Saturday, September 4, 2010

Devaluing of Second Life

At first, I thought I'd consider the concept of people boasting about giving away Lindens in the thousands, and the devaluing of the Linden dollar in general, but I feel there is something far more interesting and important than the more material consideration.  And that is, that of the essence of SL itself devaluing.

On the first aspect, this article from Second Thoughts from back in May does well in noting how the Linden dollar has been devaluing.  Current rates of the Linden dollar to the US dollar have been ranging at the time of writing this blog between L$267 to L$277 per US $1.00 with L$1000 costing approximately US$3.75 (US $4.05 approximate total), and the volume was at L$52,745,847, which is about US$198,372.65, and still rising.     The point being is that, claiming to toss around thousands of L$ is essentially like boasting about giving out a bunch of Starbucks Grande Carmel Macchiato Lattes, which sell for US $4.55 (approximately L$1200). Sure, if you give away about 10 or 15 of them, you would have a pretty big coffee bill (around US $45.50 to US $68.25), but to boast about it like one is giving away thousands of US dollars (US $1,000  would be about L$267,000) just kinda seems silly.  Argue that spending thousands of L$ makes you a big spender if you want, but it's not that terribly impressive in real life standards.  On the other hand, spending US $45.00 to US $70.00 on what many in the real world population see essentially as a game and frivolous past time are likely just to think that an excessive amount to put into something so trivial.

On the other hand, Sl is something that people enjoy.  Well, at least 1.4 million people do, out of the supposed 15 to 20 million that have joined over the past few years.  How many in those numbers of memberships are actually people that dropped out in the first few months, or are older members that simply have created alts for whatever reason they feel the need to have one..., or two or fifteen (not that I am against alts, I have a few of my own), those are statistics that no one really knows, save maybe Linden Labs themselves.

Why is SL enjoyed by these 1.4 million that continue to come to SL?  I think another article on Second Thoughts puts it quite well.  The article itself can be read in its entirety here, to which this excerpt is what I put focus on:

"Shared experience" is the gold loot of SL that everybody wants to mine. If only they can fit in, be with a group, be accepted, find something to do and people to talk to -- which is usually in a group -- they will be happy. And for particularly the SLintelligentsia, this shared experience is ecstatic. It's profound and moving and deep. They conceive it almost in religious terms. And it is addictive and it's the reason they hang on their Plurks at work and huddle in their groups at night online in SL. Their gang of friends provides a sense of identity and sustenance like nothing in real life. Nothing is as exciting and stimulating and compelling as the group online, except, for perhaps, the lover online. That they are fictions and concoctions and can even become coercive and ultimately empty isn't something they want to hear about today. They'll think about it another day.

The whit and sarcasm of the article's words can be quite humorous, but also can be quite true and to the point.  Having been on SL for 3 years, I can relate to both the power and impact of groups here in SL, and that of having relationships as well.  Both are connected, as generally one seeks out a group (or stumbles upon it), gets involved with it, often deeply and emotionally.  One tends to find another that's also in that group, and, shared experience, you find yourself deeply and emotionally involved with this person, partner them, and go through all the various aspects of SL relations.

In my experience, it started with joining Midian and then finding Ioh in with the Catwalkers.  From there, a few other groups of mine came about - the most notable of them were the Catfight Club, and the Honorarium de Iohannes.

Catfight Club came about due to the waning of the Midian combat meter (MCS 2.0).  It was at a time when people in Midian still wanted to be able to fight with a meter, but more and more were opting towards text-based combat.  Me?  I loved using the meter, even if I was not the best (ok, a pretty crappy) fighter.  At that time, I had come out of being involved with the Combat: Samurai Island (C:SL) crowd, to which I began there in January of 2007, being first mentored in samurai sword fighting by Amber Suising, and then joining and then joining my first clan, Samurai Giri.  From there, I later got involved in the Tendai Clan and continued on there, learning the way of the sword (SL's version of it then, anyways) and understanding both technique and the then standards and norms of the rules of engagement and what was acceptable and unacceptable fighting technique at the time.  After a while, I went to Midian and found myself absorbed into RP and learning about how to build stories, both in character background and in the interaction of it overall in the RP itself.  

As noted, at that time, metered battle was not foreign to Midian, and I got my first taste of urban battle when the first war between the Catwalkers and the Pack came about.  It was intense, insane, but, and despite having taken losses in gunfights with IC nemesis (though eventually became OOC friends, and relatively IC friendly) known as Kuno, I enjoyed the fights.  Peole didn't take things terribly serious then.  You get shot up and you get dragged off to be healed, which could end up in rather strangely humorous surgeries and other medical care.  It had an entertainment value because people weren't taking things terribly serious.  But eventually that changed.  And as people were going more towards 'serious' text-based RP, I opted to try to bring about the Catfight Club as a way for people to be able to enjoy that non-serious, and sometimes ridiculously over the top fighting that was metered combat.  It was my attempt at a Fight Club, and it was fun. And, though some won't admit it, it also had its offshoot, of which I'm more than certain the Pitfight Club in Midian had its origins from.  Hard not to consider that when some of those that were in Catfight Club originally wound up migrating to the Pitfight Club eventually.

At any rate, that was my personal experience with groups of the more social shared experience.  The Honorarium was more of my intimate 'family' experience, and is one that still exists, remarkably.  I say that because it's been battered and beaten throughout the years, even from the beginning of its existence.  I'm just going to generally talk about it.  This isn't a post about my SL love life, or attempt at it in the greater aspects of romanticism.  No, this is more on the aspect of its nature.  You see, it started with my first Felix Amans (loving cat, of happy kitten).  She was a Kittenwalker at the time, and eventually became a Catwalker.  To make a long story short, the process, if I remember, it initially was that I collared her, then the Honorarium was formed, and I got her to join the group as my Felix Amans, and partnered her.  Eventually, the form of it went to initially bringing someone into the group first, and then working from an associate to a friend to a familial, and finally to the Amans, to which collaring became traditional, as did partnering soon after, if not all three aspects joined together.  When SL marriage came in to play, the title was changed to Regina Felinam (Queen Cat).  There was one last one to which the very last of the Felixes and I took on titles that essentially meant 'heart song'. 

To this, I  understand how deep and moving groups and loves can be in SL.  But, as also noted in the second article mentioned from Second Thoughts, these relations are made from "fictions and concoctions" and "can become coercive and ultimately empty."  I didn't want to hear it then.  And even now, I don't want to believe that there isn't a way to interact in SL, and even RP that is completely artificial and, well, has no 'soul' to it.  Because, to me, fiction does have a soul, there is an essence within stories that give them life.  In the shared experience, it is we, the avatars, the 'players' or 'actors/actresses' in RP that breath life and meaning into the experiences.  Without us there, and without us interacting in this virtual environment, there is no shared experience.  You can't play a game without people participating in it.  You can't even have a game without someone creating one to participate in it.  Creation and creativity have that necessity for each other.  Because without one or the other, they don't exist.  And without people to create and be creative, neither the creation nor the creativity can even come in to being.  You can't even have an IC character without an OOC player/person.  To not see this relationship between persons and the interaction in the shared experience ultimately leads to the devaluing of Second Life.  

One might argue that that also is what makes SL different from real life.  For SL depends on people to populate it and have that shared experience to exist.  Yet, on the other hand, if the entire human race becomes extinct in the real world, who will be here to even come up with and hold onto the concept of existence anyways? 


  1. I think it is kinda sad you are scoffing at the Lindens people donate to charity. I know plenty of charities that would appreciate L$1000, even just the one thousand. For instance, L$1000 buys a mosquito net for a child's bed protecting said child from malaria. Now a child's life is worth a cup of coffee any day, I say. However much ya scoffing.

    I have folks tip me L$5 and apologise that that's all they have. Hey, when L$5 is all they have and they decide to tip me with it... how rich does that make me? Very. Richness comes in many forms and I find SL adds value to the folks involved thereby adding value to it.

  2. I doubt L$5 is all they have. That may be all they have in SL, but that's a whole different thing.

    A child's life is worth more than a cup of coffee. But in comparison, a real 'big spender' that is dishing out US$1000 is getting a lot more than a mosquito net, and likely helping out a lot more children. But, beyond the volume of cost, there is also the value of time. People actually going out and sering a community irl - actually helping children is doing a heck of a lot greater service than the L$1000 or US$1000 big spenders, and often sacrifices more time and money than both.

  3. Although, as interesting it is to latch onto the economics of the beginning, it does have me wonder if there was any attempt to delve deeper than the surface and read the rest of what was written...