Why did you originally start in SL and did you have any specific goals or hopes for your experience?
I originally started in SL out of curiosity. It was a free download at a time when "free-to-play" was a rarity and games were expensive.
Were you role playing a character or was your avatar the real you?
A bit of both. My avatar has never looked like me - he's way more handsome. I added some cat-ears to my avatar after a little while just to be a bit different from the cookie-cutter hordes but I didn't consciously adopt a different persona.
Looking back now, do you think there was another reason you went in and stayed as long as you did?
Not really. Because there wasn't an ongoing cost to stay in, there also wasn't an imperative to get out if I wasn't getting my money's worth.
How did SL help you?
I met a few interesting people who helped me with Photoshop.
Did SL harm you in any way, if so how?
It could be a bit of a time waster that lead to a few late nights but that's all.
What was the best experience you had?
No single experience really sticks in my mind. Aria is the only long term "connection" I made in SL and thus of course is the "best experience" but apart from exploring some really nice (but empty) sims, generally SL lacked any "wow" factor.
What was the worst?
Because of the Australian time zone I found SL to be incredibly empty and lonely. A very good analogy I read was that for me, SLwas like visiting a football stadium the day after a big game. You know something pretty exciting happened here, but right now, the place is empty except for some guy walking his dog on the other side of the ground.
I found some really nice and pretty sims but they were always eerily empty. The places that had people were not that interesting in that they were either sex orientated or were music clubs. Music clubs are ok for a while but they aren't a reason to keep logging in.
What was the cost, if any, for your RL? Or was it just totally a benefit?
I stayed up later than I should have a few times but I didn't have any personal dramas.
I am sure you lived through, perhaps even survived some or many of the dramas that unfold in SL, can you speak to a couple of things about those types of incidents. Firstly the perpetrators and secondly the victims. What would you like to say to them in terms of helpful, brotherly advice?
I followed a few SL dramas and find the sheer pettiness both amusing and depressing as they highlight how small minded so many people in this world really are. As Aria knows, I have a disabled child and measured against that scale nearly all SL dramas are depressingly petty and small minded. The people who get involved in them should go and visit their local disability care unit so they can be truly grateful for what they have and learn to walk away from petty crap. No drama in SL can compare to Multiple Sclerosis or Cystic Fibrosis for example.
Do you miss it? What specifically do you miss?
I only miss swapping innuendos with Aria. Email doesn't have the same sense of immediacy.
What has LL failed to understand about the potential of SL?
This is tricky because SL's strength is also LL's greatest failing. SL is completely created by the residents and LL have a very "hands-off" attitude to generating user involvement. I think they need to be more involved in creating communities and creating and running events. Events like Burning Man and SL Birthday and some of the "fairs" like the Fantasy Fair are the best things in SL and there needs to be more of them. There really should be "something" happening every week.
LL introduced the showcase to let people know what is happening and then did nothing while it was spammed by sex sims and clothing stores so that's all that I ever saw being advertised.
All the best communities tend to pop up despite LL & SL's infrastructure. They have to pay real money to LL every month and they have to engage their members. Combat communities exist despite the costs and infrastructure (lag and sim crossings for example). Similarly the sailing communities exist despite the same hurdles. I wonder how many readers have ever tried sailing? I found it to be a great use of SL but again, I was doing it on my own and seeing empty towns and empty race courses and wondering what goes on there?
I think LL needs to step in and run more events. For example, I now spend my time in World of Tanks (which is also free to play) and although it may not appeal to a lot of your readers there are a surprising number of parrallels with SL (and there are a surprising number of female players once you start using voice comms). Unlike LL the company that runs it - WG - does a really good job of "engaging" with their community.
- They encourage and support the creation of communities called clans with an ongoing "clan-only" competition with rewards that are the equivalent of (small amounts of) Linden Dollars. (They realise the return to WG is much greater than the cost).
- There is always a trickle of new content being released and promoted.
- There is always an "event" running or coming soon and it is constantly being promoted.
- They regularly have small discounts that encourage people to spend a bit of money even though the game is free to play.
- They think of ways to involve everyone on a random basis. For example they sometimes run competitions where WG emplyees (and trusted non-employee volunteers) will enter random games and give away stuff to whoever either kills them (from the opposing team) or defends them (if on their own team). They don't have to do it a lot just enough that most people will meet one or someone who has.
- They run competitions between organised teams and then enter teams themselves with bonus prizes to any team that beats them.
- They provide bonus codes valid for short periods (like a weekend) which when redeemed grant you 24 hours premium account and/or bonus (non transferable) items. If you aren't there you miss out so that's a reason to be there. They also give bonus codes to new sign ups.
- They stream content out to youtube and live streaming sites show people what they are missig out on.
- They promote in other media.
The point I am trying to make is that LL's failure to engage with their users is the biggest thing holding SL back. LL simply isn't providing any reason for anyone to either go to SL in the first place or to go back there. They are relying on their users to do everything.
What about society as a whole, what should they know about SL?
They should be given reasons to go to SL but warned just how unregulated it is. It's not a safe place for minors.
I know that you were involved/exposed to the fashion industry during your time in SL. What is your take on the whole dynamics of the group.
The fashion industry is one of the most robust, dynamic communities in SL. It has "events", new content and drama and even conflict. Humans thrive on conflict but because this is unregulated, self-created conflict it often isn't healthy conflict.
Do you think anyone can come into SL, work hard and get ahead or is there more involved than that?
Like everything, in order to succeeed in SL you need unequal measures of ambition, skill and dedication. Anyone with those can get ahead (however you interpret 'getting ahead').
Did there come a point when you knew that the shine was pretty much gone for you? Did you do anything to try and rekindle that or were you prepared to walk away at that point? In hindsight do you think you should have left earlier?
Eventually the emptiness and lack of "pull" meant that the opportunity cost of not logging in to other games meant I just stopped logging in to SL. I might still log in if there was a reason to but LL aren't giving me any at the moment.
Romantic relationships in SL ... What is that all about and do you think they are healthy, fun, dangerous or all the above?
It's internet dating by another means. It's not healthy if you're married like I am but no worse than any other form of internet dating if you aren't in a relationship.
Anyone from SL still make an active effort to keep in touch with you? Any long lasting friendships or have you completely moved on?
/me points to the owner of this blog.
Would you be happy to see your daughters plugging into SL and being as excited about it as you once were? Why or why not?
I will not let any of my kids anywhere near SL! It's no place for kids.
Do you think people really understood who you were while you were here? If not, what are some of the things you think people missed and you wish they had known?
One did. To be honest though I didn't meet that many people more than once.
Looking back what do you think SL could have been, maybe should have been for you?
It lacks people in my timezone and without them it was never going to be much.
What are you doing now? Do you think SL contributed in any way to the path you are now on? If so, what and how?
Now, I'm playing tanks in a community (clan) of about 100 people, every night we talk, joke and play tanks together AND most nights we play a few matches in organised teams against other teams from all over south east Asia. One night we played against a team from the Philippines, then one from Malaysia and then another from Mongolia. In some ways SL is like a rainy day that makes you appreciate the sunshine, in other ways (like dramas) it showed me that people are the same all over because we also have our periodic drama fests.
Any final comments?
I'm amazed that SL has lasted as long as it has and I really hope LL take a more active hand in running and promoting it.
If you, or someone you know, would like to take part in these interviews, please contact me online in SL as Bliss Windlow, or on Facebook under the same name, or at my email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Whether you want your name used or not, is totally up to you. I will not edit your responses excepting that I will now allow for anything that is aimed at someone currently in SL by way of naming them for some wrong doing. The purpose of this is dicsussion and exploration, not a witch hunt or retribution.