I took a 75x75km plot of virtual land and turned my dreams into virtual reality. Was it worth it?

One of the avatars I created in my virtual space.

I had a blank three-dimensional canvas where I could make anything happen, just as long as I could figure out how to build it. It was a giant void that you could fly through without encountering any edges. Despite being able to create something outside the bounds of reality, I envisioned something simple: a big, open warehouse where I could keep my creations and be able to toil away without distraction. It was going to be a place that I could return to that kept all of my resources to make progress in my art, and a place where I could collaborate with my friends.

It feels like an unobtainable dream to create something this simple in reality. Between the lack of space in cities driving up the cost of real estate and most of my time spent in my day job, it’s difficult to know if even purchasing the land for it will ever be feasible. So I’ll pass by warehouses and daydream about buying one and turning it into an artist workshop, and for now, I can build a warehouse in virtual reality.

My passion projects in the space consisted of making wacky avatars, fireworks, and abstract art. I wanted to be able to contribute to the community by providing examples of creations that others could be inspired by. I wanted to make things that stood out in the sea of humanoid avatars. Sometimes I was an angry storm cloud, or a Bevi water cooler that sometimes had sunglasses on.

I took work meetings in the space. I could leave the warehouse to take a 1:1 with my boss in his virtual office and be back to continue working on a project in the blink of an eye.

My friends could leave notes or pieces of artwork for me to come back to. Or even remix something I had been working on themselves. I created artwork to share with the community so they could craft something from the examples. I even made some money off of some assets, creating a small stream of passive income. There was so much opportunity for creation and collaboration. I connected with people all over the world making similar art, who embodied themselves as a cartoon cow or an ember of fire. Gender or politics never held us back from making progress in our work since you often didn’t know much about a person past their avatar and their work.

Today the space is gone and all I have are the memories and a few photos. The virtual climate is ever changing and products come and go. The servers were shut down and my assets are no longer hosted. It was a fun and creative moment in my life, but it makes me hesitant to put my dreams into someone else’s virtual space nowadays. I’ve grown as an artist and developed my style, and even tried creating space in other platforms. But each time there was a similar outcome, and my work was lost again.

Maybe one day I’ll be able to recreate this space in reality and have it stand the test of time. For now, I’ll keep toiling away in virtual reality until I figure out how to make it last.

game designer | writing about game design, product leadership, and virtual worlds | www.alexiamandeville.com | twitter: @lexiamandeville