This is something that’s struck home(NOSSAN!) for me recently. I’ll start off by referring to this xkcd strip: http://xkcd.com/1305/
It’s kind of humbling to think of all the little crevices and hideaways that used to be hustling and bustling with life but have since faded away, back to the ether they were spawned from. There’s several that I can think back to myself, such as the old alt.toys.transformers Usenet group(which is sort-of survived via Allspark), and multiple IRC channels which are likely long gone by now. I’ve experianced things people will never see again. I’ve seen blinking marquee tags off the shoulder of Angelfire. I’ve seen the scrolling of many conversations in the park on SocioPoliticalRamifications. All those moments, will be lost in time.
But Blade Runner paraphrases aside, what hit home the worst for me was three(or four, really) words. The Isle of Wyrms.
When I first joined Second Life back in 2005, I saw it as merely a graphical extension of the MUCKs I frequented at the time. It had just recently gone free, although you still had to have a credit card for identification. As the MUCKs I had frequented abck then were all furry-oriented, I initially did the same and made my initial home of sorts at Lost Furest and the SL version of Lost Lake(from DMFA). Eventually as I got more comfortable in SL I branched out, both in exploration and identity. For a short time(relatively) I played around with a chakat character, before I got my first dragon at the Isle of Wyrms.
This was back near the tail end of 2006 when I first actually set foot there. I’d been aware of it earlier thanks to two of the Lost Lake folks having gotten adults at one of the hatchings, but the chakat skin no longer fit. (Figuratively, not literally). I’d just missed the winter hatching, but I had plenty of Lindens so I snagged an Astral Wyrmling.
A little background here: At the time, IoW only sold the Wyrmling(think teenager) and hatchling size dragons 24/7. The adults were only available to teh general public in limited numbers. and only at solstice or equinox. Daryth Kennedy, the artist behind them, felt it added a bit more meaning and specialness to them. You could buy more at any time after your first, but that first one was meant to mean something. At the time.
I toyed around with D&D color schemes initially, and was considering going brass before I ended up with a dark blue that felt right. At the time they only had 2 sims; Limbo, which had the sandbox, drum circle, and cathedral that held the vendors, and Lethe, which was the residential sim. I felt that maybe I’d hang out for a while and actually meet some of the others there, and found they were a great and fun bunch of dragons and other beings!
Not too much later, Daryth released the Wyverns, and held a special hatching to celebrate the new avatars(and beta-test the new hatching system). While it didn’t go 100% smoothly, I was one of the first Arctic Wyverns(fittingly enough) and there definitely was a sense of meaning to it all. There was a sense of magic in watching all the new dragons spread their wings for the first time, figuring out all the new things together there in the Limbo Sandbox. I may not have any screenshots, but I definitely have the memories of it all.
Time moved on and the Isle grew. More sims were added and more people came to join the community around these large(and small!) scaly critters. Heck, I spent many hours on the Isle myself tweaking my avatar towards what felt like me. At one point, there was I believe 12 sims, and we were connected with the elf sims in a sort of “fantasy continent”.
Then the economy took a dump and the Isle started to shrink again. New advances in features we could use for avatars came and the original dragon designs became Legacy, until finally the hatching was ended as there were starting to be eggs left available until the next hatching.
Somewhere around then I got more heavily into WoW raiding, and between that and work I didn’t really spend the time to hang out around the Isle regularly anymore. I dropped out of SL for a couple years around ’08, and then found time again around early 2010 for a while, then left again to come back in late 2011.
When I took a look around each time, I found a lot of the places I used to frequent had vanished. Lost Furest had closed for renovations and never fully re-opened. Furnation had changed greatly in design. Fox Valley had turned into a bunch of residential sims. Various other sims had moved or no longer existed. The Isle had lost territory itself, but the Cathedral was still there, and mostly the same. Limbo was still around with its sandbox in all its glorious lag, mostly unchanged from 2008 or even earlier. Hatchie Haven and some of the satellite sims were still kicking around just fine.
When I logged back in not long ago after basically 2 full years away I first ended up on some random sim elsewhere. I felt a moment of.. panic? at first, but a quick search showed me Limbo was still there, so I teleported back. And found myself surprised and disoriented
While I had seen it happen to any other places, I guess I had subconciously assumed it would never happen to IoW. 6 years in SL is like decades in the real world, and Limbo had always felt to me like the core of the Isle, maybe in part because I had arrived before the Cathedral sim was added, when Limbo basically was the IoW.
At some point in those two years, Limbo had been steamrolled over and turned into a residential sim, replacing Lyre, which was no more. It took me a bit to figure out that much, as the notice about it was long gone from the Groups Notice list, since it only keeps the last two weeks of notices. The mall and sandbox, the latter of which used to be the place dragons came to hang out, had both been squeezed in alongside the Cathedral, and to my full-size dragon self it felt cramped compared to what we used to have. Even more sims are gone now, and a quick look at the green dots on the map showed barely anyone around. (To be fair, the last time I was there that was kind of the case, but there was usually a couple people at the sandbox at any given time. Not now.)
I managed to spot a friendly face, but he was AFK apparently when I landed to try and find out what had happened while I had been gone. I’ve hopped on a couple times since, but each time there was basically no one at the Sandbox or the Cathedral, and I have no idea what spaces on the neighboring sims are public anymore, or where the dragons kick back now on the Isle. A couple times there was a bit of play in the Citizens chat, but even that seemed quiet the times I was on.
To put it in an analogy, it’s like a kid who grows up around this awesome forest, leaves for college, and comes back to find it had all been torn down for a housing development.(Which also has happened to me, after a fashion.) The IoW had felt stable for a long time, like anyplace built by dragons should. Relatively I supposed it was as well, with how fast things change in SL. It may have been bad timing on my part, compared to when people are normally around, but it feels like I’m a stranger in my own hometown, so to speak.
On old-time maps, “Here there be dragons” was a way of marking places that were unexplored, unknown. For me, it meant “Home is here.” With all the changes now, I don’t know anymore where to find my scaled brethren, or even how many of them are still around. There are still drum circles it looked like, so I might poke my snout in around then. See what other greyscales might still be around.
A home isn’t just a place where you keep all your stuff, or in the case of SL, the place you get teleported to when you get ejected off a sim. A home is where you can find all the people you care about, and vice versa. People change, places change, and you can’t count on it being there forever, waiting for you. Especially in a world as ephemeral as that online.
But that doesn’t stop that feeling of melancholy when you find out your old home is no more.