Pozadí astronaut Brázda
Pozadí astronaut Brázda


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Respekt in English

How to build Czechville

For the first time since the founding of Havířov, the Czech Republic will have a new town.

Fotografie: I´ll have a beer at Vilem´s. - Autor: Profimedia.cz, http://www.profimedia.cz • Autor: Respekt
Fotografie: I´ll have a beer at Vilem´s. - Autor: Profimedia.cz, http://www.profimedia.cz • Autor: Respekt

For the first time since the founding of Havířov, the Czech Republic will have a new town. It's being built on a green meadow by 10 construction workers, and it will be situated on an island. And now the craziest part: As soon as construction is complete, the workers will pack up the city and move it to a different island.

The for-now-nameless metropolis will not be made of bricks and steel. Its buildings will consist of bits and bites. The online virtual world Second Life is about to have an island that will be inhabited by Czechs and Slovaks.

Second Life (Respekt Issue 37/2006) is a game, but not in the traditional sense. After launching the program, you acquire a character, or avatar, whose appearance you are free to change according to your taste. This avatar then moves through a 3D environment. You can talk to other inhabitants of this world, travel, buy properties, build houses, construct amusements, sell clothing to other avatars or buy and consume. Second Life doesn't have any plot in and of itself. It's just an environment. It's up to the player to create or find his own amusements.

And for many people that's a problem. Statistics show that 85% of players lose interest after about a month. Creating objects in the game isn't easy, and some people have a hard time finding something to do in the disorganised, fictional world.

The company Beneta took notice of this and decided to build a Czech town in Second Life that would serve as a starting point for local players. The concept seems clever: Beneta builds a town and prepares shops for sponsors and constructs amusements for the visitors. The company thus earns enough money to at least rent the island from the creators of Second Life. Players are provided with free apartments if they actively take part in the daily life of the town: help new players, write reports on the web or are available for a „chat“. This way the creators can ensure that their city will remain lively.

But that might not be enough. The biggest risk is that the project depends on the success of the American company Linden Lab, which owns Second Life. If some competing 3D world becomes more successful, the town will die out. What's more, Second Life is remarkably like the real world in many unpleasant ways: it has extremists and bandits, for instance, who can make the lives of locals miserable.

For now, our avatar Respekt Writer is wondering around the construction site. The architecture of the town square is reminiscent of Telč. The buildings are already plastered on the outside, but the interiors remain empty. In the middle of the square stands a fountain, nearby a Czech flag and a Slovak flag and the foundations of a tower. Along with a few other curious players, the avatar orders a beer at a restaurant called U Viléma, while watching as construction workers put up a railing and thinking about whether this site could serve as a venue for a photo exhibition or a public debate. The pub is named after a Czech enterpreneur, who allegedly makes CZK 150,000 a month in Second Life. He was thus able to buy an entire island and loan it to the construction workers. Once complete, the city will be moved to a new island. But one important element is still missing: the name. The creators asked residents for suggestions, and so far players have come up with lofty names like New Bohemia or typically Czech names like Lhota. The already mentioned Havířov [a Czech coal mining town built after World War II –translator's note] was lucky in the end. Some early name suggestions included Lidobudovatelov, Gottwaldův Horníkov or Budosociokolktivov. For now, the Czech town in Second Life bears the ironic name of Kocourkov [a Czech term for a foolish small town – translator's note]. Let's hope it won't live up to this name.

This article originally appeared in Issue 26 of the weekly Respekt, published 25 June 2007.

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