UPDATED! Gen Con Comes to Second Life July 30th to August 2nd, 2020: Pictures from the First Day of the Virtual Tabletop Gaming Conference (Plus a Visit to the Freebie Village at the Helping Haven Gateway)

Yes, hmmm… well, all my regular readers know by now just how bad I am at keeping my vows to take a self-imposed vacation from this blog... *sigh*… nevertheless, I still intend to largely step away from blogging for the entire month of August, except for sponsored blogposts, so I can focus on other work that I need to attend to. See you in September!

I am *SUPPOSED* to be on holidays from the blog, DAMMIT!!! Stop pulling me back!!!

However, this is a major event that warranted a proper write-up.

Gen Con is the largest tabletop gaming conference in North America, bringing together fans of traditional pen-and-paper, board, and card games, including role-playing games, miniatures war games, live action role-playing games, collectible card games, and strategy games. In 2019, the annual conference brought nearly 70,000 people to Indianapolis, the traditional home of the event.

However, this year, like so many other events, Gen Con was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. So the conference organizers decided to move Gen Con 2020 to a fully online version, including holding a number of events (including tabletop gameplay) taking place in the virtual world of Second Life!

According to the firm organizing the SL portion of Gen Con 2020, VRazeTheBar:

VRazeTheBar has partnered with Gen Con – the largest and longest running gaming convention in North America – to provide an awesome interactive social gaming experience built on Linden Lab’s Enterprise/Education version of Second Life, the world’s largest user-created virtual world of its kind enjoyed by millions of people around the globe. Be the first to join our proof of concept in a virtual world created by gamers for gamers.

Now because I am supposed to be on a self-imposed vacation from the blog (and apparently, I have been living under a rock, to boot), I did not even know that Gen Con was happening in Second Life until one of the organizers contacted me on Discord late last night. So I got up to speed in a hurry, and I decided to pay a visit on their opening day, and take a few pictures to share with you.


Gen Con 2020 is taking place in Second Life on four sims, which have been extensively designed with four levels each—there’s plenty of space, and lots to see and do!

The bottom level is an auditorium, where the short opening ceremony was held today. I was very kindly issued a media pass to roam around the event, so I came early and grabbed a seat next to Strawberry Linden, who was hard at work livestreaming the ceremony (I know it doesn’t look like she was busy in this picture, but trust me, she was!):

Strawberry Linden (left) and Ryan Schultz (a.k.a. Vanity Fair)

Patch Linden gave a short speech, the ceremonial Dungeons & Dragons die was rolled, and Gen Con was officially declared open!

The next level up from the auditorium is a surprisingly detailed virtual recreation of downtown Indianapolis, including the convention centre itself, and the food-truck-lined Georgia Street block party for which Gen Con is noted.

You can even pick up some free T-shirts!

This level also features a small Gen Con Museum, outlining the history of the convention since its start back in 1968:

Costumes are also a big part of Gen Con, so I do expect to see a lot of amazingly-outfitted avatars in my travels!

Yet another Gen Con 2020 level features medieval, renaissance, steampunk, fantasy, and futuristic game-playing regions, where attendees will meet up and play various table-top games within Second Life:

A table set up for a game of One Night Ultimate Werewolf
A table set up for “A Home for the Green” (Dungeons & Dragons 3.5)
Renaissance Road
Steampunk Junction
A tabletop game in progress in the medieval area (avatars dressed in 1970’s fashion notwithstanding)
I have no idea what this game is, but it looks rather ominous…

The topmost level features a post-apocalyptic urban scene, complete with roaming bands of hungry zombies! If you wish, you can even ride a fire-breathing dragon around the landscape (because why not?).

Strawberry Singh devoted a recent episode of Lab Gab to Gen Con 2020, interviewing the team of organizers behind the event. it turns out they pulled all this together in SL in just two months! That’s impressive!


Gen Con 2020 is free to attend, but you must first register for a (free) badge and then purchase (free) e-tickets for each of the events, including those being held in Second Life. Here is the Gen Con Online portal where you can register for a badge and select which sessions and events you wish to attend. This is presumably to avoid overbooking; many of the Gen Con sessions are already fully booked, but there are still spots available at daily Open Gaming Meet and Greet events taking place in Second Life as follows (remember, you still have to register!):

  • Thursday, July 30th, 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Savings Time (EDT)
  • Friday, July 31st, 8:00 p.m. to Midnight EDT
  • Saturday, August 1st, 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. EDT
  • Sunday, August 2nd, 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. EDT

There’s also a Saturday night dance on August 1st, running from 8:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. EDT, which you can also register for online. See you there!


Now sometimes, when conferences are held in Second Life, the organizers will attempt to make some free clothes, shoes, and hair available, to give conference attendees the opportunity to change out of their starter SL avatar looks and avoid that cookie-cutter “newbie” look.

However, in the case of Gen Con 2020, the conference organizers very sensibly decided to refer people to the Freebie Village at the Helping Haven Gateway instead. So, I dropped in for a quick visit, just to see what was new, and I was extremely pleased to see that there has been a recent, extensive update to both the men’s and women’s collections of free apparel. There are now many new, high-quality mesh outfits, plus various kinds of footwear and jewelry, plus skins, hair, AOs, etc.

There are even free mesh bodies: the freebie versions of the Tommy and Estephania full-body mesh avatars from Altamura, plus the free eBody Classic and Curvy bodies, and a couple of other free “Ruth” women’s mesh bodies, such as the Bento, Bakes on Mesh-compatible RuthTooRC3 (which I review here). There’s also a nice-looking non-Bento (static) female mesh head. In short, the Helping Haven Gateway’s Freebie Village now ranks among the best freebie stores on the grid, in my opinion.

Here Vanity Fair models a couple of fabulous retro freebies she picked up from the womenswear building at Helping Haven: a multicolour debutante dress with a gathered waist (which comes in a pack of 13 different patterns, Maitreya Lara size only), plus a fully-adjustable, flowered pink straw hat (which is also tintable; I made it a slightly lighter shade of pink to match the rest of my outfit):

(The vintage pink pearl jewelry is a truly ancient Dark Mouse freebie, dragged from the murky depths of Vanity’s messy inventory, and the shoes are the versatile Wales pumps, a fatpack of which is the current monthly group gift from Essenz—but time is running out, so don’t wait to get these! The Essenz group costs L$350 to join, and this wonderful group gift alone is worth that much.)

Happy freebie shopping! See you at Gen Con!

UPDATE July 31st, 2020: Inara Pey has written a blogpost about Gen Con here.

Immersive Learning Research Network Conference in VirBELA and AltspaceVR, June 21-25, 2020

iLRN 2020, the 6th International Conference of the Immersive Learning Research Network, is running in VirBELA and AltspaceVR from June 21st to 25th, 2020, one of many real-life conferences that have moved to social VR and virtual worlds because of the coronavirus pandemic. This year’s conference theme is Vision 20/20: Hindsight, Insight, and Foresight in XR and Immersive Learning:

Conference attendees must download and install a white-label version of VirBELA to attend most of the conference presentations and events. Here’s a look at the spawn point next to the information booth:

VirBELA is a virtual world I have written about before on this blog, which is very similar to Second Life (Here is a link to all my blogposts tagged VirBELA, including this one).

A view of the iLRN main stage in VirBELA

However, VirBELA is intended for corporate and conference use, as opposed to the more open-ended uses of SL, so it’s a good fit for the iLRN conference. (It looks as though AltspaceVR is primarily being used for social events associated with the conference through the Educators in VR group, according to the AltspaceVR Events calendar.)

The iLRN 2020 Expo Hall in VirBELA

If you’re interested, you can register for free for this conference via EventBrite (I got in free through an early-bird ticket special I wrote about here). I plan on attending a few presentations in between working from home for my university library system.

See you there!

The BlockDown 2020 Conference Will Be Running April 16th and 17th, 2020 in a Virtual World

A sneak peek at the Exhibition Floor (image source)

BlockDown 2020 is a two-day blockchain/cryptocurrency virtual conference, running from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. CET (Central European Time) each day on April 16th and 17th, 2020, with a rather impressive line-up of speakers:

Just a few of the big names who will be speaking at BlockDown 2020

The conference organizers say:

BlockDown is the new lockdown – and you’re invited. This digital spectacular promises to be the leading remote blockchain event of the year. Join us and take part in the new global digital revolution.

Investment

With the global economy set to experience testy times for the next few months at least, responsible investment in cryptocurrency is a topic that many will be wanting to explore in more detail.

Gaming

The gaming industry is certainly growing at an exponential rate and a look at how blockchain technology can support the new generation of game tech is sure to excite many of our audience.

DeFi

Decentralized finance is a gamechanger for businesses as more and more companies look to utilise smart contracts, protocols, and decentralized applications. Hear opinions from the biggest leaders in the space regarding what the future holds for DeFi.

Privacy

How does affect blockchain protect privacy? What’s the difference between public and private keys? How secure is blockchain really? We’re getting answers to your burning privacy questions right here, right now.

Social Impact

Blockchain technology has the power to change lives, which is why more and more projects are dedicating resources to making a difference; something many of our speakers at BlockDown are passionate about.

Trading

Trading can be intimidating, to say the least, which is why we’re bringing in experts and leaders to discuss the benefits of smart trading and what we should be mindful of in order to maximise our results.

Security

Security, blockchain and cryptocurrency – three words we often see together, and three topics that should always be spoken about together. Let all your security-related questions be answered here at BlockDown.

Enterprise

What enterprise blockchain trends can we expect to see throughout the rest of 2020, and will this year be the year that the corporate world and end-users are really ready to adopt and embrace blockchain?

The CoinTelegraph reports:

Blockchain and cryptocurrency enthusiasts have found new ways to come together amid the global coronavirus lockdown. A crypto conference called BlockDown 2020 is scheduled to take place in the virtual realm this month, with big name personalities from the blockchain community set to appear as digital 3D avatars.

Notable attendees on the docket include Binance founder and CEO Changpeng Zhao, Stellar co-founder Jed McCaleb, and NEO founder Da Hongfei. Also appearing will be Roger Ver, executive chairman of Bitcoin.com, and Erik Voorhees, CEO and founder of Shapeshift. Musician-turned-crypto-innovator Akon will headline the event…

The conference is set to last the entire day, and will include live fireside chats hosted in a virtual 3D space. Live AMAs and Q&As will take place, and attendees will be free to network with other people in virtual space. They’ll even have the opportunity to pitch business ideas to Akon directly.

The NewsBTC website reports:

Virtual crypto conference BlockDown 2020 will utilize cutting edge tech that puts its visitors inside a virtual 3D conference.

On April 16-17, BlockDown 2020 will be defying government lockdowns to keep the crypto community networking, and it will be using a bleeding edge software package to do so.

BlockDown attendees will be able to design and choose their own avatar before sending it into the virtual conference hall, which will feature booths, stands and keynote speakers from some of crypto’s most colorful characters and businesses. Attendees are also encouraged to watch the BlockDown mainstage and panels all within the 3D environment.

“Think of it like a crypto version of ‘The Sims,”” said Erhan Korhaliller, organizer and founder of crypto PR agency EAK Digital.

“ We want the networking to be as natural as it would be at a real life conference, where you met your best friend at the water cooler, at the afterparty or in the networking/lounge area. Imagine your usual crypto conference, with booths, stands, branded t-shirts, stages and networking areas. This will be exactly the same but will allow attendees to control and direct their avatars to whatever content, speakers and booths they’re interested in.”

The entire conference will be run on a white label use of the Sinespace platform. Tickets for the conference cost £20, and can be purchased online here. If you already have an existing account on Sinespace, you can attend BlockDown 2020 if you purchase your ticket using the same email address as your Sinespace avatar account.

See you there!

You’d better be at BlockDown! (image source)

The Immersive Learning Research Network Partners with Educators in VR to Host the iLRN Conference in Virtual Reality, June 21st to 25th, 2020: How You Can Attend for Free!

I’m not sure how I missed it, but the Immersive Learning Research Network is among the many organizations that have decided to completely move their real-world conference this year into virtual reality (here’s the press release):

In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Immersive Learning Research Network (iLRN) has made the decision to host its IEEE technically co-sponsored annual conference for 2020 fully online and in virtual reality (VR), supported by a number of other software platforms. iLRN will offer this conference, now in its sixth year, in conjunction with Educators in VR, the organizers of the highly successful Educators in VR International Summit that was held in VR in February of this year, which included over 170 speakers and attracted over 6,000 event attendees.

The iLRN Annual Conference is the premier scholarly event focusing on advances in the use of VR as well as augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), and other extended reality (XR) technologies to support learners across the full span of learning—from K-12 through higher education to work-based, informal, and lifelong learning contexts. iLRN 2020 had been slated to take place at the California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo, California, USA from June 21 to 25. The conference dates remain the same despite the shift to the virtual format, though the deadline has been extended for work-in-progress academic papers as well as for practitioner presentations, workshops, panels, and special sessions to April 19, 2020.

And, as Educators in VR reminds us in this tweet, early-bird registration for students, faculty, teachers, and educational administrators is free! But you have to register by April 19th, 2020. Here’s the form to get your free tickets via EventBrite (please note that you must use an email address associated with your educational institution to take advantage of this offer).