The Great SL Is Not A Game Debate

First off, let me state that all along I've considered myself to be playing a game whenever I was using SL for casual purposes. The reason? I spent most of my time outfitting my avatar and having fun while interacting with different social groups. Not really different from any other MMO I've played in terms of the social aspect, and as a whole it was actually easier at times to deal with the residents of such MMOs as L2. I've also never really given this much of my time, as it didn't really seem all that important. But I was surprised at the vehemence of several residents who began reacting violently to the use of "game" to describe SL, and even more so at the arguments they'd lobby - most illogical and way off-base - at players who didn't mind using that term at all.

I've discussed this at length with many of my closest friends and acquaintances from SL, and come up with a number of observations on the reasons some residents come up with to counter the "SL is a game" argument. I've listed those of them that some players have been browbeating people like myself with their opinions as to what SL should be called.

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My opinion? SL is what you make of it. It can be a game to some and another life to others. Go ahead and call it a virtual world/creative learning platform if you want, which it is, too. But that doesn't bar the use of "game," in the meaningful sense of the term, to describe it for some people who use it as such. One other disturbing thing I've observed is that far too many SLers keep sneering/looking down at gamers and other platforms, believing it to be utterly revolutionary in terms of virtual worlds.

From Cybertown's Overview:
  • A private 3D VR (virtual reality) home with your own personal chat, inbox, message board and free e-mail. You can invite your friends over to hang out, chat and party - all in full 3D!
  • The Cybertown shopping malls and Flea Markets where you can buy, sell or trade cool 3D objects for your home.
  • A Virtual Pet for your home.
  • Customizable bodies to use in the 3D worlds.
  • Ongoing Role-Playing Games.
  • Interesting Clubs with 3D Clubhouses to join or start your own.
  • Awesome movie theaters and music concerts.
  • The Black Sun Club where you can dance in 3D and listen to your favorite tunes.
  • Live events and celebrity chats.
  • The opportunity to get a virtual job, earn CityCash and become a respected citizen of a large intergalactic online community.

Sound familiar? This was all back in 1997, in a world which was based on Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash no less. The technology was primitive and the visuals extremely rough, but it was there. What SL offers us is a step up, but the concepts are not new, at all. What IS new is how mainstream and populous SL has become, and the degree of realism we can imbue in-game creations with.

So, these seem to be the core reasons/beliefs that drive people to vehemently protest SL being called a game:

Games are relatively unimportant and ranked with simple amusements. Calling SL a game implies that I'm wasting my time.

Calling SL a game implies that one treats his fellow players as game NPCs and implies a lack of respect to other people in it.

Both seem to be hasty assumptions, especially given that the magic of SL lies in how it can offer different people different experiences. Given that this is an age where gamers have become a majority, and the power games have in shaping popular culture and opinion (so much so that Rock the Vote facilitated Xbox voter registrations) it seems a little bit much to be infuriated that your favourite pastime's being called an online game. This could also be because much of the playerbase of SL is older and the concept of online games as bonding activities and "serious" leisure time is one that younger people have an easier time grasping.

So, please, don't demean gamers, people who play SL as a game, or other games or platforms in an attempt to make SL look better, more important, or to justify the use of your time on it. Playing it as a game does not imply a lack of respect for the players inside it. And don't forget to have fun...if that's what you came here for.

More reading:
A Second Look At Second Life

Ethical Issues, IP Infringement and Content Theft

While I've been largely keeping out of the current mess involving SCD, Danae Kotsi and Minnu - I have no taste for drama, and it's only when I can't help but comment on the fracas that I do - I felt i had to write a personal post as this is an issue that people in SL have always felt strongly about. Having been a victim of theft myself, as well as an employee of Glam World, one might think that my emotions might be more conflicted on the issue than those of a more impartial observer who's never had to deal with this sort of crisis on a personal level. In a way I am more involved, but what this has done is to give me more room to evaluate my own behaviour and stance regarding IP infringement. I can say I'm embarrassed at the way I handled the first case in which my work was copied, but when it's your own work, emotions run high, and you tend to lose much of the objectivity that you might pride yourself in. When I was stolen from I can say almost all logic vanished in the blinding white light of extreme emotion, and I wasn't as much angry as shocked that someone would have the effrontery to do it. To my credit, I took great pains to ensure that I wasn't falsely accusing anyone, and asked for opinions and feedback from a community of my peers - fellow designers, not the fashion community, as I felt they would provide more objectivity than I might have been capable of at that moment. What I regret about it is ever airing any of it before it was resolved, though the dispute was settled in my favour with surprising speed, considering the difficulty of resolving such cases in SL. This is what I think affected parties should think about - although one feels that they have been grievously wronged, it is our obligation as ethical human beings to give the other party the benefit of the doubt, whoever they may be. Collapse )

Your avatar in the metaverse, in the future

This link was posted to one of the designer groups I'm in, and there seems to be a lot of excitement over it these days:

Realxtend Features:
OGRE rendering
Particle effects
3D objects, lights and shadows
Responsive avatar controls
Web pages as textures
Desktop application sharing (VNC)
VOIP client and 3D audio rendering
Scriptable teleports between worlds
Second life compatibility mode for use in SL and Opensim worlds
Additive blending mode for objects and sprites
Improved quicktime video
Dynamic object grouping for rendering performance
Address field in client login screen to select world
MS SQL support for server performance
VOIP Server
Python scripting
Script controllable viewer HUD and UI
Script handlers for viewer mouse clicks and wheel
Scriptable events when avatar enters a trigger prim
Control avatar position and rotation from script
Sound support (preload and play)
3D mesh collisions
Web services integration to scripts
Server-wide inventory for world builder teams
Terrain texturing
Changeable skybox textures
UDP throttle start/min/max configuration
Support multiple media urls per region
New UI skin for the viewer

And to be launched on the 29th of February:
Free-form non-humanoid avatars
Global avatar mesh, skeleton, textures, attachments and animations
Single sign-on to multiple worlds for teleporting
Avatar generator
Avatar attachment tool to help set 3D meshes to different bones
Unlimited amount of attachments per bone
Teleports between realXtend and Secondlife
Avatar storage to move avatar appearance between realXtend grids/worlds
Mesh tool to scale and set pivot of 3d models
Server launcher and configuration application
Home automation example using X10 technology
Bot with Python scripting
Media library for world builders
Server status window

Their roadmapped features are exciting to read through as well.

A friend of mine who works in interoperability hazarded a guess that moving between grids will be seamless in around 4 years or so, but said that it'll be possible (but rough going) soon.