By Beth Davies-Stofka
Hello! My name is Michigan Paule. I recently went on a Halloween vacation to a virtual world called Second Life, and I thought I'd share some of my holiday snaps with you.
But before I do, I'd like to share a couple of observations with you. First, Halloween in Second Life is definitely a secular holiday. Anything goes! I'm not superstitious, but I still got a little nervous around all the pentagrams and demonic images. So I wouldn't recommend a Second Life Halloween holiday to anyone who is particularly devout.
Second, Halloween in Second Life is also definitely an R-rated event. There are a lot of tributes to slasher films, and designers show a real predilection for gore. You might enjoy running into Hannibal Lecter, or Freddy, or that SAW guy. I don't. I'm more Victorian in my tastes. I like ghosts, specters, spooks, vampires, zombies, and things that go bump in the night.
My first stop was at The Greatest Halloween Ride in the World ever!
This is a simulation of a typical amusement park ride through a house of horrors. We queued along the rails and waited for our tram. When it came, we climbed in, promised not to stand up during the ride, and off we went!
We traveled through rooms both traditional and contemporary. Some rooms had specters sharing tea, while others had haunted graveyards guarded by horned beasts. There were morgues, cornfields, dismembered bodies under a full moon, and vampire coffins. And of course, there were the inevitable clowns.
This ride is so rich with images and animations that it suffers from some lag, but if you can be patient, it's fun. My recommendation: take the ride in the middle of the night, when your house is dark and quiet. Turn off all the lights and set your Second Life environment to midnight. That's the best way to appreciate how lush this simulation is.
Oh, and by the way, this is where I got my pumpkin mask. It was free!
My next stop was the Willow Grove Haunted House.
Willow Grove is also a ride through a house of horrors, this time in a pumpkin car. I had an okay time, but aside from some great sound effects, and a really trippy room filled with giant eyes, the Willow Grove ride wasn't substantially different in concept from the ride I'd just taken. But it did have some images that spooked me, and not in a good way.
About halfway through the Willow Grove ride, I started to realize why Second Life doesn't often feel very immersive to me. I know that's a big buzz word right now in internet businesses and especially in virtual worlds, but I don't think that these passive attractions constitute immersive experiences. I was a little bored, and I certainly wasn't immersed. I was more aware of the things going on in my real world room than I was of the things on the screen.
I wanted something to do!
So off I went, to Midnight's Nightmare Haunted House.
Right away, this one was a little more fun, simply because I had to walk. Even a small change like that heightened my sense of immersion, as did the hints that Freddy was following me! (Recommendation: take the detour.)
I can't say that I loved the aesthetic of showers of blood, but I did appreciate the challenge of finding my way out of the first room. There were a number of creative, and bloody and disgusting features of this haunted house. I liked the tunnel of gore the best. At the beginning, you can't see the end, and as you walk through it, it appears to stretch and become longer. Now that's not possible in real life!
My next stop was really similar to Midnight's Nightmare, but while Midnight's Nightmare felt like it was built in an abandoned mall, Haunted Halloween Island felt like it was built in an ancient mansion. Once I passed the carousels of spooks and specters, that is!