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Is Second Life a world or a game? One woman’s answer

Scene from  Maia  Kyi'Ra Nartoomid's machinima "Mandala Dance"
Scene from Maia Kyi'Ra Nartoomid's machinima "Mandala Dance"
Erik Gordon Bainbridge

Is Second Life® a game or a world? It’s a question that’s been around as long as Second Life. Maia Kyi'Ra (Starheart Erdhein in SL) has a very personal answer.

Maia submitted the first entry in the Freedom Project. It’s a 2D/3D event which invites “artists and film makers … who self-identify as having a disability or a chronic illness, to create an artwork or a film/machinima on the theme of ‘Freedom’, showing how virtual worlds have in some way helped them or those around them.” Her submission is a machinima she made of a performance by the Second Life dance company that she formed, the Light Fantastic Dancers,

There’s far more to Maia’s story, however. Born in Venezuela, she grew up in the US state of Arkansas and now lives in Hawaii. From childhood, much of her life has been deeply entwined in spirituality, and she’s written several books about spirituality. Her involvement in the world of Second Life began in 2008, a time when she was suffering from a severe illness that had reduced her weight to a mere 69 pounds. She was watching a television show about virtual reality games. One of them was Second Life.

Her illness kept her from being physically active. When she had enough energy, she’d work on her websites and blogs, but something about what she had seen on TV about Second Life beckoned to her, so she joined and bought some Second Life land.

“Second Life saved my life!” Maia says, “I could meet with like-minded people from all over the word and ‘see’ them in their avatar forms – look into their eyes, shake hands, hug and dance, horseback ride, fly, and so on. There was beautiful scenery and I could hear birds singing, waterfalls…PEACE. Too sick to leave my chair, it became my haven. Yet it was not really an “escape” – even then. It seemed to fortify my physical and emotional body, sharpen my mind and give me faith in myself again. Whether in First Life (FL) or Second Life I was ME – I got in touch with that person again, who had been beaten down by the illusion that illness covers one with.”

Today Maia’s weight is up to 110 pounds and although she still isn’t well, she says she is light years better than she was when she joined. She co-facilitates spiritual and heath-oriented programs in Second Life and has formed the Second Life dance company featured in her machinima. In addition, like many people in Second Life, her first and her second life have become intertwined.

Maia is emphatic that Second Life is a world, not a game. It won’t settle the argument over whether Second Life is a world or a game, but for people like this writer, who believe that it’s a non-physical world that’s very real, it’s strong evidence.

You can learn more about Maia on her main website, and you can watch her machinima at

The Freedom Project is a 2D/3D Art & Film Event organized jointly by the University of Western Australia, members of the Virtual Ability group, and the Centre for ME/CFS and Other Invisible Illnesses group in Second Life. There’s still time to enter. Films and artwork can be submitted before the 28th of February 2014. You can learn more about entering at

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