Second Life, the virtual world that millions call “home” and millions of others enjoy having a good laugh at. An experiment, the future, completely useless? Those statements are probably all both correct and incorrect at the same time.
People like myself gravitate to a platform like Second Life for many reasons. Constructing anything in 3D can be a powerful experience and until recently out of the reach to most. Second Life lowers the entry level (perhaps too low?) and offers a platform that has yet to be matched in terms of a complete solution. Introduce the concept of an economy and naturally you’ll get your wantrepreneurs, scammers, greifers, and general weirdos that make things interesting. Following the local news and gossip here and you’ll find its very much some bizarre society seen commonly in Twilight Zone episodes.
On the infrastructure side there have always been problems. Talented residents work around the issues while Linden Labs (creator of Second Life) appears to apply “scotch tape” based solutions or simply ignore the issue all together. A major rework of the infrastructure/client is in order but how? That would be similar to asking the cable company rebuild their entire “grid”. They are too entrenched in what can only be SQL database hell and VPN purgatory.
So looking back to the residents, like any society you have generations or loosely connected groups of people who build, change and contribute. Second Life isn’t very old so it’s initial residents only date back a few years, for example some of the oldest residents are sometimes referred to as “The Class of 2003”. While there is no shortage of talented residents funneling into Second Life many are starting to turn their back. I can’t help but wonder what this says about the service when some of the most dedicated users are looking for the teleport out. Let’s take a look at a few:
Prokofy Neva (Catherine Fitzpatrick):
The infamous antagonist just today announced a strike, or vacation, or who knows. In any case she’ll return but is she ever going to turn her back for good? This is a resident who has probably spent more time in-world than many of the Lindens themselves. Her blog posts tend to be absurdly long (that last one was 2000 plus words) and she has observed/complained about/poked just about every corner of the virtual world of Second Life. While many would gladdy take a Second Life without Prokofy (at times I’m one of them) her role is still significant here.
Spin Martin (Eric Rice):
Eric’s departure is a little quieter (which is a bit surprising if you know Eric) then someone like Prokofy. Eric at one point owned 4 simulators (an $800 per month investment) that he used for various types of development. He coined the term “Massive Multiplayer Photoshop” which is probably one of the better Second Life descriptions. I know I’ll see (or at least hear from) Eric in other virtual spaces, however I wonder if we’ll ever get the chance to sit around the fire and shot the shit in Saijo City again.
Sean Voss (Sean Percival, aka Me):
If you are reading this blog or following me you probably already know I wrote the “Second Life Travel Guide“. The book deal came to me by chance almost, literally setup over a dinner in Palo Alto. I had already started to explore Second Life and felt the market could benefit from such a guide. I took the better part of 3 months and spend insane amounts of time traveling, cataloging and preparing the book. Along the way I discovered why so many were drawn to it, the reasons go on and on. I’ve invested somewhere between $3000 into the service over the last year and own two ocean SIM islands. Between the myriad of grid issues and increasingly busy first life, my free time and interest have wained. While I know I’ll return (or at least check in), for the next few months you aren’t likely to find me on this grid. If you are a reader of my book please contact me by email any time (me at seanpercival.com), I love all the feedback I’ve received so far. I’m going to keep Landmark Island online so feel free to drop by there as well. I still plan to go to SLCC in September and hope to return to a better virtual world at this time. 🙂
I still have no doubt virtual worlds have some place in the future. However I can’t help but feel they will be given to us by companies and not the user-generated polar opposite. Perhaps they can meet somewhere in the middle, I for one want to build my shit in Liberty City.