Straszfilm’s Video Essay on Active Worlds: A Look Back at a Virtual World That Was Ahead of Its Time—And That You Can Still Visit and Explore Today, 27 Years Later!

Last week, YouTuber Strasz released a 30-minute video essay that’s part documentary and part love letter to a pioneering virtual world that he was once a fond and active member of, called Active Worlds.

Consisting mostly of first-person coverage of his exploration of AW, it’s a fascinating look at what many people (myself included) consider to be the first virtual world with user-generated content—launched way back in 1995, well before Second Life debuted in 2003! Although AW never reached the success of SL, it was still a pioneering virtual world, where users could set up an avatar, build anything they wanted, and form communities.

What is so interesting about Active Worlds, besides its longevity, is that unlike websites which eventually get taken down and discarded, much of the original construction from its earliest days still remains in place, much like a prehistoric insect trapped in amber for scientists to pore over. I think it’s a wonderful documentary, and I can recommend it highly if you’re interested in the early history of the metaverse.

As I mentioned, Active Worlds still exists today, at the ripe old age of 27 (although it has a daily user base in the single digits). You can create an account, download the client software, and explore! Here’s the website. You can also see all my blogposts about Active Worlds here (including this one).

I also wrote about an earlier video essay by Strasz here, in February of 2021, about sexuality and gender in VRChat. If you want more of his content, then follow Strasz on Twitter or Twitchcheck out the rest of his videos on YouTube, or join his Straszfilms Discord server. I very much look forward to future video essays!

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