Hey you, get a first life, eh?
First off, I am not a Second Life hater. Let me say that again: I am not a Second Life hater. I’m on record as saying that there’s something important going on inside the game.
That said, I’ve been bemused by the amount of hype and attention the game…er…virtual world thingee has received over the past three months. The media has been on SL like white on rice. I’ve only written about SL a couple of times on this site, but I’ve probably received five enquiries from sundry Canadian news outlets asking if I played, or knew anybody who played, or knew anybody who was making a six figure income from playing, and so forth.
Clay Shirky has done some excellent (though much-debated) work evaluating the media’s reportage on Second Life, and trying to apply some normalcy to the hype.
Second Life, Same Brand
More pointedly, I’ve been dismayed by the number of companies opening offices in Second Life. It’s my impression that a lot of them aren’t wanted, and I can’t imagine how what they’re doing is actually cost effective. Okay, American Apparel made a big splash because they were first, or seemed to be first, but every company isn’t going to enjoy that media spotlight. Let me quote Tim Bray, who had a SL event as part of a big Sun announcement:
The Second Life thing, well, I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know. It was a lot of work to get going and it costs us real money, and then our pavilion can only hold 63 avatars, so the ROI seems questionable.
I think there’s a lot of corporate hubris at work here, with
company’s companies wanting to appear hip or cutting edge.
Speaking of companies, I think the worst perpetrators are PR agencies and marketing companies (and, hey, I run one of those). If I’m building a Brave New World, I don’t want PR flaks in my utopia.
Here’s an idea: if you’re corporate, wait until somebody invites you into SL. Wait until somebody says (and this is hard to imagine), “hey, wouldn’t it be great if we had a few PR agencies around, just in case there was a crisis that needed managing?”
Culling the Crowd with Lag
And, let’s be honest, the game isn’t good enough yet. It’s too hard to play. I watched a veteran computer user and occasional console gamer try to attend an event in SL. It took her five minutes just to figure out how to sit down on a bench. And that was with my pathetic help. And then there’s the lag I’ve experienced when playing–it’s so severe that it actually works as a population control technique, redistributing avatars because a certain zone gets too dense.
After all that, I do think something important’s happening in the game. I forget who I’m quoting here, but whoever makes Second Life 2.0–where, say, the gameplay is as intuitive as World of Warcraft–is going to have a license to print money.
And, in the future, if it’s the right thing for a client (or if I can’t convince them against it), I’d consider running an event in SL. I just wish we could cool off on the hype machine a bit. Happily, Gartner thinks Second Life is on the edge of the trough of disillusionment.
Hence the light-hearted fun that is GetaFirstLife.com. I think I first heard the phrase yelled by someone inside World of Warcraft, and it stuck with me. It’s in the vein of iCryptex, except this time there are t-shirts.
Thanks very much to Heather, Rob, James and Todd for their excellent work as consulting humourists, and to Kris Krug for the pirate children. I struggled with what should be the correct photo until I remembered this one, and it seemed like the perfect fit.
UPDATE: Prominent Second Lifer Wagner James Au points me to a couple of posts on Clay Shirky and the hype. An interesting axiom: “The more someone pronounces Second Life over-hyped, the less first-hand experience they tend to have in the world.” On that topic, I’ve tried the game at least twice–possibly three times–but I’ve probably only put in 5 to 7 hours. It just didn’t stick for me.
UPDATE #2: In case anyone is wondering, “de hecho, fornica usando tus genitales” is apparently an accurate translation of “fornicate using your actual genitals”. I know because the site was linked to by a Diggesque site from Spain.
UPDATE #4: Speaking of foreign language Diggs, check out the German yigg.de. Mein lieben.
UPDATE #5: I just got what I can only describe as a proceed and permitted letter from Linden Labs in the comments.
UPDATE #6: A few people, on Digg and elsewhere, have wondered why a) it’s only one page and b) why the only clickable links go to stuff that me me money. This was my response on Digg:
It’s true that I could have made a couple more pages. But having done a few of these sites, you’re better to get in and get out quickly–always leave them wanting more, as the saying goes. It’s a one-trick humour pony, and I’m not sure that if I had five pages, that there’d be five pages worth of funny.
As for the links to purchasing stuff, that’s absolutely true. I made icryptex.com last year, and it got a good chunk of traffic, but all I got for that was a bandwidth bill. So, this time around I wanted to make a little money without having a ridiculously monetized (and therefore compromised) site.
UPDATE #7: I’ve never had this many updates on a post.
UPDATE #8: Thanks to everybody for all the linkage and nice things you’re saying. The best bit is getting mentioned on the BBC’s web site (screenshot for posterity). That rocks. Thanks to Adiana for letting me know about that.
UPDATE #10: Comments are closed on this post because spammers are bastards.