I happened to visit Ilha do Sol in Second Life shortly before its transformation — and when I recently went back there, I had the pleasure of finding a small beach town inspired by traditional Portuguese coastal villages and flanked by a surf area and a vineyard plantation. The whole thing extends over three regions not only well landscaped, but also perfectly integrated, with smooth transitions between them.
The village is organized around the arrival point and the open-air market, on the central sim. Beyond the residences and shops that visitors can see in the core area, other homes, more rural, emerge. A tunnel leads directly to the surf beach, but that’s not the only way to arrive there. It’s also possible, for instance, to skirt the city by its upper part.
The surf beach is located in the southern region. It is simple and well put together: with its surfable waves, it has just enough around, in order to build the proper atmosphere without generating lag. One can find some seating areas there and a surf shop that adds to the general feeling of the place (it is not a real store, just part of the scenery). There are also, of course, surfboard rezzers, but you can rez your own board if you prefer. As the notecard given in the central sim says, one doesn’t have to join any group in order to rez items at the beach area, but the sim owners ask visitors, of course, to clean up afterwards.
The northern region is more rural. It’s where the sim owners’ house is located and it hosts a vineyard disposed in terraces that create a beautiful landscape. It also offers visitors a horse rezzer and some impressive views. Again, it’s remarkable how the transition between the town area and the northern sim feels smooth.
Together, the three regions that form Ilha do Sol could be called paradise — they are certainly among the best versions of paradise that Second Life hosts. And while I was visiting and taking pictures there, it occurred to me that the idea that we make of paradisiacal places in our imagination is almost always similar to some place in the real world or resorts to the repertoire of images provided by reality. In SL, we could build the unprecedented, something never seen before, but our paradises are generally the best renditions of the atomic world that surrounds us.
I would like to stress that in no way is this a criticism of those who build such regions in Second Life. I loved to be in Ilha do Sol and I recommend it to anyone who would like to relax, see beautiful landscapes, take pictures and maybe go surfing in SL. I was just trying to understand why our paradises are so inspired in our real world, and I feel that Ilha do Sol helped me give a step forward towards an answer.
In the crazy world in which we live, with wars, diseases (let’s remember that the pandemic is not over), pain, insecurities and unpredictability, paradise would most probably, in our minds, be something that could comfort us. A totally different place, with landscapes that were radically unseen before, would presumably disorganize our references and our perceptions, being the opposite of what we are searching for in our paradisiacal dreams.
Paradise is, for the majority of us, somewhere where we would feel happy and welcome, relaxed and safe, a place where we could have fun (maybe surfing?) — and it’s important to recognize all those characteristics immediately, by means of images that we can relate to in our imagination, thus avoiding anxiety. That’s what Ilha do Sol so perfectly offers in Second Life, and that’s why it is fascinating.