Friday, August 28, 2009

One Man's View of Second Life

I read this on a forum... I can't tell you where and I won't tell you who said it. I just thought it was fascinating, in part because he (and yes it's a he) sounds so damn sure of himself.

You’re missing the point. If you look at the hard core SL citizenry and why they are in SL to begin with you'll find that they all share one common characteristic; their real lives are miserable. They come to SL to escape their loneliness, broken marriages, and the insignificance of their work. SL affords them a new virtual life that in theory they can use to "do over" the mistakes they made in the real world.

Is that everyone? No. There are a minority that are foremost builders/technology enthusiasts, or artists looking for recognition, or business people looking to be a pioneer, but the hard truth is that none of these people drive the economy. The entire value of virtual worlds is in their social interaction. They are social games and the few non-miserable real life people that exist make their livings off the majority that are there for social interaction.

This isn't a criticism of any group, its just the way things are.

Let's take a look at the demographics of core SL citizenry. Late 30s to early 40s, predominantly women, predominantly married. Is that everyone? Again, no. But the farther you get away from this prime demographic, the lower the population density. Do you honestly think the lonely housewife who is neglected by her husband is in SL to view the spectacular eye candy? (lol) No, she’s there to find validation that she is still desirable by the opposite sex. The fact that she is getting it is the only reason she stays.

Look at the successful SL industries. The clothing and skin businesses help her look more desirable to the opposite sex. Dance Machanima is solely used in the clubs to give the toon something to do while she waits for a member of the opposite sex to comment on her wonderful skin. Nightclubs are the most popular venues, which if we take the advertising done in the real world as an example, are frequented with the premise that you will meet a member of the opposite sex. I could go on, but the point is that everything that is successful in SL is directly related to members of the opposite sex meeting and a relationship developing.

If you study social dynamics you will find that at the core of all social systems is the promise of an endgame containing some form of sexual gratification? Consciously or unconsciously sex motivates all social interaction and without any compelling reason to stop the process, it is the inevitable result. You meet some spectacular person in a nightclub, chat for awhile, go on some "dates" to the amusement parks, nightclubs, or other inane crap that happens to exist, then boom, you at the point where you want to have sex.

Now what? Do you buy some next day plane tickets to fly halfway across the globe for a couple nights of romping good fun? Pfft, let’s be honest, if users had that kind of spare cash laying around they wouldn't be bitching about tier...never mind that they likely wouldn't have visited the virtual world to begin with.

So how many aborted fantasy relationships does it take before someone gets fed up with the disappointment? I don't know but I'm guessing not many.

What SL does successfully is permit those fantasies to come to fruition and thus allow a relationship to complete its intended course. Is it strange and disturbing? Yes. But it has its redeeming qualities as well. Sharing fantasies textually allows a much deeper intimacy with other person then is possible in the real world. It gets old fast, but there is a certain novelty, and while it lasts, it is the most compelling reason for someone to stay in world.

After its worn off, they start looking for other things to do like start a business, open a nightclub, or become a DJ. What’s important to realize is that these objective are "byproducts" of the psychological addiction to the world, not their root cause. Unless you get them addicted to begin with, they will churn away to something more compelling.