Ellingson National Forest offers everything you could ever hope for during a weekend hiking trip. Rugged trails navigate lush forests on their way to tall waterfalls raging just a few feet from each other. Song birds fill the air with their melodies around park benches placed at the forest’s most iconic sites. At night, the trails are illuminated by the soft glow of lightning bugs.
And you can explore it all without ever leaving home. Why? Because Second Life recently sanctioned a segment of their Ellingson region as a virtual national forest.
Exploring Ellingson National Forest
Ellingson National Forest begins right off Route 8, the main road traversing the Ellingson region. The entrance features a sign similar to those found at US national parks and forests. The trail begins immediately past the sign and traverses through a lush forest.
Along the way, an interpretive center to the left offers fun facts about the outdoors and wildlife. Just ahead, it twists at a beautiful gorge featuring several waterfalls. Past that, it winds through more lush forests before reaching a picnic and gardening area.
Ellingson’s Realism and the Future of Metaverse Parks
As an avid (real world) hiker, I was surprised by how familiar some aspects of this experience felt to my local trails. The metaverse typically pushes well beyond the limitations of physics, but a sense of realism seems to be an important theme in Ellingson National Forest.
This is especially true regarding its graphics and texture details, which might come as a surprise to those familiar with other metaverse platforms, especially Decentraland, The Sandbox, and Roblox. After all, most of these platforms scale back their graphics and functionality for practicality.
But Second Life has traded faster load times for more realism. This makes sense given the increased capabilities of modern computers and the faster load times of gigabit internet connections.
Second Life’s bold decision to scale up, combined with faster internet and powerful home computers, could set a new standard for metaverse experiences. Right now, most platforms are hesitant to incorporate realism, especially if they’re accessed with V/R headsets. We’ve previously explained why metaverse graphics are often scaled back to improve functionality and immersion.
As technologies improve and metaverase platforms become more bold, we could see new experiences that cater to more people fill the metaverse. This means beautiful virtual destinations that both mimic and enhance real-world experiences. So, why not build a few national parks as well? Especially when your imagination is the only limit to its appeal.
Of course, that does necessitate one other question…
What’s the Point of a Metaverse National Forest?
Initially, it might sound a little silly to have national forests and national parks in the metaverse. What’s the point? Why not just visit a real one? Actually, there are a few reasons.
- Lifelong disabilities: Most of us take our ability to walk and get around easily for granted. However, some people have spent most or all of their lives unable to explore the world as easily. They can, however, explore virtual worlds just as easily as the rest of us.
- Agoraphobics: Physical disabilities aren’t the only conditions that prevent some people from exploring the outdoors. Many agoraphobics would love to if they could just get past their fear of leaving home. Virtual reality is already doing that.
- Inclement weather: It only takes a light dusting of snow to shut things down here in the south. So, it becomes pretty unlikely that I’ll get to spend that time enjoying the outdoors (even though I’d love to), but I can still jump in V/R and explore an outdoor getaway. And that’s just one of many examples of inclement weather that could otherwise (if not for the metaverse) ruin plans to explore the outdoors.
- City dwellers: Some people live in large cities hours away from a decent outdoor experience (I used to be one of them). Escaping from the hustle and bustle may be nice and healthy, but it’s not always practical. So, why not take a few minutes out of your day to decompress with a change of scenery? The metaverse makes it pretty easy to do that.
- People who love nature from a distance: Hey, some people just don’t like the packing, training, and sweating that come with exploring the outdoors. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t enjoy the beauty of nature. The metaverse can bring the beauty and exploration of the outdoors right into their living room.
Could We See More Metaverse National Parks and Forests?
A variety of V/R experiences already seek to explore the world’s most popular national parks, forests, and monuments. But what about national parks that only exist in the metaverse?
Second Life’s Ellingson’s National Forest has already attracted crowds. When something proves popular, others tend to follow – and there are plenty of other metaverse platforms that are capable of building “outdoor” recreational areas of their own.
We can expect to see more metaverse platforms build green spaces as long as they believe that it will provide value for their users. Ellingson National Forest has already done that in Second Life. Some will try to incorporate a sense of realism, while others will push the boundaries of human imagination.