Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Virtual MacBeth

Having heard about the Virtual MacBeth experience from Mrs. Dio Kuhr, it sounded like a fun evening. Well, "fun" if you find the idea of getting into the head of fiction's most famous whipped husband.

The journey starts at the arrival grove with a notecard and an attachment. I'm not entirely sure what the attachment is supposed to do, but the notecard recommends wearing it the entire time. Your mileage may vary. From the starting point, one can choose different aspects of the character to explore.

The main space on the island is Macbeth's head, which contains a number of locations. The Throne Room is supposed to represent Macbeth's ego (in the Freudian sense, not the "Whoa, that guy has some inflated sense of self-importance" sense).

Symbolic or not, the room had an actual throne, so I sat in it. So there.

The Path of Temptation, with its reaching hands, symbolizes Macbeth's internal conflicts as Lady Macbeth pushes him toward claiming the throne.

The Chamber of Blood (isn't that a Harry Potter movie?) reflects Macbeth lost to his inner demons and lust for power. As he attempts to remove the obstacles in his way, his moral compass has disappeared. Within the chamber, the visitor whirls and strikes and stabs all the shadowy creatures, who disappear on contact.
Past the Path of Temptation is a huge raven, sitting atop a pile of bones and debris. As the visitor climbs aboard the raven...

...the bird takes flight to the next destination.

The Maze symbolizes Macbeth's confusion (and I'll confess I stole that from the writeup, as I never would have gotten that on my own), and ends with the visitor literally headless.

The wiki for the project has a great deal of useful information about the Second Life MacBeth experience, and I wish I had visited it before I went to the island. (But really guys, "Macbeth is the story of a serial killer"? Richard Speck is a serial killer. Macbeth is a Scottish noble with an overly ambitious wife. Killing more than one person doesn't make you a serial killer. Just sayin'.) For example, I didn't realize that the main area was supposed to look like Macbeth's head (so the visitor enters a representation of the character's head while figuratively getting inside his head). I never encountered the "Crossroads of Conflict" or the "Corridor of Enlightenment" that the wiki refers to.

There is a learning center/performance area above the sim with a stage that could allow for SL performances of the play, and a "What If?" Copse that is intended to have visitors think about the choices Macbeth made throughout the play and how the outcome might have been different had he chosen a different path.

The entire experience is interesting, and well worth the visit. It makes use of SL in an innovative way, and that's a good thing. Ultimately, I'm not sure it is a successful experiment: despite the helpful notecards and the wiki, too much is obscure for the casual visitor. Literary criticism is all well and good, but without having recent memory of the play (I've seen several performances, but all some years ago), and someone knowledgeable to help with the process, it's difficult for a visitor. Perhaps it's a better teaching tool when visited with an instructor, but is SL the right platform for that kind of instruction?

Lest I sound too negative, let me reiterate that it's a fascinating experience, and I wish more people would use SL in these kind of creative ways. Some experiments will be more successful than others, but hey, that's the nature of experimentation.


Dio said...

Hey Hon,

I'm glad you found it interesting. As I said in my review of it, I like that they tried to use the technology to do an interpretation of the subject matter in a way that would be hard or impossible to do in meatspace.

More people need to really play around with the technology in different ways and see what happens. Yeah, it may not always be a complete success, but I think each experiment provides a foundation fro the next one.

Rhianon Jameson said...

I agree. The experiment wasn't a complete success (even though, like Dr. Frankenstein, the creature came to life - just a, but it's great to see those experiments. This sort of thing is one reason why I love the big ol' petri dish in which we live.