Observing Two Sides Of The Mirror

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Please note: this guest post is by Aemeth, not Gogo. It is in response to this entry on NWN.

When I first announced quitting SL last year, I said the grid would die in 2017. But before that, I said, it would experience a shrinkage. The next grid LL would experiment on would fail. They wouldn’t produce another one, and would try too late to save this one. The community would see another mass exodus. Then, copyright would become a bigger problem with less creators putting out fresh items, and even less staff to enforce violations. And finally, the cost of keeping the game running would no longer justify what users were putting back into the system in terms of land rentals and subscriptions. There might be a fundraiser to put a stoppage on the drain, but it ultimately wouldn’t prevent water from funneling down the pipe.

I now think the grid might die in 2019. All things come to an end, and I believe the heat death of SL is inevitable. The grid is shrinking and we have to face it: all users need to have an exit plan in place. If you make money on the grid, you need to start thinking about where you can go from here.

This isn’t to make anyone panic, and the shrinking of our community isn’t to say there aren’t benefits. I feel I appreciate my fellow creatives more. I feel like exploring what’s left on the grid while I can. I look for dive bars, I visit old, primmy carnival sims, and I wander through forgotten stores on Mainland. I run around Wastelands and have fun trying to kill buzzards and attempting not to starve to death from their game HUD. I go to all the beaches I can, judging them by composition and talking to Gogo about which ones we prefer the most. I go to The Chamber, put a drink in my hand, dance on a stripper pole in an old lady outfit, and laugh at how all of the props I’m wearing makes me look like a washed-up entertainer that feels she’s too good for her audience.

I have fun because this won’t be forever. It can’t be forever. Eventually we will all have to say goodbye to this place, and whether or not it’s sooner or later we could argue, sure–but that day is coming closer and closer and I believe we are all feeling the pinch.

***

Bukkake Bliss used to be a joke to visit with friends. We put on tshirts, straw hats, adjusted our heights, and put a polaroid or camcorder prop around our necks to pretend we were newbie tourists. Then we got on group voice chat, walked around, and observed everything. Later on, I showed the same area to my then-boyfriend, who was new to the grid and wanted to learn what I was doing in SL. I showed him around the grid to get him to understand both the best and the worst of everything.

“First,” I said, “I’m going to show you Tableau,” and I did. He loved the dinosaurs and theatre area. It was colorful and whimsical all at once. Then I showed him some other places I loved: Juicybomb, my shop, Mad Pea, and The Pixel Bean.

Then I showed him the sex sim. He said it was awful. It looked like a ratty 3d adult website with ads and pictures strewn everywhere. If some Tumblr kid into aesthetics saw it, they would take pictures of it for an art project. Under any other view, Bukkake Bliss had little value other than the furniture that was set up in a rudimentary manner.

“This is the worst place,” I said, “because a lot of people just log on for sex, come here, and don’t see anything else. They won’t go enjoy other kinds of sims, sex is all they want.”

Some avs were humping a short distance away as we were talking. Their movements were jerky and outdated. My ex became uncomfortable and asked if we could go.

But later on we went to Elysion, and he didn’t think that was so bad, even though we both knew the sim had sex there too. But it was tasteful to us; we thought it was more humanized. It was decorated well and felt like the people who ran the sim cared about more than just poseballs. We cuddled on a couch in the living room and giggled as we tried the cages in the library. We liked it because we felt there was effort put into the place instead of HERE POSEBALL HAVE SEX SIT HERE.

When I tell someone I play SL, the first thing they tend to ask is if I’m having sex on the grid. That’s why I don’t tell people often; it annoys me. I’m here to have fun and make things. They wouldn’t get why I sit around 1951 or dance at Old Lar’s. I do appreciate some adult places, and I even bring friends along who pick up others and take them “home”. But I think there are far too many sims that look absolutely awful and get too much media attention. When somewhere you visit regularly is stereotyped for its virtual ghetto, you’d be annoyed too.

***

We need to think about what to do to extend the life of our grid.

Journalists are going to think what they want when they visit. I live in a city where despite all the good stuff we try to spotlight, reporters still take pictures of our dilapidated buildings. There’s so much ruin porn taken of our city, that it’s what we’re known for. It’s annoying and along the same kind of thing Second Life is dealing with.

The only way it’s going to get better is to write about the positive things. Journalists don’t have to pretend adult sims don’t exist, but cutting down on the virtual ruin porn would probably help. Doing an article about a grid attempting to support a community and escape a stereotype would be a good idea, too. And don’t forget, sex workers on the grid are still people. They do things in their spare time. Many people have sex worker alts because they don’t want the stigma of being known as a dancer or an escort on their main. We should show them more respect.

Second Life wasn’t perfect when we came here. We know LL will only do so much for the game at this point, and we know there are a lot of things about the grid we find unfair and frustrating. Yet, we choose to stay (or come back) anyway, because something about this place is what we need. Maybe it’s a sim or an item. Maybe it’s each other.

I believe this is a good time for everyone to reflect on what keeps them here. When you find that thing, talk about that thing. What keeps you here? Maybe we need more of that thing. Then others can find it and stay with us too.

 

Posted by Aemeth

Hi! I’m Aemeth. I paint and make things in SL for fun. Read my blog at Aemy Says.

20 comments

  1. If only LL could/would work towards giving users free sims. Instead of having supper laggy ugly jumbled main lands and outrageously priced sim fees. Only charging moderate fees for people who want to purchase more adjoining sims to their free main sim. LL should focus on supporting creativity and making money off of shoppers and creators. People with super creative ideas would be more attracted to the game if they could have a whole sim for their work and play. Sure there will always be sex themed sims but there would be so many more other stores and environments to explore. I was paying for a premium membership and monthly fees because it was the only way I could enjoy creating someplace in second life for the majority of my activities. I know for a fact that at the time I spent more on shopping for my own avatar and home then the cost of all my fees just to hold land. And my shopping only increased with the more land I was able to obtain. But I got to the point where I can’t afford the amount of land I want to create environments or find new places to explore. So I’ve ended my premium account and with giving up my land so did my buying $L for shopping come to a hold.

    Imagine if everyone had their own sim for free. They would be spending money left and right to decorate it into their dream homes. Or be making captivating places for others to explore and play or shop. Keeping that audience in second life even longer because there would be more to keep people’s attention. It would be a shame for those who choose to be realtors in second life but if SL wants to keep going strong they need a major change like this. People love to create for their games and customize them without feeling like they’re being forced into subscriptions and payments. I think highly successful games like minecraft and skyrim are a testament to that. To this day they are both some of most heavily modded games and continue to be. People are more ready and willing to spend hundreds of dollars if they feel they are only paying for what they want, also why most basic phone games are successful.

    • While free sims are a good idea – it’s never going to happen. Sims require servers and require electricity. They certainly do not need to be the cost that they are. For what servers run a pack of sims, I think I calculated that you could buy the same VM from Linode for like 80 or 160 a month, that’s still way cheaper than the 299 that is currently in place. It’s been proposed to Linden Lab a thousand and one times to reduce the sim cost to increase land, their actual answer to that was the Atlas Project, which would give hand picked people special prices on sims and openspaces (and don’t start me on the openspace debacle- that was a disaster) if they would increase their land by something like 5 percent a year. Well that program ended too (the official word).


      Comment on aemeth’s article now:

      First of all I agree with you. Second Life has been on a downswing since 08. I don’t know if it will ever die completely, there will always be people to log in, but as soon as the venture capital people start losing money, it’s going to go down fast then and not by login/user choice. That’s a real shame – I’m sure you would agree that Second Life held a boatload of potential for stuff. But the first death knell I saw was when Reuters inworld journalist decided to dump Second Life and left a scathing “why this shit doesn’t work” post about it (granted, he was an ass too). [citation: http://www.businessinsider.com/2008/11/why-reuters-left-second-life-and-how-linden-lab-can-fix-it%5D

      I think that if you make any sort of money in Second Life and you depend on it to live or feed your family you need to be thinking of other ways. A lot of creators have real world skills making content creation in Second Life – so they can actually transfer those skills to a job.

      And I lost my train of thought so I’ll put something else out there – I think Second Life became less fun for people like me (I enjoyed creating content and running a business and doing marketing and such – I wasn’t big on dress up and buying clothing and such and I also did it a few hours at night when I got home from work) when content creation started to get more professional, meaning using Maya/Blender etc rather than just inworld. I know it makes for a better looking Second Life, but part of the beauty of Second Life was that ANYONE could come into this world and make something with the tools provided. Second Life probably lost a lot of magic for some people at this point. At least, I can tell you, it did for me.

      I love your thoughts on this stuff. I have so many fond memories of Bukkake Bliss myself. When I would bring people in (around 2006) I would bring them to all the sex sims. I already explained to them the draw of the game was the ability to make things, make Lindens, etc but in the end all my friends were from IRC and they were old school trolls so they wanted to see the sex sims so off we went.

  2. Hi! Thank you for giving your input and replying. I think it would be a good idea to have “single player” grids–one you can connect to on your own, offline, with basic assets from LL to dress up your av.

  3. Predictions of SecondLife’s “demise” always make me shake my head. I think an interest in virtual worlds and life will always be out there. New members still enter the world and the population has held steady. One creater I know opened a store in a competing world and closed it eventually for lack of business. I don’t see an “end” to SecondLife. I see new people coming and enjoying this world. I still see people handicapped in one way or another being attracted to SecondLife. There is life here – people, friends, games, fun, conversation, building and more. I don’t see that as ending.

    I agree that cheaper sims would be wonderful and encourage creativity. I am sure the owners of SecondLife try to balance money from sims with operating expenses, to obtain the best profit. We don’t know all the considerations that must be taken into account.

    Just as in any life, the sex is there, the pg-rated stuff is there. People with all kinds of goals exist in SecondLife. Surprise, they also exist outside of SecondLife.

    I maintain an optimistic view of the future. Other online worlds continue to exist. I am sure we will evolve as time passes but I don’t see it as an end to SecondLife at all. The graphic and visual improvements have been wonderful so far. It only seems to get better.

    • You believe Second Life will survive indefinitely?

      Edit: I should probably extend this comment. I definitely think the technology and independent grids will always be around. I imagine after SL, individually hosted grids and smaller grid sims will pop up, stuff you can connect to like the days of dial-up websites.

      • I don’t see SecondLife ending in any predictable time. Who knows? As technology gets more efficient and cheaper, it will be easier to run SecondLife and easier to make a profit from it. It may end someday but the interest in it seems to be holding steady.

  4. Juicy Bomb~ I read your comments, but I have to say it left me a little sad and empty. I myself have been a member of SL since 2009. I do not create, I do not make or sell items. I have never had a “job” in SL to make money. I come to SL for one thing….I simply come on to explore the Sims, the creativity, and the fashions that people of this great imaginative world give me to explore. I hope that “this world” does go on. It’s an escape from my RL life at times. To be able to TP anywhere at just the click of my mouse, the accessibility to see my friends online when I log, the ability to have a small home in-world and call it “mine” even if temporarily mine. Never-the-less; it’s mine, and for the moment it’s delighful. I’ll take it as it is. SL is a wonderful possibility of hopeless imagination. Sometimes we need to just embrace the good and not look at the bad so much. As with life, if you look at the negatives, it tends to tarnish your perspective and make you look at things in a heavier negative sense. But, after all is said and done that is why there are content monitoring options in our profiles as well as Sim ratings. I wish you a good day. Keep blogging 😀

    • Hi! Thank you so much for reading. Yes it makes me sad too! SL can be lots of fun, and it’s sad to think of all the unique things we’ve seen here eventually all going up in smoke. We have to cherish it while we can.

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  6. Why do you think SLNG is going to fail?

    Of course nothing or nobody lives for ever but as long as there are enough users to pay the LL bills SL will continue on and I see no signs for SL to vanish completely any time soon.
    As long as another bigger, better, cheaper virtual world doesn’t come along, there’s no real reason to worry.

    • Thank you for commenting! I meant Hi Fidelity would. We’ll see what happens to SLNG, although I don’t have high hopes for it either (so I guess you could say I still think it would fail).

      • Oh right, yes, I’m not sure HiFi is going to be big either but wouldn’t bet on it failing either.
        Still, I’ve got high hopes for SLNG, someone who has already seen it said it looks amazing.

  7. Wonderful essay. Really enjoyed reading. I agree with you that High Fidelity will fail, but I also feel SL2 will also.
    Our SL is shrinking, true. SL2 will open as a curiosity and will have false numbers in the beginning. SecondLife Classic has been growing for 12 years, 12 years of infrastructure and content. And it’s shrinking at an alarming pace. I can not believe a brand new grid with the restrictions the Lab starting it with, ie scripting language, special building skills will support and keep a virtual world population thriving for long that is used to what we had.
    Do I want Second Life to end? Hell no. What would I do if it did? Probably cry, a lot. So let’s encourage positive impressions of our world, we made it.

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  9. Thank you for this wonderfully written piece, it touches on plenty of points but I feel it missed a few important pieces also.

    I have been an on and off active player of Second Life since it’s conception, I was a beta player, and have witnessed tons of ups and downs over the course of ~ 13 years. Second Life at one point was more ‘open’ and welcoming then it is now. I am trying to figure out a way to explain this, but part of me feels that if a person wasn’t around at the start they won’t understand. Years ago we had a stronger player base, and I attribute the openness of the residents to that. Not saying that residents aren’t friendly with new players, because I have seen some go out of their way to help as much as they can, but more and more people stand on platforms or in an area that is known to them rather then traveling around meeting new people. Meeting new people used to be one of the best things in SL, but hardly anyone ever does that anymore outside their personal circle, or the circle of a friend. The meeting new people was an important aspect to SL back then, and it helped new residents stay in SL because they weren’t ‘lost’. Now we have new players joining and leaving within a week because they don’t have this system in place anymore to help them. I forgot to also add in, we had actual people that volunteered to help new residents. All this helped LL financially. More players = more money = doors open longer.

    Linden Labs also have hurt themselves by doing away with the live help chat, and allowances. How many games have you played (that were online) were you needed help ASAP, and wished for live help? Back then that was something that set Second Life apart, we could get help without waiting hours or days. Add on the allowances they were giving us, granted some of us are grandfathered with 50L a week, but how far does 50L take you? With the allowances people were spending more on the community, and thus more people felt like they had a chance at starting up a store because with the allowance they were able to upload textures and ect, and these uploads filtered back to LL.

    So many things over the years have been removed, altered, or forgotten. It isn’t always the players responsibility to make sure a game stays around, it is also the people that create, run, and moderate the game. I feel in this aspect LL over the years has failed us, the community, and that ultimately will lead to their demise like the others.

    As for saying it will have it’s demise in 2019, I doubt that. What I don’t doubt is that another platform, much like Second Life, will come to fruition and players will slowly move over to that if it is found to be more stable, and more community based then SL has become. I have been saying for years that once this new platform (which I have for the past 2 years been hearing whispers of via gamer blogs/news/ect) Second Life residents will jump ship, and board the other. To many players are getting fed up with SL how it is today, and are only buying time until the next thing comes along. I think Second Life will end up much like There.com, where as players slowly leave Second Life will try to hold on for dear life, only to be left with arms in the air, and a confused glare in their eyes.

    Part of this might sound like the ramblings of an ‘old timer’ player, but what companies/games fail to understand is that your business model at the start (if it worked) shouldn’t have been changed drastically. In-spite of CEO changes, hiring a 3rd to handle banings/ect, or lessening of staff. Changes that don’t help your players, your base and money supplier, will almost always lead to a failing game. Time and time again this has been proven with so many other games.

    Is it to late to fix things? Maybe, but it might be worth the try.

    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful insight! I remember walking around There.com, it makes me sad it’s abandoned now.

    • Bravo! Back in 2006 I was ‘caged’ by a griefer and paniced, the person at Live Help told me what to do calmed me, I was so surprised to learn that person was a volunteer, I decided I would do the same & eventually became a SecondLife Mentor. I saw how residents with no guidence or help would just poof, never to return. Nothing made me happier then helping new residents and knowing I was giving them the basics they needed to stay in Second Life and grow. I totally agree with you. The Lab’s actions through the years seems to be a steady drive to chip away all that made SL great.

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