The trenches are sifted with a layer of white snow, and more is falling. The lights in the medical center tents glow warmly, and a momentary quiet seems to drift down over our shoulders. Approaching the front line, the silence is broken here and there by the sound of distant singing, in German.
It is Christmas 1914 in the World War I poetry sim at Frideswide, and a few footballs litter the ground. The guns are silent. From before the holiday, and through 12th Night (January 6th), Csteph Submariner has effected a decided change in the look of the sim, to reflect the Christmas Truce of 1914. Visitors to the front line can hear Henry Williamson, a Private in the London Regiment, give his eyewitness account of the Truce.
I first visited Frideswide a few months ago (here's the original post) and walked the muddy, rat-ridden trenches. The impact of teaching a period of literature from within the environment where that literature was created, most particularly that of World War I, was what struck me at the time. As I revisit the region and note the visible changes, as well as those things that have remained the same, I am struck by another item: the impact change has on a simulation.
There has been much said about the impermanence of regions in Second Life, especially as much-loved places disappear for good. However, the flip side of that coin is the good that comes when things can and do change rapidly within virtual environments. Change can be used for powerful narrative effect over time, or to teach a different point about the same subject, within the "environment" of chronology. Change makes us pay attention; it makes us return and rethink. A beautiful sim that does not change is still beautiful, but a region that does change has extra power. The power comes from a deepening of information and experience created by the fact that Second Life and simulation platforms like it allow for new developments over time. Bravo to Csteph Submariner and the WWI Poetry Sim - I look forward to returning again and seeing what comes next.