Today at 5pm PST, I and about 45 other avatars were among the first players of the new Virtual Mine game in Second Life. The group got to meet the creators of the game, work together to complete the three different levels, and then participate in a short panel discussion about the game and associated documentary.
It was a really interesting experience that demonstrated the power of virtual worlds to teach unique and memorable lessons that no other digital technology can match. And we got to blow stuff up!
As we learned, Virtual Mine is based on the real life experiences of residents of a small town in the Appalachian Mountains that have traditionally relied on the coal mine for their power and economy. The game is associated with an upcoming documentary about the coal mining industry called "Deep Down," co-produced by Sally Rubin and Jen Gilomen. So every part of the experience has a connection to real people, giving depth and meaning to the different game activities.
We began with learning how to wear the hard hat and the HUD (heads up display) device to play the game. Once we all were properly equipped, with did the first level of the game, which involves learning about the coal extraction process. This might be my favorite level of the game, because you get to operate heavy machinery and blow stuff up.
The players have to operate tractors and giant cranes and trucks to get coal out of the ground and onto a train to go into town. It's actually quite a laborious process, even in Second Life, helping me understand a little better what a hard life being a coal miner must be. A machinima video gives you the background on why this industry is important for the town.
The next level is based in town, where you have to try and reduce people's reliance on coal by turning of all electrical appliances. There are a lot of machines and devices that use electricity, so it actually took our group some time to turn them all off.
The final level is where you learn about different more sustainable energy sources, from solar, to wind and hydropower. You get to play three different mini-games to learn how these energy sources could be integrated into the community.
Finally we got to celebrate the completion of the game with an Appalachian style line dance, which in the real game will be done to the music of the real band that plays in the town the game is based on. The avatars at the launch had a great time dancing, which remains one of those virtual activities that never fails to delight people.
After this, we gathered in the town square for a discussion with the documentary producers Jen Gilomen (Girl Tenk) and Sally Rubin (Tracks Elcano), Wendy Levy of the Bay Area Video Coalition (Shayna Capalini), Kentuckians for the Commonwealth's Beth Rosdatter (Frederica Lexenstar), and myself Rik Panganiban (Rik Riel.) The panel discussion was moderated by Second Life journalist Bernhard Drax (Draxtor Depres).
Congrats to the documentary producers Jen Gilomen and Sally Rubin, the game creators Sand Castle Studios, and everyone else involved in this project. I'm excited to see how this game will be used by schools, nonprofits, and others to spur debate and discussion about more sustainable energy extraction, distribution and consumption practices.
I look forward to visiting the sim again and digging deeper into the different activities. And come January 1, 2011, I can bring some of our teenagers into the sim to play the game! Try it out yourself by heading to this teleport link.
See more pics from the launch event here.