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A virtual New York state of mind

November 30, 2006

Rockefeller Christmas Tree in Second Life (courtesy of Aimee Weber / SecondLifeInsider.comLast night was the annual lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in New York City. You could see the tree lit live on NBC, but what if you wanted a more interactive experience?

Like, let’s say, skating on the famed center ice rink while the tree was lit?

Well then, you had to go virtual. You had to be in Second Life.

Second Life is a virtual three-dimensional world created by Linden Labs, in which people from all around the world interact as “avatars,” or virtual representations of themselves. They can talk via chat text to each other, build structures and objects, wear pixelated clothing and listen/watch streaming radio stations and video feeds.

Last night, NBC partnered with some of the virtual world’s top builders and scripters to create a replica of Rockefeller Center on Linden Labs’ servers.

Aimee Weber in action on the rink (courtesy of Aimee Weber/ avatar could watch the NBC broadcast on virtual screens in the plaza, while a replica of the Christmas tree was lit at the same time its real-life counterpart got juiced.

All the while, my avatar sported ice skates, doing impressive somersaults and spins on the ice rink surface. Look out Brian Boitano!

To start a second life in Second Life, you just download the free software on your home PC with a broadband Internet connection. It’ll take you through the account set-up and will give you a tutorial.

Then you’ll get a starter allowance of Lindens, the world’s currency, and off you go. If you want to become a land owner and start a virtual store or homestead, you pay a small monthly membership fee and “tier fees” based on the acreage you own — sort of a virtual property tax, which I wish could be lowered through the use of slot-machine gambling revenues. (If you don’t live in Pennsylvania, you won’t get that reference.)

Anyway, it was a very enjoyable experience, and I hope this area stays up for the entire holiday season. Kudos to Aimee Weber, Bedazzle Studios, and the Electric Sheep Company for building a superb Rockefeller Center. Thanks to Moopf for the free pair of skates.

And a shout out to Second Life Insider (where Aimee posts) for the heads-up on the event.

Now, off to work on that triple lutz.

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