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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spotlight on Cursa Charisma- A once new skeptical SL cheapskate, turned Role Play Educator, Lecturer and pioneer. – Lanai Jarrico

Who is Cursa Charisma, you ask?
Well, he was the winner of an SLE Spotlight feature in a drawing at SLE’s Chill Lounge recently. I had a chance to congratulate him that night, but didn’t really get to know him or what he was all about until this interview. So I asked the same question.

It turns out Cursa has returned to this virtual world to continue on  his mission of creating  Topic Discussion Lectures at a place called, Nexus and educating others on the types of Role Play that can be found in Second Life.

Interview with Cursa Charisma

Lanai Jarrico:  Hi Cursa, it’s nice to meet you. Thank you for the biography you gave me. I was reading the information you gave me and I must say you are another pioneer here in SL.

 Cursa Charisma: Well, I definitely see it as a frontier.

Lanai Jarrico: Oh for sure! When I got here in 2005, I was already doing this in the Sims online but this certainly is a new kind of frontier when an economy is involved.

Cursa Charisma: I'd have been in earlier, except I'm a skeptical cheapskate

Lanai Jarrico: Oh yea?  lol How do you mean?

Cursa Charisma smiles 

Cursa Charisma: Wasn't willing to risk money when I first read about SL in '03, and forgot about it until I heard it had gone free to use in '06.

Lanai Jarrico: I have invested money here and made many mistakes, you did a smart thing by being cautious with investing in SL.

Cursa Charisma: Maybe. I also missed out on a phase of things I know I'd have really enjoyed. With hindsight I know this. hehe

Lanai Jarrico: I think SL Business is still very young in SL and some of the people here need more professionalism. What do you think?

Cursa Charisma: Oh, yes, that shows a lot in the RP groups as well.

Lanai Jarrico: oh yea?

Cursa Charisma: It's so easy for *anybody* to start doing *anything*, but once you start an organized activity, then people need professional abilities.

Lanai Jarrico: Oh yes I agree. I’m not sure what I do in SL, would be considered role play. Maybe in part with business, because I am not reporting in RL.

Cursa Charisma: Well, it certainly looks like straight up journalism to me

Lanai Jarrico: :)) thank you, really that means a lot. It is hard to get the real world to accept what I do as serious.  From the outside looking in, it appears SL is just a game when really it is not. How do you see SL, as an extension of your real life or just a game?

Cursa Charisma: Of course, Joe Biden still hasn't got an Internet number  ;)

Lanai Jarrico: haha.

Cursa Charisma: OK, that's an important one. SL is a shared virtual environment with content construction tools and money.  People confuse the medium with the content they encounter or create, and seeing SL as a "game" is an example of them importing ideas from other contexts into a new context they don't understand. People make and play games *in* SL, but that doesn't make SL a game.

Lanai Jarrico: Amen to That. Those words ring so true. We are all people coming together in a place with so much to offer and some just don’t get it or take advantage of that.

Cursa Charisma smiles and nods

Lanai Jarrico: Now in your note you explained how you came to where you are now. Can you tell me more about Role Play here and how it is relevant to being an extension to a person's real life rather than being just a game?

Cursa Charisma: Well, one of the things we discovered when we started having discussions here at the Role Play Nexus is that people have very different definitions of role playing that they bring into SL. There seem to be a few categories.

Lanai Jarrico: Can you break them down?

Cursa Charisma: At the most basic level is Cosplay - people dress up their avatars, but communicate and behave *as* their offline selves. But many of them see that as role playing, as a game.

Lanai Jarrico: That makes sense.

Cursa Charisma: Then you have the folks who use SL as a first person shooter centered role playing venue, with combat meters and roles and sims working around that. With something like DCS, it's essentially making an MMO inside SL.

Lanai Jarrico: That’s more like military and virtual combat, like you would find in game consoles right?

Cursa Charisma: Right. So those are the two extremes; Cosplay and Combat. Then there are two types of more mainstream role playing. One is collaborative fiction, where the player/authors essentially write a story together, using avatars and items and sims as aids to that.  This is very much the same as text-based role playing by e-mail or on social sites.

Lanai Jarrico: Yes like the SL Theater.

Cursa Charisma nods

Lanai Jarrico: I love that type I think it is so creative.

Cursa Charisma: That's what the last type is - improvisational theater. Using the avatars as actors, the sims as stages, items as props. So, those four main types are what we distilled from the discussions.

Lanai Jarrico: I learned something new, thank you for that.

Cursa Charisma:  One very interesting thing we found was that individuals tended very strongly to identify only one type as true or legitimate. Many of them dismissed the other types as not "real" or "true" role playing.

Lanai Jarrico: which type is that?

Cursa Charisma: What I mean is, for example, a person who engages in the narrative (text-centered) collaborative fiction type was adamant that cosplay isn't role playing, and neither is combat. Not simply saying, "I prefer this", but that "only this is “legitimate".

Lanai Jarrico: I think everyone is entitled to their opinion of what roleplay mean to them but I think they should be considerate of how serious others take it which brings me to my next question.

Cursa Charisma nods

Cursa Charisma: That was our consensus, too

Lanai Jarrico: We have always had a problem with griefers here in SL and some may think that Role players are that, or they clump griefers with combat rp. What do you have to say about that?

Cursa Charisma: Well, there are a couple of different aspects to that problem. Among the types of people who most strongly believe SL to be a game are the griefers.  Their game, of course, consists of messing up everyone else's experience.

Lanai Jarrico: I've always liked to clown them on SLE. lol

Cursa Charisma: We even had griefers come a couple of times to discussions here.

Lanai Jarrico: Oh yea? How was that handled?

Cursa Charisma: Well, when it was chat trolling, it was not responded to. But when it was spamming items and sounds and so on, booting and banning (was applied).

Lanai Jarrico: So, getting back to the griefer aspects, I didn't mean to stop you.

Cursa Charisma: Well, griefers get their "lulz" by finding anyone visibly caring about anything, and attacking or ridiculing that, so role players are common victims. On the other hand, there have been cases where organized role playing activities have unintentionally amounted to griefing. Remember the "Bloodlines" craze a year or two back, that had n00bs coming up to people everywhere asking to "bite" them?

Lanai Jarrico: Yes! I believe I was a victim in the beginning.

Cursa Charisma nods

Lanai Jarrico: nice example of that. I remember seeing signs all over the place banning biting.

Cursa Charisma: Right.  In a sad irony, I shook my head the other day to find an ad for SL on an unrelated website saying, "Be a Vampire"

Lanai Jarrico: omg really?

Cursa Charisma: Yes, it was shocking

Lanai Jarrico: I don't ever see any SL advertising anywhere but sl related. Its sad people promote SL as just the game side.

Cursa Charisma: Yes, it surprised me. And yes, it was about the worst thing LL could be doing

Lanai Jarrico: I really thing SL has so much potential to grow into something beyond what the creators expected. It already has I imagine.

Cursa Charisma: Well, that's become the problem - they don't seem to have a clue what they have created

Lanai Jarrico: Very goodI've covered SL for years and I have not been approached by a Linden.  Not for a hello, chat, nothing.

Cursa Charisma: Right.

Lanai Jarrico: It’s like us little people don’t exist unless we send a thousand support tickets. lol

Cursa Charisma: Oh, those things!

Lanai Jarrico: I’ve yet to send one. Wait I think I did in like 2006 as a group effort to remove a griefer.

Cursa Charisma: I know someone who submitted one, waited a month, and got no reply, than quit her premium account.  Six months later, she got a reply.

Lanai Jarrico: Wow, That's terrible customer service. (Hope you here that SL) OK let’s move on to you.

Cursa Charisma: Yes, they'd be better off (LOL) just not pretending to offer support.

Lanai Jarrico: haha that’s right throw some jabs in; let’s see if they read SLE. Lol

Cursa Charisma: Oh, BTW. Just got that off Google Image.

Cursa Charisma shows me a link of SL Ads depicting becoming a vampire and another ad, encouraging working for Second Life.

Lanai Jarrico: good grief yes I see it. Even the “be employed” banner needs to go!  Didn’t they lay off like most of the lindens? lol

Cursa Charisma: LOL

Linden Labs Graveyard

Lanai Jarrico: Anyway. Can you tell me about Mal and what you do here in the present?

Cursa Charisma: OK, as I mentioned in the note, I haven't had as much online time recently due to work pressures. So things have slowed down a bit here at the Nexus. But the usual activity is to have a speaker on a theme related to role playing in SL and then a discussion.

Cursa Charisma: The posters you see for various past events give transcripts of those talks and discussions if you touch them.

Lanai Jarrico: *looks around* yes this is very organized and creative. I like the idea of RP Discussion too. I usually hear about educational lecturers and Business and technology type discussions.

Cursa Charisma nods

Lanai Jarrico: So until you’re able to contribute more time to the SL community, what will happen here?

Cursa Charisma: Well, the Nexus is available as a venue for events related to role playing. Recently, the SL RPG Developers had a meeting here and we're working on finding a date for a speaker who's going to talk about his view of the future of SL and virtual worlds. The "Our Next Event" over there.

Cursa points to the sign behind me

Lanai Jarrico: oooo please don’t forget to give me a release for that

Cursa Charisma: Will do, thanks!

Lanai Jarrico: Is there a website for this with posted schedules?

Cursa Charisma: Well, there's a blog that has the transcripts up to a certain point. We would welcome anyone who'd like to help out with things like promotion. I'm hoping that if we get one or two events going again, it will bring people out. Of course, one of the big challenges is always time zones.

Lanai Jarrico: who would be the person to contact to help promote?

Cursa Charisma: Well, right now, it's me.  Some of the others who have been active in the past have sort of dropped out of SL, and it'll take an event or two to get the rest back in.

Lanai Jarrico: I’d love to be a sponsor and help promote. I really think. It’s a great thing you have done for the SL Community Welcome back to SL.

Cursa Charisma: Thank you.

Lanai Jarrico: you’re welcome.

Cursa Charisma: I'm hoping to be able to hold the "Edward Gibbon" event in the next few weeks.

Lanai Jarrico: Oh please tell me about that.

Cursa Charisma: OK, on the poster to our right, you can see the announcement of "The Decline and Fall of the Linden Empire" The speaker has a thesis that LL is dooming SL. This should spark some interesting discussion!  ;)

Lanai Jarrico: oh for sure!  Is it in world voice chat or streamed?

Cursa Charisma: Up to now, all our events have been text only, to make transcripts easy to manage.

Lanai Jarrico: Do you have past transcripts?

Cursa Charisma: Yes. Each of the posters on display here for past events gives transcripts on touch.

Lanai Jarrico: Great. I will have to have to read them. Ok, I will end this interview saying it has been a pleasure getting to know you and I really look forward to checking out your next discussion.

Cursa Charisma: Thank you, and likewise
Cursa Charisma smiles

Falcons Landing and RP Nexus
Home of Falcons Air lounge and the Role Play Nexus Discussions
Space for rent - shorefront, dock, air terminal, men's shoes, men’s shoes, tattoos, art, watches, RP nexus, role play, role-playing, role-play, role-playing

 In depth Biography of Cursa Charisma

Cursa Charisma entered Second Life in late 2008, and started out exploring places, meeting people, and camping to save the L$ for a better skin than the "Professional Male" he started out with.

Around the New Year of 2009, Cursa met the owner of Falcons Landing in Mul, who had found himself without the time in world to manage the parcel.  A few conversations later, Cursa had become parcel manager, working with tenants, talking with visitors, and returning strange prims that wandered in.

Having an interest in ancient Egypt, Cursa discovered a role-playing group called Upper Kingdoms that was just starting up, and found himself making clothing for it, based on actual historical images.  This generated income, which Cursa donated back toward the maintenance and development of the sim.  When the group moved from a homestead to a full sim, Cursa built a role playing depiction of Napata, the capital of ancient Kush (now known as Nubia).

After the pressures of meeting tier proved too much for the Upper Kingdoms group, Cursa and other veterans of SL role playing decided to establish a venue for creators, managers, and players to share questions, ideas, experiences, resources, and gripes.  Thus was born the Role Play Nexus, one thousand meters above Falcon's Landing, in September, 2009.

In co-operation with the SL Role-playing Game Developers group, the Nexus has presented dozens of events such as demonstrations, lectures, and open group discussions on a wide variety of topics, such as defining role playing in SL, sustainably managing a sim for role playing, and the strange matter of avatar size.  Cursa moderated many of the events, and presented a few topics himself.

The RP Nexus has drawn the attention of researchers, and the main tenant at Falcons Landing is now a group of educators at a graduate school in Japan, doing research and development of a method for using SL's shared virtual environment to complement classroom language instruction for learners of English.  The Nexus itself has also been the subject of academic publications by researchers interested in user-generated and user-managed communities, and the evolution of how people use virtual and networked communication media.

As the Moore's Law gap between SL's fees and open-market alternatives has grown, and Linden Lab policies have driven more and more creators, educators, and other committed and able people from SL, Cursa has become interested in the progress of OpenSim.  Since the emergence of the "hypergrid" feature last year, he has set up his own standalone sim at home, a "megasim" equivalent to nine SL sims in size, and teleports to other open grids, exploring what could become the "3D Web", or "Web 3.0".

For social interaction, of course, Second Life is still *the* virtual world.  Cursa's offline commitments have combined with the challenge of operating from the GMT+9 time zone to limit his SL activities over the past year or so.  He stays in touch with friends still active in role playing based on Joss Whedon's "Firefly", and misses being able to portray his excommunicated Shaolin-style monk running a sort of Underground Railroad rescuing people from the oppressions of the Alliance.

Contributing to role playing groups has become too much to manage, but friends have introduced Cursa to music and dance venues that have become a welcome part of lunch breaks at work, and of the precious and rare day off.  Chatting with the regulars and enjoying the music during a set by DJs like Marjorie Dibou or Miles Eleventhauer can make his whole day, especially when the special craziness of living and working in Japan gets intense.


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