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History & Evolution

Before Burning Life, There Was Burning Man

In 1986, Larry Harvey and Jerry James fashioned an 8-foot-tall human figure out of scrap wood, brought it to the beach and burned it. Spontaneously, a crowd formed to enjoy the spectacle. Larry and Jerry were both gratified by the attention it received, but more amazing was the creative response of the crowd. One stranger performed an act of kindness for the burning statue. Another made up a song about fire and played it on his guitar. A party began and strangers began to talk.

The next year, they did it again, building a much larger Man and attracting more people. But by 1990, several thousand people were involved, and the police arrived to stop the event. Burning Man had become too large and dangerous for a San Francisco beach.

That might have been the end of Burning Man, but Michael Michael and John Law from the San Francisco Cacophony Society rescued the statue and it moved to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. That first year in the desert, when the travelers pulled off the road onto the dry lake bed of the Black Rock, Michael Michael scratched a line in the dirt. Then he asked everyone to line up along it. He told them that they were about to step over to the other side, and when they did, everything would be different. And so it was.

Today Burning Man attracts 70,000 people who come and build an entire city around the Man-- for one week-- then they take every last speck of it away again.

Burning Man, Second Life and the Early Years

In 1999, a dreamy guy from San Francisco decided to go explore this Burning Man thing he'd been hearing about. Into his car he tossed a tent, water and everything else he needed to survive, then he drove 300 miles out to the Nevada high desert.

He arrived at a featureless, 40-square-mile expanse of cracked mud, ringed by distant mountains. Hot. It was terribly hot. Except when the sun went down. Then it was just plain cold. The Black Rock Desert is an ancient dry lake bed. "The Playa", geologists called it; harsh, foreign, unforgiving and so shockingly barren that it *begs* to be your empty canvas. A strange encampment had been erected there, ringed around a 40-foot tall anthropomorphic wooden statue destined to be burned the last night.

What the Dreamer found there— a huge group of people, self-organized into a city, collaboratively creating a different reality— tweaked the direction of the project he was working on back in San Francisco, and filled his head with ideas about the nature of reality, creativity, identity and community. He worked some of these ideas into the very fabric of his project, "Linden World", which you and I now know as Second Life. That Dreamer was Linden Lab founder Philip Rosedale.

The Virtual Burn

Fast forward to 2003. Numerous Linden Lab employees were regulars at Burning Man, but by 2003 they were too busy getting Second Life out the door to visit the real life Playa. So Phoenix Linden approached the Burning Man organization for permission to build a tribute to the real event in Second Life. With permission duly granted, the Lindens built a Man statue much like the real thing, and "burned" it in-world. While Phoenix and Haney Linden started the Burning Life event, other Lindens facilitated over the years: Hamlet, Torley, Jeska, Iridium, and Everett.

By 2007 the Lindens were too busy to be directly involved with the event, and other SLers were running the event. These residents had never been to Burning Man and did not really understand how to represent its principles - yet they were using Burning Man's symbols and vocabulary, and representing it inworld.

Burning Man Involvement

Understandably, Burning Man was becoming concerned about what was happening to the vibe, the message, the community and its principles as represented and enacted by Burning Life. It was decided that sending help and getting involved was the Burner way to improve the event.

Everett Linden, the head of Community Initiatives for LL (and also a Burner), was aware of the issues involved. In 2008, the Lab hired Dusty Udal, an experienced burner, as a contractor and gave her a Linden name tag in order to help reposition the event. Also at this time, Danger Ranger - founder of the real life Black Rock Rangers at Burning Man - got involved and helped with reorganizing the Burning Life Rangers into a more community-based organization, truer to the principles of the RL Rangers.


In 2010, Linden Lab experienced a sharp downsizing, and ownership of Burning Life was transformed from a partnership between Burning Man and Linden Lab into an entirely regional Burning Man event held in the metaverse. This was seen as a win-win, as Linden Lab was focusing on its core business and technology, and less on supplementary activities, while Burning Man wanted a higher fidelity representation in the metaverse.

If you look at the history of BM, it has also undergone a dramatic shift. 1996 was an evolutionary year for BM. After that, BM found a balance between anarchy and organization. In a sense, BURN2 is where Burning Man was in 1997. We are establishing a firm base for evolution and growth in the future.

With the birth of Burn2, there is a sense of renewal, a sense of community and a sense of hope as Burning Man and the metaverse intermix. The Burn2 community is established and viable, and the future is at our doorstep.


After six years of Linden Lab support and guidance, both the Lab and Burning Man felt it was time to let the Burning Life event be completely community run and supported. This community of artists, builders, performers, and participants, collectively called “Burners” is a community so diverse, few like it have ever been seen. We ALL are that community! We will take this new beginning for our well-established event, Burning Life, and we will call it BURN2 to signify the freedom and opportunity we now have to recreate it.

With our new-found freedom comes the reality that we are now self-supporting for sims and operating costs. While the real life Burning Man event is funded by an admission fee, we have elected to fund the amazing infrastructure of BURN2; including the town of Deep Hole, our Center Camp, the Temple, Mutant Vehicles, event stages, art installations, and the MAN burn; through a combination of donations from the Burner community and plot charges for Burner camps on the sims. There will also be a lottery for free camps!

BURN2 is smaller by design than the previous Burning Life events. While smaller, we know it will push the boundaries of Second Life to be amazing and different in many ways. Every year, we add as many additional sims as funding and staffing allow for the "Big Burn" event in October.

So how about showing some Burner love? Any amount will help. Linden dollar donations can be made directly to M2 Burner inworld, which is the BURN2 fundraising avatar, or using "Fuel the Burn" donation kiosks available for this purpose.