Adrenaline Lite – Adventure Sports in Second Life

09Jun09

Free falling Fiend

I like that you can’t die when skydiving in SL. The blood pool animation when you hit the ground (much) too hard is about as real as it gets. Or is it. Why would anyone want to skydive in SL when you can fly…?

With a healthy dose of virtual trepidation, I strapped on my Terra Sport III PRO parachute, took my place on the Abbot’s Aerodrome Skydiving Pod (vaguely resembling the seats in an airport departure lounge), and held on. The Pod launched me to 4000 meters into the sky then unceremoniously ejected me into free fall. After a bit of expert-looking plummeting, I pulled the ripcord and, held aloft by my Canada flag-emblazoned canopy, drifted slowly back to earth. The view was pretty good – once the details rezzed – and the parachute reacted to my control actions like I would imagine a real one would.  My landing was rated (“CRUNCH! Hard Landing”) and the distance from my launch point was recorded (quite a long way away).

Canada canopy

“Skydivers engage in it for the thrill of skydiving – clicking the “Fly” button just ruins the fun” says Cubey Terra, co-founder of Abbot’s Aerodrome [SLurl], “Similarly, even though we can teleport anywhere we want on the map, many SLers enjoy flying aircraft and driving cars. I see SL as an entertainment medium. People enter SL looking for a fun social experience. What better way to liven up a party than to fall together from 4000 meters?” Starting to be convinced about the sport, I confide in Terra my real life fear of skydiving. He quickly sets sets my mind at ease –  “RL skydiving can’t be particularly dangerous. I’ve talked to dozens of skydivers, and none of them have ever had a fatal accident.”

OK, so virtual skydiving is fun. But what about SCUBA diving in SL? Surely there is no need for tanks and wetsuits in a world where you can walk around underwater as easily as down the high street.

Contrary to my RL skydiving experience (none), I have engaged in many SCUBA dives in various challenging locations around the world, so SCUBA diving in SL will assuredly hold no allure for me.  With my mind already made up, I TP’ed to PADI Dive World [SLurl], where the onshore build introduces visitors to various aspects of recreational SCUBA diving.

After donning my Splash Aquatics Commercial Dive Kit Bag, I explored the underwater part of the sim (Splash Aquatics also did the design/build of Dive World). It is filled with (as) realistic (as one can get in SL) flora and fauna, and designed to take the diver through various ocean ecosystems with explanatory signposts distributed on the seafloor. The feel of virtual SCUBA diving seems less ‘real’ than that of virtual skydiving, but the experience was still worthwhile. The diving body posture is accurate, and the drift-delay feel of the movement comes close to approximating the feel of swimming weightless underwater. Fiend dives

I asked John Kinsella (Cilian McCullough in SL) PADI’s VP for Diving Science and Technology (DSAT is PADI’s research and product development arm) about the response to SCUBA diving in SL. “It’s a perfect match! Freedom of movement in all dimensions.” He adds, “People who get in love it. We were careful to develop in a way that contributes to the vibrant SL community. I would offer that we are very well received because of that: we do not give away free equipment (so we don’t undermine SL builders and vendors), we have a great place for people to come and spend some time, we have tried to offer something to the community instead of hitting them over the head with our brand.”

Unexpectedly, I found that indeed sky and SCUBA diving in SL were quite enjoyable despite the fact that they offer none of the adrenaline charge of the actual activity. Both provided a glimpse of the sport, without any of the risk. (Undoubtedly, this is a also significant factor in why virtual sex is so popular.) PADI’s Kinsella feels that SL may in fact be a place where students could learn some of the classroom theory that is part the basic SCUBA diving courses, and this is where I feel that SL may provide the most benefit. Imagine a chat-enable classroom session with a small group of student divers, where the instructor can demonstrate key elements of the the physics and physiology of diving using teaching aids that simply cannot exist outside a virtual environment.

And anyway, only in SL can you sip a Pina Colada while still fully-suited in technical dive gear. And that is good.

Don't try this in real life



3 Responses to “Adrenaline Lite – Adventure Sports in Second Life”

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