibility’, so-called ‘making things usable for the disabled’. You also hear a lot about phrases like ‘discrimination’, ‘equal opportunity’ and ‘political correctness’. It can be difficult to work out what is actually needed to help a disabled person live a fulfilling and useful life, and what is excessive ‘correctness’. Hearing what life is like for a disabled person can help.

I’m disabled. I use Second Life extensively. This is my story.

In the atomic world, the fleshworld, I’m almost totally housebound. I can only do chores – or SL work – for a short time before I have to rest. I only have a few hours a day in which I’m functional, and even for those I’m not fully functional. I haven’t been since I was a teenager. Some days – even some weeks or months – I have even less, or am not functional at all.

When I do go out, I have to use a mobility scooter or a wheelchair. I can walk, but walking the length of a mall would tire me out to the point where I’d need several hours of sleep to recover. For various reasons – which would probably be boring – even with the assistance of the scooter or the wheelchair, going out is very stressful and leaves me tired. I have to plan outings carefully.

So I can’t do atomic world work. By the time I got to work, I’d be too weak to achieve anything. I’ve tried, over and over again, many times in the last two decades. I’ve done it, but only at the cost of aggravating my problems.

Fortunately for me, I live in the 21st Century. I can do work from home! I’ve done voluntary work for the Open Source community. I’ve done other sorts of online voluntary work. I’ve written articles, and twice written a book. Unfortunately, the pace of work expected of an author of books exceeds what I can do – the first time I wrote a book, I was more than a year recovering.

But in Second Life, I can be useful.

In Second Life, I teach. I only have to be focussed for an hour and a half or so at a time, which is a stretch of time I can manage. And I don’t have to leave my house, exhausting myself, to do so. I can teach in text, with student questions also in text, so my hearing problems don’t matter. Much of the typing is done in advance, so I don’t overstrain my arms and hands, and only have to type the personalisation of the class for the individual students I’m teaching that day.

In Second Life, I am an NCI helper. I sit and listen in on the NCI chat/questions group channel. When there’s a problem I can help with, I can choose to respond – or not! If I’m having a high pain day, I let others catch that question. If I’ve responded to too many questions and need a break, I let others catch that question. If I can answer, however, I will.

In Second Life, I run a business. I don’t have to be there all the time, I can set things up and then go collapse into my bed. I can create things that other people like, in the times when I am functional, and rest when I’m not. I can do the business management stuff when I’m capable of it, not to someone else’s timeframe.

Best of all, in Second Life, my body works. I can run, and dance, and fly, and ‘talk’, and ‘hear’. I can attend art shows, or watch people creating art in sandboxes.

In Second Life, I am a person and not a disability.

The rise and rise of the Game Widow

This article in the Canadian publication, the London Free Press, describes in detail a couple of case studies of gaming addicts. The case studies themselves paint a fairly standard picture of someone with a compulsion for intensive gaming, though some effort has been made to provide balanced coverage of the issue.

The premise of the article is the establishment of a support service for gaming addicts in London, Ontario – apparently the first such group in Canada. What caught my eye was that the wife of one of the addicts described in the article, Wendy Kays, has written a book called Game Widow. (we’ll hopefully be reviewing the book soon).

The term ‘game widow’ has been around for years and it’s increasingly resonating with the broader public. It further emphasises the need for more research in the area as well as a vigilance toward not typecasting all gamers as addicts. Terms like ‘game widow’ also accentuate the gender divide in some gaming genres. There are surely ‘game widowers’ out there but they’re likely to be in a distinct minority.

One final comment to the author of the article – online roleplaying did not begin with Everquest in 1999.

Vietnam’s online addiction courses

I noticed this interesting news article at the Thanh Nien Daily.

Essentially, it’s an intensive course running on weekends for two months. On the face of it it seems a useful option for those with issues impacting their lives detrimentally. Looking a little closer though, and the alarm bells start ringing. Take this for example:

During treatment, teens will work with psychologists and health experts to improve their self esteem; develop other interests and teamwork skills; and learn how to avoid temptations.

There’s some big assumptions there on self-esteem and the approach seems very conservative: ‘avoiding temptation’. It’s a tone that will appeal to parents but one that’ll concern the actual target group. The even more obvious question is: who is assessing that the teen is addicted? What assessment criteria are being used?

On the positive side, there does seem to be a little more than the 21st Century equivalent of an AA meeting:

Also included in the program is a “Box of Emotion” where each student is encouraged to write out their emotions and thoughts since the beginning of the program. The box will be opened in the course’s sixth week with participation from the students’ parents.

The treatment approach seems to be one of reality checking with some real-world skill building:

“Most online game addicts fail to face the real world but want to become ‘heroes’ in the virtual world,” Lien said. “[Through the program] we hope to bring them back to the real world and help them discover their own abilities.”

There’s even some good old community and family work involved:

Parents also take part in other social activities with their children like washing their own shirts to donate to disadvantaged students through charitable organizations.

Will it work? Possibly, though to some participants it will feel like hell on earth for the duration. My main concern is defining where intervention actually needs to occur. Forcing people into treatment where there’s no true issue is not a lot different from sending someone to prison for jaywalking.