Apologies for the delay in between posts; spent the last few days trying to wrap up some work before the holiday and our big road trip. (More on that later.)
But folks, curiosity has got the better of me. We’re starting a new series here on the diary called Second Life Stories. Because the metaverse has become part of everyday vernacular, I figured it was time to don some new avatars, get my high-powered graphics card dusted off, and see what digital mess I could find in the vast landscape of code. And last night in my travels, I discovered one of the most detailed, well-produced, and fun virtual events I’ve ever seen.
VWE Wrestling has put on wrestling events in Second Life since 2009. Last night they held the second night of WrestleSeries 13, their version of WrestleMania or whatever AEW does that’s better than that. (Get got, Vince.) While it would seem like a gargantuan effort to hold a realistic wrestling tournament in Second Life, these folks seem to have evolved over the past decade and change, because the entire night was as professional as anything with a multimillion-dollar budget.
Now you may say: “Will, there’s no way you can hold an entire wrestling match in virtual reality. You need wrestlers for starters, complete with their own storylines, costumes, and special moves. You need announcers who can make the event entertaining. You need a set with lights and seats and sounds and a multimedia explosion that overstimulates the senses. You need everything to sync up perfectly so that it doesn’t look like a mess of polygons. And of course, you need to promote the event so that people show up.”
When I tell you these events producers did all of these things and more, I mean it. I don’t have any Lindens (in-world dollars) to give, but getting that wrestling experience for free last night felt like a steal.
I counted fifty in attendance at the event’s peak, not including the announcers, event staff, referees, and the wrestlers themselves. Six matches made up the card, and over the course of the night, it would be named new Legacy, Men’s National, and World Heavyweight champions. (The Women’s National Champion was named during Night One.) I thought I would sit my avatar down in a chair and have these matches on in the background while I did dishes and errands around the house. but I myself sat captivated by the attention to detail given to every single move of every match. By the end of the night, I was cheering the name of Morgan Jones, who would go on to win the World Heavyweight Championship over total heel Nyle Nightfire.
Of course, the realistic wrestling and all of the animations, coding, and design that went into it was amazing. But anyone who loves wrestling knows that the best part of the art is in the kayfabe. The three-man team of color commentators brought the energy of Mean Gene and Gorilla Monsoon. Along with the audience cheering on their favorite wrestlers, the commentators made the event feel like it was taking place in Madison Square Garden and not near a virtual mountainside being shown on computers in bedrooms and basements all across the world.
And no grand wrestling event is complete without wrestlers making grand entrances, cutting mean promos, and dragging out the action until their last breath. Morgan Jones entered the Heavyweight Championship match beaming down from a giant UFO to ska music. Nyle Nightfire entered the ring to the tune of the Imperial March and relished in the boos that rained down on him. During the night’s women’s match, Maxine came down the catwalk in a spider mechasuit. There was a cage match – yeah, a goddamn cage match in Second Life – in which the wrestlers, announcers, and audience members all made the pain of getting slammed against a wire fence seem more real than some actual cage matches that take place on the solid plane.
Speaking of what’s “real”, consider this. We can debate the reality of wrestling until the cows come home. The storylines are written in offices in Stamford and Los Angeles and wherever regional leagues hold court. The moves are performed in ways that look bloody and violent, but none of them actually do any major damage. But despite how much of wrestling is fabricated, there are plenty of things about wrestling that are real, such as the behind-the-scenes relationships between the wrestlers, the business behind putting on events, and pretty much everything else that you don’t see on screen. There are real folks behind every facade you see in the ring.
Second Life deals with a similar conundrum. Folks dress up in all sorts of outfits and costumes, take on different personalities, and even pass as different genders, races, or species. (All of that has connotations that I won’t go into right now.) But every action they take has a bit of reality to it. Every real person playing in Second Life affects another real-world person, even if they’re both depicted as blue big-eyed wolves with six-packs and hogs the size of whiskey bottles. (I’ve seen it.) The metaverse does in fact rely on the real world to exist, and while it doesn’t quite work the other way around, the real world can rely on the metaverse as a place where can connect in a real way, albeit through simulated means. You wouldn’t want the metaverse to be a one-to-one replication of the real world. We need those blue hung wolves, by God!
And that’s where another question arises. You have wrestling, a sport in which the reality of every facet is often in question. And you have Second Life, a virtual world platform where nothing is as it appears. When you have folks playing a character inside of a game where they’re already playing a different character, how many levels of meta are we talking? Three? Four? How far down does the rabbit hole go?
Anyway, VWE’s WrestleSeries 13 was incredible, even though I didn’t catch the first night. I hope someone from AEW was in there taking notes, because everyone involved with the show put on a professional and well-produced night of wrestling. And you may ask: “Will, which member of the audience were you? Will you not show us the face or faces that you present when you walk among the rendered masses of Second Life?” Of course, of course. All in due time. But for now, go check out VWE‘s website and see the work they’ve done to make wrestling feel real, even when nothing about it seems real at all.