By Bixyl Shuftan
I recently went to the recently opened Vietnam Veterans Memorial’s
virtual counterpart here in Second Life. Besides viewing the very well
detailed replica of “The Wall,” I met up with one of the men behind it,
Evian Argus. I gave him an interview, and he took me on a tour of the
Evian Argus (Robert Eagan in real life) is the President of Meme Science (http://www.memescience.com/
which built the sim in honor of the Veterans who gave their lives, “we
endeavored to communicate the history and existence of this significant
memorial to current and future generations in an innovative and relevant
manner,” and for people interested in visiting whom are unable to
visit the real memorial. Planning, designing, and building the sim took
about two months, done by Bleys Chevaller (Don Cramer in real life). He
spent several Fhours at the D.C. Vietnam Memorial, taking over 300
photographs of The Wall and statues. He then spent about a week studying
the photographs. Work on the Three Soldiers Statue and the Vietnam
Veterans Womens Memorial Statue was done by Meleni Fairymeadow. The sim
was and will continue to be funded by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
The virtual memorial was opened to the public in Second
Life on November 7, coordinated with the 25th Anniversary ceremonies in
Washington D.C. Between then and Veterans Day, about 1000 residents came
over. And as I looked the place over, people continued to drop by to
visit. Upon entry, one is greeted with a movie screen showing both
images of the real wall and it’s replica here, along with audio of some
of the names of the fallen.
The Three Soldiers Statue is “made up
of mostly prim design w ith some sculptie objects,” with a total of
484 prims. Asked if there were any problems making it, “I had this
sculpture made of all sculptir designing by another artist. It did not
meet my design specifications, so I did not use it, ” So he paid the man
and hired Meleni Fairymeadow, whose work with mostly prims he felt
better captured “the true essence of the emotion of the individual
soldiers.” Fairymeadow also worked on the The Vietnam Veterans Women’s
Memorial, taking a total of about 70 hours and about 4 16 prims.
Wall” in Second Life contains 58,223 names instead of the 58,256 of the
real one. Mr. Chevalier had found out 33 of the names had been placed
by mistake, and there were three which had been added recently. So the
correct number of names were listed. And from the avatar’s point of view
on the walkway, like a person there in real life, one cannot help but
be struck by the enormity of all those names on the large wall of black.
The memorial’s names are faithfully detailed, and legible once fully
rezzed. Besides the mouse, one can zoom in on them using control-0 and
control-8. At night, lights in the walkway turn on and illuminate “The
Finding an individual’s name was made simpler by the
builders, “We have four directories. You can search for any name on the
wall, and teleport to that name on the exact panel, and leave flowers or
flags for that name, right from the Directory.” For testing, I had to
pick a name at random from a list of names online, choosing Frank Blas.
It took a few tries, but it worked after a couple false starts. Besides
the option of teleporting to the name, one can also have the area
briefly marked with a white arrow and walk down to it. Flags and flowers
left will show who they are left for.
Every detail in the sim
was finely done, the autumn leaves slowly falling in the breeze, the
occasional squirrel chirping as it skitters about the grass. There was
one detail the builders would like to have included, but were unable to.
The real Wall’s black granite is polished to a mirror-like finish so
when you look at the names of the dead and missing, you see your
reflection among them. This could not be replicated using the existing
building tools in Second Life. Chevalier hopes someday they will be
improved to allow them to recreate the reflection experience. Still,
“The Wall” can only be considered a faithfully detailed and well done
tribute for our veterans in Vietnam.
For further information, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Second Life has it’s own website: (http://ww w.thewallsl.com/
). A Youtube report is also available: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-o280x9xlI
builders of The Wall sim still have plans for further builds and
improvements. Besides improving the name directories, they plan to
increase the number of items one can leave at the wall, including photos
and other custom textures. They also plan to add a new building that
will host both real-life and Second Life material related to the
memorial, such as video and weblinks. They also plan to add an image of
the Washington Monument so it will look visible from the memorial as it
does in real-life. For the website, they plan to add a search feature
to find individual vets from there . One will also be able to view
information about the vets from the database, and possibly add comments
about them. One will also be able to leave items at the virtual memorial
from the website, or schedule to have them left. Finally, as one can
get a pencil rubbing of a name off the real wall, one will also be able
to get a virtual rubbing from the web site.
On a final note, I
was not able to start and finish this article in time for Veterans Day.
But as Evian Argus noted, tributes to Veterans are not confined to then
and Memorial Day.
“Thanks for coming, and your interest in the Wall.”
* * * * *
Addition (May 25, 2015): This was among the first articles I wrote for SL Newspaper, and still
among my favorites. "The Wall" would be up for a few more years. Finally
on Veterans Day 2011
when I looked on the map for it, it was no longer around.