Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Role Play: Memory or imagination? The use of masks to create an Impossible Reality

NPIRLer Yohann Emoto was so captivated by this place and topic that I invited him to guest-blog about it here. In Real Life, he is a 41 year old French man, self described as "a night owl," father to two children, a designer of social and pedagogical games and a corporate consultant. He's been a resident of Second Life since 2006. - Bettina Tizzy

By Yohann Emoto

I have always been fascinated by the unfolding of passions and rejections provoked by Role Playing (RP) in Second Life®.

I have seen the compelling fervor of various creators and players who, pressured by the constraints of their ideas devote their limitless energies to their tasks like hypnotized collectors or enthralled philatelists. And I have observed those who reject RPs all through the anthology of questions of morality or the lack of personal desire to embody a role other than representing one’s true self.

To become a prowling vampire during a whole night, thirsty for vengeance with a neighboring tribe, or a Star Wars character that battles against his own impulses of the “Dark Force,” or a lonely cowboy who will drink his cupidity in a lost saloon, or a mermaid, a fairy, an elf or a powerful dragon... there are as many choices as there are sensitivities, a wide array of unbridled imaginations allowed by the role of masks that Second Life makes possible.

In a way, all of this is Impossible in Real Life, hence the presence of this article in our preferred blog!

To bring a novel alive, or a literary piece of work through collective creation, by a vastly improvised yet well regulated play, was my concept of the RP until my unexpected encounter with Jo Yardley, the creator of the 1920’s Berlin Project, which opened on July 18th.

During one of my many explorations, I landed in a place where I immediately perceived the excellent quality and historical sourcing of the textures used there.

When Jo Yardley greeted me with the sharp tone of a German school teacher, admonishing me for not adhering to the dress code, I knew that I had arrived in “outer space” and that I would experience “wow!” moments that only Second Life can provide. It happens when one meets seriously devoted people.

After we became better acquainted, she offered me a guided tour of the place, the main area, the small streets, the “backstreets," the “nightclub”...

...her typical “Berliner hoffs,” with a space so tiny that you have to share water and toilets.

Her movie theatre screens films of that era, a hotel welcomes lovers who can enjoy moments of care-free “insouciance” possible only because they were taking place in between two wars, a cabaret fills with musicians who play live music of the period. There is an “education factory” where classes about the 20’s are offered, as well as documentaries about life during those years.

I also liked the original and interesting “posing balls,” which animate avatars and enable them to physically have an argument, or dance the authentic dances of the 20’s. It is easy to lose oneself in this well-reconstructed atmosphere, and listen to the accurate music of that period that comes from another time... Jo, a historical consultant from Amsterdam in Real Life, is passionate about life between the two great world wars. “Berlin, at that time, was very interesting as well as exciting for its politics, culture and music, but we also wanted to show its darker side of poverty and prostitution," she explained. Jo has additional projects planned and hopes to own a complete simulator. I wish her a well deserved success.

I was fascinated by this woman’s passion. While she only just rezzed in Second Life in February of this year and is therefore an apprentice creator, she has built quite a realistic place sourcing over 80% of the textures from her personal archives. I have discovered through her work another form of RP: that of bringing back to life a forgotten era of our human history and making it a place for social gatherings where exchanges are regulated. Berlin was at the hub of captivating world and part of an enlightened time, before darkness engulfed it, and the late 20s were a defining moment in the new era of modernism before it was followed by conflict.

The rules of this “game” become a sort of a framework through which time stops and the Masterpiece theatre begins.

I was familiar with RPs that stemmed from romanced imaginations; I have now discovered those born from Memory and History. It is no more an issue of merely incarnating a character than reincarnating it…

Jo’s passion has deeply inspired me, and today I question the living reason for Second Life. Is it not an immense RP in which we incarnate someone else? Do we live with insane or phenomenal powers? Don’t we fly from one place to another and speak “telepathically” with others? Don’t we teleport ourselves? Don’t we disconnect from it at our leisure? How then are our human behaviors based on this model modified? What does “being our self” mean when the self becomes a totally imagined being?

This reminds me of the “Comedia Del Arte” where the Art of Masks was used to bring forth the true personality of man... we think we hide, and in fact, this is where we allow ourselves to be truly who we are beyond our permanent social masks!

Who said anything about playing a role?

You can visit the 1920’s Berlin Project by teleporting directly from here.


sororNishi said...

I agree entirely. The idea of the Integrated Personality is seen more and more as pure myth. We play many parts, or,...... when healthy we play many parts, our psyche is complex, multifaceted and, more or less, infinite.
As I have said before I think SL is a healing environment for exactly this reason.