Definition: Handfasting is an ancient Celtic ritual in which the hands are tied together to symbolize the binding of two lives. While it is most often included in Wiccan or Pagan ceremonies, it has become more mainstream and pops up in both religious and secular vows and readings.
One certain thing that I have learned in writing the RyanSchultz.com blog over these past five years is this: no matter what the metaverse platform, and no matter how obscure or popular it might be, there is always a committed community of die-hard fans associated with it! And the small but active fanbase of the social VR platform Sansar (built by Linden Lab and since sold to Wookey) is the perfect example of that truth. Despite the almost total absence of marketing by Wookey, the userbase continues to create worlds, meet up, and hold various events. It’s heartwarming.
Did you also know? Even within the relatively small user community of Sansar, since its launch in 2017, there have been at least five couples who first met up in Sansar and then connected in real life (and in some cases, even got married!). Actually, it might be six by now…I have lost track! We learned this lesson back in the days of Second Life; the metaverse brings couples together. ❤️
Recently, Sansar ambassador Bluebell (whom I know well from my earliest days in Sansar, and who is a tireless promoter of the platform) and her beau Moggz held a handfasting ceremony on March 3rd, 2022, attended by all their friends who, in real life, were scattered all across the globe. When I asked about having a handfasting instead of a marriage ceremony, Bluebell told me, “Yes, we prefer the old rituals.”
Bluebell was kind enough to share some pictures with me which were taken at the event (unfortunately, I could not be there). Please click on each thumbnail picture in this gallery to see it in a larger size:
Photos provided by Bluebell, Wolfen Howeller, and Mijeka Munro; thank you!
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There will be a major scandal or controversy around one of the blockchain/NFT-oriented Metaverse platforms.
With NFTs beset by scams and NFT/blockchain-oriented metaverse platforms seeing low user numbers but extremely high investment and speculation, this is only a matter of time.
It’s only January 12th, 2022, but I have already written about a number of questionable NFT projects which at best are crazy schemes, and at worst are outright scams! MetaWorld springs to mind as the perfect example of the latter (ALLEGEDLY, I hasten to add, although IN MY OPINION, I don’t believe there is any actual MetaWorld platform, aside from a prototype which was created years ago by someone who has since left the company to work for Somnium Space).
Despite all the negative press from the Engadget exposé and my series of blogposts about MetaWorld, Dedric continues undeterred. Someone joked to me via Discord DMs that Dedric Reid is the Elizabeth Holmes of the metaverse, and I laughed out loud because it’s such an apt, concise description! Harsh, savage, but accurate.
But on to other topics; I am tired of talking about Dedric Reid and MetaWorld (and frankly, whoever falls for his ALLEGED scam at this point is simply not doing their proper due diligence, IN MY OPINION). There’s a lot of actual progress being made by many legitimate metaverse companies building social VR/AR platforms and virtual worlds!
Meta is facing such a never-ending litany of complaints, scandals, and even legal actions that this is, once again, a very easy prediction to make for 2022.
Next prediction: there’s going to be a lot of activity this year in the fuzzy overlap area between games and virtual worlds, what I like to call the “metaverse-adjacent” space. Both games (e.g. Fortnite, Minecraft) and game platforms (e.g. Roblox, Core) will continue to add new features in an effort to become more like social VR/AR apps and virtual worlds. And, given their immense popularity, especially among children, tweens, and teens, many people will get their first taste of the metaverse via these games and game platforms, in much the same way as an entire generation got their start in the metaverse via Second Life.
Second Life will continue to be successful and profitable—but it will face increasing competition from newer platforms such as VRChat, and it will no longer be the most popular virtual world.
My first prediction is a no-brainer. In my predictions for 2019, I wrote that Second Life would “continue to coast along, baffling the mainstream news media and the general public with its vitality and longevity”, and that still holds true.
And, indeed, 2021 was the first year in which VRChat began to consistently surpass Second Life in user concurrency figures (Rec Room did too, I believe). VRChat has been breaking new user concurrency records, leading up to and including New Year’s Eve 2021, as Johnny Rodriguez tweeted:
Last night, 88,700 people put on a VR headset and decided to join the VRChat New Years event to countdown [to] the new year. For reference, this is Husker’s Memorial Stadium [at the University of Nebraska], which fits around 86,000 people when completely full. VR is here to stay.
Turning back to Second Life, the coronavirus pandemic caused a temporary surge in usage (and the current Omicron wave might well prompt people to dust off their avatars and give it another try, too). I still estimate that SL has somewhere between 500,000 and 900,000 active users per month (that is, people who sign in at least once in the past thirty days). I really wish that Linden Lab would regularly release statistics like this, but if they are declining (slowly or quickly), I can also understand why the company would be reluctant to do so.
I was part of Sansar since I was invited into the closed beta in 2016/2017, and I was there for the whole crazy ride. Sansar is now on life support (the company that bought it from Linden Lab, called Wookey, furloughed all of its staff recently, and I believe that they could shut down at any moment without warning). Being there from beginning to end, I still marvel at how Linden Lab thought they could build a new virtual world/social VR platform and just put it out there, and expect it to sell itself in this competitive marketplace for metaverse platforms. “Build it and they will come” might have worked for SL in 2003 but it sure ain’t gonna work nowadays. You have to PROMOTE yourself to get noticed.
Also, Linden Lab could have done a lot of things to try and entice SL users to a) visit Sansar and b) make them want to stay, build worlds, create content, and form a new community. Instead, what happened is that Second Life folks (rightly or wrongly) saw Sansar as something which distracted LL from its work on SL, and as a result most SL folks hated Sansar and refused to have anything to do with it, hastening its downfall in my opinion. It also didn’t help that Linden Lab made a bet that many people would be owning high-end VR headsets tethered to high-end PCs with good graphics cards, and instead the Oculus Quest wireless headset took off.
I still shake my head and wonder “what if?”. Say a prayer for Sansar, it needs it.
Right now, Sansar’s best hope for survival in 2022 is for another company who wants to enter the metaverse marketplace to buy the platform from Wookey, much the same as Microsoft stepped in at the eleventh hour to snap up AltspaceVR.
Another prediction: we are going to see an increase in the number of companies providing services to metaverse platforms. Wagner James Au mentions the Linden Lab subsidiary Tilia, which provides financial services, in his blogpost which I linked to up top; I predict that they will land a few more clients this year. Another example of a company doing well in this niche is Ready Player Me, the avatar system currently in use in VRChat and over 1,000 other apps and games on VR, mobile, desktop, and web. Expect this nascent business-to-business sector to explode this year!
Well, that’s it for me, for now. I might update this blogpost with other predictions for 2022 as they come to me.
And I ask you, my faithful readers: what predictions are you making for the next twelve months? Feel free to leave a comment, or use the feedback form on my blog if you’d prefer to contact me directly. You’re also welcome to join the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, a cross-worlds community where over 600 people, with experience in various metaverse platforms, welcome you! Just click the button on the left-side panel of my blog as shown (image right). If you are connecting via a smartphone or tablet instead of your computer desktop, just click the three-bars menu button in the upper-right hand corner, then scroll down until you see the Discord widget displayed.
I admit it: I still have a soft spot in my heart for the early social VR platform Sansar.
I joined Sansar which was then in closed beta test, in January 2017, and I began this blog in order to write exclusively about Sansar (in fact, the original name for the RyanSchultz.com blog was the Sansar Newsblog). Over time, I slowly expanded to write about other platforms, but Sansar was my introduction to social VR.
In my opinion, Sansar (built by Linden Lab, opened to the public on July 31st, 2017, and later sold to Wookey in 2020) still boasts some of the most breathtakingly beautiful worlds in the metaverse (thanks in large part to their advanced lighting model). I wanted to reshare two of my favourite videos to give those of you, who might never have set a virtual foot in Sansar, a taste of those worlds.
First is a video by Wurfi, compiled in 2019, showcasing numerous worlds in Sansar. Watching this brings back so many happy memories!
And second is the following YouTube video by Daisy Winthorpe, made in 2020, which also shows off numerous Sansar worlds:
I regret that I haven’t been blogging very much lately (I’ve been full-on occupied with training requests and other projects this September at my university), but I wanted to use my blog to amplify a plea for help from a virtual world friend, Timothy Jackson, whom many of you know better as Maxwell Graf, a talented content creator in both Second Life and Sansar. I interviewed Max back in 2017 about his work in Sansar. His Second Life store is called Rustica: in-world location; SL Marketplace).
Like so many who have had their lives upended because of the coronavirus pandemic, Tim/Max and his wife are in danger of losing their home, so they have started a GoFundMe page:
We just had an offer accepted this week on the mobile home you see in the picture, our lender approved it but today we found out our total costs to go into contract are about twice what we have in our savings account. We have not been able to find housing close enough to let [my wife] keep her job, renting or buying, until this one. We are so close to having some stability. We need your help desperately to be able to keep from becoming homeless again. Please fund us if you can.
If you can help them with a donation, no matter how small, to help them meet their GoFundMe goal of US$7,500, it would mean a stable roof over their heads. Or, if you prefer, perhaps you can purchase something for your virtual home in Second Life from Rustica, such as this amazingly detailed set of bookshelves and books:
I personally own this set, and I never fail to marvel over the workmanship, and smile at the clever titles on the spines of the individual books!
I have known Maxwell Graff (Timothy Jackson) of Rustica for many years, in and out of SL. Having known him and his wife Lyric, and all they have had to go through, I am hoping we can do our best to help them in their time of need. They are at risk of becoming homeless as they wait to try and buy a house. There is more to the story, which you can read on the GoFundMe page, but I will post a bit of it below.
What we are all hoping people can pitch in in any way they can, no matter how big or small. There is the GoFundMe page for direct donations, the in world store location to buy his products, and the marketplace (it is not fully updated so some products are not listed).
Others are also helping get the word out, so know it is not just me. Max is dear to many of us, so if you would like to see what some of the others have to say, you can check out blogs from Ryan Schultz and Mona Eberhardt.
UPDATE Oct. 6th, 2021: I just wanted to let everybody know that Max/Tim and his wife met their goal, and have closed their GoFundMe page, posting the following message:
We have reached our goal, between this fund and donations to our PayPal, so [we] have locked accepting further donations, rather than continue to keep this open! We have what we needed, what we asked for, and more than we dared to hope. Thank you to all who shared, reposted, blogged, upvoted, linked, and most of all to those who donated. As of today we are legally in contract for the house and will be able to get this home. Your kindness and love have made every difference. WE ARE LIFTED BY OTHERS.
Congratulations to Tim/Max and thank you to all who contributed!