“Our dreams are a second life.” ~Gerard de Nerval
by Tony Walsh in Clickable Culture.
Nimrod Yaffle, a resident of the virtual world Second Life, has revealed details of a bizarre and dark prison Second Life’s maker Linden Lab is now using to lock up criminal avatars. Dubbed the “The Corn Field,” the moonlit environment contains only rows of corn, two television sets, an aging tractor and a one-way teleport terminal allowing no escape. It exists as an alternative to standard disciplinary measures, which traditionally prevent access to Second Life completely.
After breaking Second Life’s rules, Yaffle was informed via email by Linden Lab that he was being sent to The Corn Field. “I thought it was a joke,” Yaffle told me in-world. “I never even knew it existed before I went there, and by the looks of it, a lot of other people didn’t either.” Rumour and speculation about the prison has been running amok in the Second Life community since word of The Corn Field spread, but until recently the prison simulator hadn’t been officially confirmed.
“Sometimes when someone is suspended for a short time they are sent to the cornfield,” Linden Lab’s Senior VP of Community and Support wrote on the official Second Life discussion forums yesterday, adding that building the cornfield didn’t require any significant development work and reassuring the community that “Once someone is permanently banned they are no longer welcome in Second Life, anywhere, including the cornfield.”
As promised, Nimrod Yaffle was teleported into the middle of prison simulator, finding a tractor in front of him and the errie rows of corn. “I was laughing the whole entire time I was there,” he told me. “But in a way, I was also worried that the children of the corn were going to get me…it would be great if the Linden’s made scripted children there.” Yaffle was disappointed at the “insanely slow” pace of the tractor, and bored by the only channel available on the televisions–a presentation of the 1940 film “Boy in Court,” about a troubled teenager on probation trying to avoid a life of crime.
Yaffle tested the limits of the prison, finding that communication to Second Life’s “Main Grid” was cut off. He even came up with a scheme to crash the server The Corn Field was running on in order to be teleported to the nearest safe simulator by default, but creating objects in The Corn Field appears to be impossible. Having exhausted his options, Yaffle merely waited around to see if anyone else would show up. A Linden Lab employee did stop by, but was incommunicado. “If I was them, I would have been watching me and laughing,” Yaffle told me. “I know I was laughing even though it was a punishment.”
The question remains as to whether or not The Corn Field is an effective remedial measure compared to a standard suspension. Yaffle supposes “it’s a little better because it made me laugh, but not a whole lot better. There’s nothing you can do there except ride a tractor and watch a boring movie, which was black and white anyways.” Despite the boredom Second Life’s criminals may face, the fact that The Corn Field is an exclusive and normally inaccessible area of the virtual world may not be working in its favour. Second Life’s residents are known for their curiosity: Will petty crime increase in a bid to get a first-hand glimpse of The Corn Field?
Perhaps not if its shadowy evil is exposed pictorially. Thanks to Nimrod Yaffle for the photos.
This post was originally published on January 3, 2006. Yes, 2006… just a year before my (Cat) appearance in Second Life. For the Second Life 10th Birthday celebrations, Linden Lab has resurrected the Corn Field so those of us who were crazy curious about it in 2006, and those of us who are just crazy, can all go and experience the creative punishment that was the Corn Field! Visit the Corn Field at SL10B.
Keep up with all the SL10B sights and activities at Daniel Voyager’s Blog.