Reclaiming Second Life…

Here’s the dream.

Imagine a new world, a world where creative people can make things that could never exist in the real world, where you can find new friends and share new experiences with them. A world where you can build or buy your own home, tailored to your own tastes, however extravagant they might be. A home that floats in the sky? No problem. A home in the middle of a peaceful forest? Easy. A home that is a reproduction of the starship Enterprise? Of course.

Imagine a world of creativity and community. This is the Second Life dream. This is what Linden Lab set out to create (or so they assure us…it’s possible they didn’t think through all the ramifications of how they were going to go about it.)

Here’s the reality.

Second Life has what amounts to a laissez-faire capitalist economy, bereft of almost any control. Greed and criminality not only exist, but are tolerated and, in some ways, encouraged (especially greed).

For example…

(If you are an long-time resident of Second Life, you can skip the next bit. I’m going to talk about camping chairs.)

Imagine that you are new to Second Life, or that, like me, you are coming back to Second Life after a prolonged absence. You are wandering round, taking a look at the world, and you notice a cluster of green dots on the mini-map, indicating a gathering of other residents. Hey, that looks interesting, you think, and you go over to take a look. You find a bunch of people sat around on chairs. This looks promising — a group of friends hanging out together, maybe. With luck they’ll be friendly, and let you join. As you get closer, though, you notice something odd. They don’t seem to be talking. A lot of them seem to be AFK (away from keyboard). And floating above them are dollar amounts.

Congratulations. You’ve come across the infamous camping chairs.

Let me explain. Residents can purchase parcels of land, on which they can build homes, shops, or indeed anything that takes their fancy. Second Life keeps track of ‘traffic’ — in other words, how many people visit your parcel, and how long they stay. If you have good traffic, you earn in-game money from it.

It’s a good idea. It’s designed to reward people for producing creative stuff that lots of other people come to see, or for setting up community centres where on-line friends can hang out together. But like all good ideas, there are ways to subvert it. Camping chairs are just such a way. Sit on a camping chair, and you are (slowly!) rewarded with a pay-out. Because you are on the parcel of land belonging to the chair’s owner, you are ‘traffic’, and add to the earnings they get.

Beautiful. Everybody wins…except for Second Life itself, and its dreams of creativity and community.

As for criminality, well, my previous post dealt with that. Linden Lab are at least beginning to realise that something has to be done, but at the moment their response is confused, incoherent and, if the recent attacks are anything to go by, completely inadequate.

The criminality we can do nothing about, apart from get together and clamour to have something done about it. The solution, assuming there is a solution, is in the hands of Linden Lab.

The greed, though, is in the hands of the residents. Did you come to Second Life because you were attracted by the creativity and the community? Then don’t squander it by spending your time sitting round on camping chairs (or the only marginally less obnoxious camping dance-floors). Hunt down the places where people are genuinely getting involved. Talk to people. Make new friends. Find projects that you can help with — and regardless of what your particular talents are, there are bound to be projects out there in Second Life that are looking for you. If you are a newcomer, pay a visit to the Shelter. If you are an old hand…well, I’m sure that in that case I don’t need to tell you the places to go to, because you already know them.

Reclaim Second Life.