ToxiaFebruary 2, 2007
I don’t think my appetite for corruption will ever be completely satisfied. While Midian City is a gorgeous build, I’ve seen it’s boundaries and borders. I want more. Maybe I always will.
Now I find myself in Toxia. Both game masters and residents have been sending me messages ever since I wrote about Midian. Most offered their services as guides, but today I decided to arrive without telling anyone that I was coming. If it really is a place worth visiting, it needs to stand on its own.
So here I am standing on a dock. A rusty sign sits on the ground nearby, having fallen off of a collapsed booth. It warns that I’ll be searched and contraband items will put me in jail. Anybody who might have enforced those laws is long gone, although I discover many pro-fascist posters in my later travels. There may be an attempt at a comeback.
At the bottom of my screen the Music control is available. I punch the play button and the air is filled with Wumpscut gothic metal. A yellow mist fills the distance between tall brown buildings, making me wonder why, specifically, they called this place Toxia. It’s only a few paces before I’m presented with a notecard giving me the sim’s rules, and a detailed backstory for the environment.
From a nearby newspaper box I catch up on the latest Toxian news involving vampires, demons and scientific anomalies. In the dark Information Center I can find out about these and several other factions, and confront the choice of whom to pledge my allegiance. Restlessness overtakes me before I can make a decision, and I decide to explore and meet the locals.
As a build, Toxia is spacious, dark, and dirty. Film covers the warehouse windows, and dirt covers the roads. Set at a permanent dusk, the shadows are long and dramatic. It’s the eerie feeling of a ghost town, despite the fact that the sim is dense with players. There are pockets of brutality to it as well, like the abandoned hospital filled with blood-splattered furniture outfitted with sex balls. That speaks for itself, I think.
Outside Haven, the local bar, I speak briefly with a few players. They’ve never heard of Midian, but spend most of their time in SL right here. One of them tells me that she’s pretty new. As she talks about the learning curve, I begin to realize that it’s not the DCS number system she’s referring to; that part of the Toxia RPG is self-explanatory. The real learning curve here involves the ever-evolving story between the residents. As a newcomer, if she says the wrong thing or wanders into the wrong area, it could mean real trouble. While in other games people stick together because of game mechanics, here people group up for social reasons: the darkness holds many threats. Only the experienced players know about most of them.
By this time I’m having a harder time seeing myself as an out-of-game entity. The players in Toxia are all very active role-players, and overheard snippets of in-game conversation as I walk through the streets make it harder and harder for me to remember that I am not a part of this. When I eventually enter Haven, a vampire’s glare gives me pause.
Xulltana Lowell: Are you up to something mortal?
Onder Skall: You never can tell.
I engage her in IM and ask about her experiences here. Again, she has never heard of Midian but says that this is her home. She claims to be a true Transylvanian, and that she’s most comfortable when playing in Toxia than in any other place in SL. It becomes clear that there’s something validating and freeing about the place.
This sentiment is echoed over and over again here. People feel comfortable in this place, with the consensual confrontation between factions somehow making everything fall into place. Despite the obvious similarities in overall theme, nobody I spoke with here even knew of Midian. This place had everything they needed.
As I leave Toxia I’m left wondering what secrets are left undiscovered. There are locked elevators I never managed to hack and a densely-populated area above a tunnel that I never managed to figure out how to reach, as well as a number of buildings that didn’t seem to have doors but still contained residents. There is mystery here, and maybe that’s the most compelling thing about Toxia. For somebody like me, who is never satisfied, the most important thing one can offer is the promise of something hidden.