Second Life and its Relevance to Gaming In General
Posted by Suzanna Soyinka on July 08 2011 20:56:02
I don't often do opinion pieces, I'm generally far too busy working on various aspects of what CCS and CoLA has become to care one way or another but I have to say, of late, that there are many things that have become facts of our existence on the Second Life grid that I have to acknowledge.
But even as much as I could sit here and slag Second Life and Linden Labs simply because me doing so might get some kind of backlash effect going on in the court of public opinion I'm not going to do that and there are a lot of reasons why and I'll explain that as I get through this post.
Second Life was created as an engine of creativity, allowing people to take their ideas and make them real and share them with others. This is the legacy of Linden Labs, that it is the one platform that truly stood up and said "We believe you can do great things" and gave people the tools, however limited they might be, to do that.
I'm no egomaniac. I know that what I've done has only touched a few hundred thousand people in its time. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that CoLA and CCS is the savior of Second Life, cause far from it. But I am going to cover a few things that I think are important and why what we do, collectively, is so important.
Second Life has scaled down heavily since its inception as the most creative group of individuals in the room to a bunch of people who wouldn't say boo to a goose and a bunch of executives that are driven more by user metrics and total profits than the original vision of what SL was supposed to be. This is a fact of life, you know it every time you try to get support now. Six years ago as a minor land owner with a barely relevant business Lindens would show up on my door step to take care of the most simplistic of issues. Today I'm lucky if I can get a "Scout" to even realize that I'm not just some user that has a freebie home on a Linden continent.
This isn't to say that I've lost all dialog with Linden Labs, I'm still closely acquainted with several server systems developers on the Linden Lab side and sure I can send them an IM whenever I feel what I have to say is relevant to what they do, and I guess if I was just some unprincipled hack I'd contact them about all my problems since the Lab as withdrawn all semblance of Linden Level support even from its "Concierge" level customers. But I don't do that, the people I have direct access to are people that need me to concentrate on things that help make Second Life better or identify problems within the live environment, not to overwhelm them with my every concern about the platform...so I don't, and thats the way things are.
Simple facts are Second Life has become less about what it was intended to be, and more about certain things that we'd eventually expect of any company...the bottom line, what is most financially expedient, what gives the best marketability for investment, that kind of thing.
I could opine for quite some time on how I think a strong user/service relationship is gigantically marketable but that would likely fall on deaf ears and I'm not really writing this to talk to Linden Labs because like it or not, they're going to do whats best for them, regardless of anything us, the users do.
Simple facts are we must consider ourselves, as users, and what we do in Second Life. What do we want Second Life to stand for, what should Second Life be?
Too much lately I have seen the proliferation of extremely short term development projects, ergo, "breedables" becoming a huge focus amongst developers and to be frank all I can do is shake my head when I see it, and when I see the time that goes into developing them, then the mad, frantic amounts of real life money people dump into them, only to have them become worthless in the long term when the next awesome "breedable" comes out to replace them.
Is this really equatable to the immense artistic efforts of developers and designers that have serviced this platform for the last 7 years or so? Lets look at a genuine worth example that has absolutely nothing to do with what I do but focuses on the contributions of developers who might not even care who I am.
In 2005, I bought some outfits, for my character, from Munchflower Zaius, of Nomine fame. I still have these outfits, sometimes I wear them, sometimes I wear pieces of them, but what I can say is that even now six years later, these items that have not been new for six years now still have value and relevance to this day for me.
Whereas I've watched any number of breedable pet in the last couple of years become the hottest thing on the grid, only to quickly fade into obscurity to be replaced by the next big thing. And hundreds of thousands of dollars have been tossed into this pool of absolute zero value, simply because someone, somewhere, has decided for a short time that they are worth something more than what was originally spent on them simply if you put time, money and effort into producing variant "genetic" strains for the purposes of selling them to other people who believe this imaginary thing has value.
Difference is, there are hutches and clutches and stables full of bunnies and dragons and horses and all kinds of things from a few years ago that no one other than a very finite group of people think are worth anything..and why? Something new came along to take their place.
And this is the difference between marketing and value. All of these things have been marketed very well. But all of them quickly fell into becoming worth less than was actually spent on them.
Whereas a good handful of things I purchased from Munchflower Zaius several years ago, are still worth exactly what I paid for them then, and retain their worth, no matter what.
So we have to think about what we expect of our "grid", is it really about whoever can make a splash with the "next big thing" and grab as much cash as they can while the iron is hot? Or should we establish our grid based on long term concepts which benefit more than a small handful of people at best?
For me its never been about the money, its nice to be solvent enough to be able to shoulder the expense of thousands of people enjoying what I've created, its nice to live modestly in relative harmony with my finances to ensure that the ideals I've put forth benefit more than just myself but hundreds of sim owners and designers and tens of thousands of players every week.
So what is our grid really about, when it comes down to it? Is it about making as much money as you can then fading out with the knowledge that you at least don't have to worry about anything but taxes for awhile? Or is it about creating living, breathing communities that can stand up and be viable alternatives to mainstream offerings, for people to enjoy?
I come down firmly in the second camp. Second Life has given me the ability, through what talents I have, to be able to share an idea with others that I think is very important, that its the characters in a story that matter, that its not about the money, its about the depth and richness of the experience that you can offer that truly matters, that its not about the player reacting to the world, but the world changing around the player.
This is my ethos, its whats driven me to do what I've done here in Second Life. And its something everyone in Second Life needs to think about. What is the grid about? Is it about taking the money and running? Or is it about standing up for something you truly believe in and putting every ounce of skill and effort you have behind that?
Just some thoughts I was having, while marinating in a slightly painful post root canal haze. Take it for what its worth.