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what the voices in my head tell me to write

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

second life continues to freak me out 

I spent quite a long time in SL last night doing some of the tourist thing. Using Find to find pretty places... visiting landmarks other people have given me stuff like that. The gardens of Zeus are stunningly beautiful, a real work of art in 3D modelling field. So is Amsterdam.

But this is where SL trips up every single time. Amsterdam is a pretty accurate modelling of the area around the train station and Dam square. Its got all the old houses and shops, part of a canal. It all looks great. The one thing for those of you who don't know is that this area in real life Amsterdam is the infamous red light district. So just like in real life there are SL avatars working as hookers on the street corners and in the shop window and there is ever a streaming porn cinema in there.

I am not a prude by any means. I don't mind it at all. I did the tourist thing just as if it was real life. I wandered around politely declining the advances of the working "girls" and stopping in a bar to chat to some other tourists avatars. I even admired the architechture.

It seems to me that the economy of SL is like that of Vegas before the mob more or less moved out and the corporations moved in. The main ways of making money seem to be sex, gambling and real estate. Sure you can see virtual T-shirts and virtual cars but some of those "ladies" were charging far more for a cybershag that you make selling a virtual car.

There was an article on /. this morning all about this sort of thing. Most of the article and the Business Week feature it was commenting on mention the virtual real estate sales and virtual clothes shops but completely miss the virtual hookers.

In the end I think its just human nature. SL enables you to look how you always imagined yourself looking and do all the things you ever wanted to do. Its a total fantasy land. So people are going to use it to do the things they could never do in reality. It was the same with IRC, MSN chat, the WWW etc etc etc. One day SL or something like it will be more business orientated (and not just the adult entertainment business). There will be virtual offices there, real buinsess having virtual on line shops with their wares on display and to buy. It will become the metaverse of Snow Crash. This is too powerful an idea to ignore basically.

How it gets there will be the interesting thing. Most web developements right up to the WWW started as an academic thing essentially. I dont know of any purely academic uses for SL apart from perhaps studying a subset of psychology or sociology. SL started out as a business venture for Linden Labs and also the whole "point" of the game is to make money, L$ or USD. How it evolves from this different start point will be key.

Of course the learning curve for creating content is far different than writing html or chatting on IRC too. HTML was originally designed to be simple. So was CSS. 3D modelling is a little trickier to grasp for most people than a few tags.

I am going to play SL for a long time hopefully. I might be in at the start of something big. It still disappoints me though in many ways.

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Permanent link and Comments posted by Rob Cornelius @ Tuesday, April 25, 2006

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