The Junkies: Celebrating The Wastelands’ History

NeoBokrug Elytis and the WLB5 Junkies

Half a decade of existence is no small feat, no matter what it is.  For a Second Life estate — where regions and communities come and go so quickly that even dog years seem conservative by comparison — five years is even more significant.  To help recognize this milestone in The Wastelands’ history, NeoBokrug Elytis, as Estate owner and benevolent tyrant, whipped together the first-ever Junkies Awards as a capstone event for The Wastelands’ Fifth Birthday celebration.  Their goal: to recognize residents’ contributions to Wastelands’ community and culture throughout its history.

I caught up with Neo to find out more about his selections and the context behind them, and to delve into the history of The Wastelands in general.

Hey there, Bossbot!  First of all, what gave you the inspiration for The Junkies?  Was this an idea you had for a while?

I get a LOT of compliments about the estate — specifically, people thinking I’m responsible for it all.  The only thing I’ve built is just a few bits of infrastructure; the residents really make up 99% of the estate, and I tell everyone as much. So, I figured it’s time to start recognizing resident contributions in a tangible way, even if it’s just my opinion.  My opinion may not be what other people think, specifically because I don’t get around as much as I should.  I did ask a few Devs for their opinion, but ultimately, I left some categories up to the residents.

How did you decide what categories to pick?

I tried to pick things that either deserved recognition, or what would be a ‘popular’ category amongst the residents.  For instance the High Rollers category is all about who owns the most non-Homestead land.  Those people are doing a lot to support the estate.  As well as the people who have owned the same plot the longest.

Were there any categories you considered at first, then decided against?

Of course.  The awards were something I had been wanting to do for a long time. When January rolled around, I realized just how out of time I was to work on them.  I literally thought up some awards the day of — but there were a couple of  award categories I had to scrap at the last minute.  For instance I really wanted to recognize the Devs, but I thought that would be too self serving.  What people don’t realize though that aside from estate powers, they’re residents just like you and I.  So in all fairness I decided to not have a “You’re so great Devs” award.  Being a Dev is award or punishment enough.  I think people might have seen it as too clique-y.  That doesn’t mean Devs and Road Patrol didn’t win any awards, they won them for other non-Dev related contributions to the estate.


One of the most interesting categories, in my opinion, was the Oldest Builds.  What are some of your memories about these builds?

Grady Echegaray’s missile silo was in competition with several missile silos when there was only one region.  I think, at first, there were a total of 4 missile silos at some point, all on one region.  I thought it was pretty funny that everyone had similar ideas — but I didn’t care.  Her build still has the original sand textures that the estate once had.  It doesn’t look too out of place, and makes me nostalgic.

Isambard Portsmouth’s adobe hut.  Man, I wish he would come in-world sometime.  Nonetheless, he still pays his tier regularly, even if we don’t see him.

Kazuhiro Aridian.  I didn’t know Kaz very well when he was a newer resident, and I was sort of intimidated by him. But I thought the things Kaz made were cool, the birdhouse and garden underneath the Junkyard were certainly unique, even if land static was way rampant back then.  I think we fixed it up good though. 🙂


We only got to find out the top three.  Who were some of the close runners-up?

Of the oldest builds yeah.  There was a bit of contention whether or not I should have oldest plot, or oldest build.  If I would have picked oldest plot, there would be different winners for certain — but I figured that having the oldest original build was more significant than holding a plot for years.  I think Kaz and Isambard woulda lost out to another resident or two in The Wastelands region.


This category was specific to buildings that had been in the same spot, under the same owner, without gaps.  Are there other residents who may have moved around throughout the years, but who have owned land non-stop since the beginning (or close to it?)

Not really, a lot of oldbies have had gaps in their tenancy.  Everyone needs to take a break from SL or the Wastelands, and that’s totally understandable.


 What are your thoughts and memories about the cooperative builds you chose?

I tried to base that on people who shared land between each other, but chose to build in a certain theme. Certainly a lot of cooperative builds have come and gone, but I wanted to choose ones that were here-and-now.  I miss when the catwalks were bigger, but like I said earlier people need to take breaks.   I still get lost in the Junkard tunnels, though I wish the terraform for them were better — it’s pretty TERRAble in some spots.  The big forest in Stygian has sort of shrunk a bit, too, but it’s nice to have trees in the estate.


The following might be a sensitive question, and I know it’s important to be impartial, both as the Estate owner and as an individual.  However, are there any builds that have come and gone which you particularly miss?

Certainly.  Builds come and go all the time, and it’s hard to not have favorites.  It’s very inspirational when other people make great things in the estate, and in a sense we all feed off each other. When a good build goes, we all lose out. I assume you’re talking more than just nostalgia.  The first couple years were hard to see things go, but I’ve sort of learned that’s the nature of things.  If I could narrow it down to three builds, I would say Turp’s Bar, the old indoor movie theater in The Wastelands, and the terra-forming Cloudy (theblackcloud Oh) did with Ashvasta.  The Martini is a good runner-up.  If you can’t tell, I really dig the social spaces.


I’m sure it felt risky, opening up the first sim for the first time, and — waiting list aside — not knowing for sure if people would stick around, or for how long.  What was going through your mind in those first months?

I was pretty excited because I knew SL needed us.  At the same time I was nervous because I was taking on a whole ton of new responsibilities.  There was so much I wasn’t familiar with owning an estate and all, and it’s really something you just have to grow into. But at the same time I knew we couldn’t fail.  In a way SL was much simpler back then, so was the Wastelands. I think because SL was simple, and because SL was actively growing that helped a lot. The first region had about 30 residents, and within the first week of going live we were all full up and I had to make a reserve list. Back then it was much easier to communicate with everyone because I’d just work down at the telehub. Now we’re 13 regions big with hundreds of parcels, and about 150 unique residents, plus about 150 more very regular visitors. That’s not including the casuals, so to be fair the community is about 300 strong.  I’m very glad to have stuck around, and very glad to have people stick around with us.


This ties in somewhat with the Largest Landholders category:  Why do you think some people want to own so much land, or hold onto their land so long?  In other words, what is it about The Wastelands that makes so many people want to invest in it so much?

Sometimes I honestly don’t know.  I like to think it makes people happy to contribute a lot.  Most of the largest land owners also have big group efforts, where they’re responsible for the tier, but other people make use of the land.  The Wastelands has communities within communities, if you think about it that’s at least four SL layers deep. I think what it really is, is that people want a sense of community of their own.  Land is a good place to establish a space for that community.


And that sense of community is very prominent in the Entertainment category.  What can you tell me about these top three entertainers?

Giusepe Spicoli.  I can’t even begin to explain him. I hope that some day he hosts his own real life gameshow. He deserves it with as much as he’s done over the past 5 years. That guy is a machine, he’s pretty steady with the events. Just like you’ve been going on non-stop for quite a few years.

Man, Redzone.  It still blows my mind that a live band plays in SL. And that Red is such a cool guy. Actually, all of RedZone is really cool. They sent me some CDs a long time ago; I think they’re amazing.  I know music is difficult to do, and I am very surprised they’re not more popular.  They’re very popular in SL, though – I think one time they had a concert in SL where the region had 72 avatars in it.  RedZone can certainly put the regions to the test.   I’m just impressed by RedZone, sort of mouth-agape-all-the-time impressed.


What are some of your favorite memories from these events?

I miss Giu’s gameshows – HINT HINT.  In all fairness, I remember that one time the “add a one” incident ended up costing him about $300 real dollars.  Back on the gameshow, Taunt the Mutant, I have really vague memories that someone had a score of about 10,000 in Linden. Add A One made it effectivly L$110,000.

Every RedZone event is pretty memorable. 🙂


Unlike the other categories, you left the roleplay-focused Heroes and Villains categories open to votes from the audience.  Why was that?

Out of all the activities in the Wastelands that one is MOST community driven, and because I don’t roleplay often enough to warrant an opinion.  It wouldn’t be fair for me to choose a winner with as little as I participate.


Who are some of the people who were nominated on both lists?

Ccindy Pfeffer and Jubal Quintus.  They were closely matched for both hero and villain categories.


You’ve always maintained a fairly hands-off approach when it comes to roleplay, even when it was Dev-moderated.  Unlike in other estates, roleplay has never been mandatory here, and never been forbidden.  What has factored into that decision?

I was very into exploring SL when I first started. There was an Old Western sim, before the Wastelands existed.  It was my first time ever there, and I was banned from it within 2 minutes of landing there for not being in proper RP dress attire. RP is the way we have it in the estate because I don’t want people treated like that.  I believe it’s important to allow people to explore and get a feel for the place without having to be in-character.  Besides, even back then RP-Only estates were floundering, and they’ll continue to do so until they’re more relaxed about their experience.


If memory serves, you never even anticipated that there would be roleplay when you began the Estate.  Is that true?

That sounds about right, but then people were demanding that we do something, or at least instill some structure.  So we tried to be administrators of it for a while, and that didn’t work out.  So we figure we’d just write stuff and say that this is ‘official’, do what you want, but don’t expect us to enforce it.  It’s been rough and it’s taken a very long time for that mindset to be adopted, but in the end it’s worked out rather well I think.

People coming from hardcore RP estates have a problem with that.  RP is so freeform here, I think they may be paralyzed with the opportunities.  That , or they think how we manage it is 100% bullshit.


How did roleplay begin, then?

I… really don’t know how it started, but I remember when some events made us to decide to step in.  I think they all just started between a lot of people trying to have too many conflicting or unoriginal ideas at once.  Back then, people would literally try to RP things like “I’m a shapeshifting nanobot swarm prostitute from before the wars.”  You’d think I’m kidding but I’m not.  That’s when we decided to step in and make some documents about what we were about.  Spider and Caligo did a lot of the initial documentation with feedback from a lot of the community. One thing that kept popping up that we all didn’t like is that people were somehow instilled with knowledge of “Before the Fall”.  I always feel like that’s cheating in a POST APOCALYPTIC environment.  Sure, it’s fair to say that some people may know something in a setting — but when the estate was made, we wanted to make sure that we were going to have a clean slate.  I may not want to RP, but I have some expectation of the direction we’re going.  I guess that’s a bit hypocritical of me, in that I want to participate in the direction of RP, but not RP myself.


Still, the RP was basically created by the people, and you guys just codified and clarified it over time? 

Yes, and the good stories and events were actually — and will continue to be — adopted into the history of the wiki.  There’s actually going to be a big wiki RP section update soon.


Ideas of “heroes” and “villains” aside, tell me about some of the more memorable roleplay characters or stories you’ve observed.

I don’t RP much but I like to watch on occasion.  Sandling Honey, Jubal Quintus, and Pietro Moskvitch are all pretty memorable.  Probably because I don’t see them that much.  Cancer Manimal had a group/clan called The Clubs — they may have been too much for the budding estate, but I’d like to see them make a return. I always really liked Ccindy Pfeffer’s character, and Sandusky Kayvon’s.   Barry Wiranata has somehow made himself some part of legendary lore in the Wastelands.  Like a great albino moose.  I like that.


To get a little philosophical: although it’s fantasy, all fiction has an element of truth to it.  What insights do you think Wastelands roleplay can provide about real-world human nature?

We all seek to better ourselves.  Everyone  is at least a dick and retarded sometimes.  We all like food.


Beyond just the roleplay aspects, what do you think about the Wastelands community as a whole?  

What strikes me most as being impressive about the community is that we’re so old and still trucking in SL. 5+ years is an amazing accomplishment for ANYTHING. There’s only a handful of things that are still on the grid when the Wastelands started, and they’re all backed by amazing communities.

I think it’s great! As a huge community we all have one founding common interest, and that’s the post-apocalypse. But not everything is always unicorn farts and rainbows. If I had to make one wish to improve the community, it would be that everyone try to be more forgiving of each other. Even then, it’s not really applicable to everyone.  Most people are pretty relaxed here, but some people are very high strung and want to segregate themselves from the greater community because they think someone slighted them somehow. We’re a very large community and it’s a given that EVERYONE won’t get along with EVERYONE. I can’t control how everyone acts (yet), so I can only try to be diplomatic with the occasional unhappy person. Sometimes that doesn’t work out and everyone mutes and ignores everyone, which is a shame. I can only hope that in time they’ll forgive each other and give each other a chance.  Maybe I’m trying too hard – in all honesty, that’s a 1/500 occurrence.

I hope that someday we’ll have a Wastelands convention here in Austin. I want to meet all of you.


Given the size and duration of The Wastelands, you’d think there would have been more – and worse – problems than there have been.

Most of the problems that we have are from LL directly, and that’s kind of a shame. I occasionally communicate with other estate and community managers, and they tell me the same thing. As much as I love Second Life, I think their internal policies are the estate’s main problem. I’m sure LL has some colorful notes on my customer file about how I communicate with them (read: rage).


The very fact that we’re here and participating in various ways – and that even the people who wander away have a tendency to wander back – speaks to how much the place feels like a second home to so many of us.  Did you ever anticipate that this would become so much more than “just another Estate?”

Yes. I saw how bad a lot of places in SL were when we started. I wanted to make sure we weren’t like that. I wanted to be better than them, based on what I saw and didn’t like.

One of the biggest problems I saw when we started was just how many estates can’t balance their books.  They don’t take it seriously, and that’s understandable because SL blurs the line between game and platform.  I chose to run the estate as a business first, to ensure we’re always in the black. I also knew that, if we kept doing things that we liked, and if that FELT right more than anything, we were destined to succeed.  I’ve had a lot of McJobs in my day, so I like to think that my broad range of experience helps guide the estate. I mention that because, as a business, I wanted to “keep it real.”  I know all the boring corporate BS that goes with companies.  I figure, if I’m doing something someone doesn’t like, I can at least explain to them in great detail why I can’t meet their expectations.

Keeping the estate in the black is easy, but I can tell you now that estate owners in general don’t make a lot.  For the hours I put in, I make less than minimum wage — so, for me, running the community is more of a labor of love.  If you do something you love, it more than makes up for the pay. It also inspires people to contribute to the idea.


It’s pretty easy to see that, to keep everything going, you work very hard and have to do a lot of critical thinking.  Not only does your avatar look like a robot, but you seem to have one’s work ethic and mentality as well!  I’d like to know what you feel about The Wastelands.  What has it all meant to you?

That’s sort of hard to put it in words. I may be remembered by distant people of the internet for helping contribute to something great, and that is what makes me feel good. That, and doing things I like doing, and finding other people that like doing the same thing.


Is there anyone else you’d like to thank?

The Devs, always.