For a decade plus two years, Second Life has been a place of great promise, creativity, global culture and a virtual community like no other. It’s a distraction from the negatives in the world in which we live. With virtual culture comes great uncertainty. Having the ability to create our own paths in a virtual world, the tension of everyday life is soothed by our fantasies of what a perfect world could be. We have shared ideas, we’ve built, gained friendships, felt love and great loss. Can we survive more change?
On the other hand change is required to advance technology, or should that be to keep up with the advancement of technology. We may be nothing but pixels in our virtual world, but we are very much human behind the screen. Being human means that we will do our utmost to resist change.
Leadership is about leading, but it’s also about implementing change and this is where Linden Labs comes into the picture. While many people like to joke that the only constant in life is change, change has an interesting way of affecting people that can often result in resistance. This resistance can range from fairly subtle, such as avoidance or passive aggressive behavior, all the way to outright defiance, hostility, and sabotage. The best way to avoid resistance to change? Seek to uncover potential resistance prior to implementing change. In the Linden interviews at SL12B, Ebbe Altberg CEO of Linden Labs made a commitment to have a monthly ‘Question Time’ with the Lindens, which does not appear to have transpired and so the resistance to change continues to gather momentum.
The culture of our virtual world is one that cannot be easily defined or provide one voice or perspective. For each of us, it tells a unique story, one that cannot be repeated in exact detail. Time is the only thing we all share as we spread out across the grid and into our own interests. None of us knows what the future holds but we all share in the uncertainty of what will become of us. We are a culture like no other. We’ve grown alongside technological advances and what the virtual world can do in the midst of this great computer age. Possibilities are endless, creativity is infinite but the end of a virtual world era, might be close at hand. Perhaps for a few or thousands. For others there is promise of greater things to come in another virtual world; Sansar.
But do we willingly sacrifice all we have done, put our tools and creations down, and set our sights on a new virtual world built off the backs of everyone who has made Second Life what it is today? On the promise of what oculus rift has to offer? A more immersive technology that grants us the ability to wear goggles to experience a virtual world we have struggled to keep afloat? Is that enough?
How do we start over without repercussion, or giving up what we already have? I’ve witnessed mass exodus from one virtual world to another before, and the bonds of community and a unique culture were lost forever. How do we know this will not happen again and take years to rebuild? Nothing comes without a price and as for the approaching future of change,the price of our time will be unaffordable. It cannot be reimbursed or returned. How do we trust the promise of something greater when we have struggled with the same unfixable issues for over 12 years? Lag, Trolls, drama, greed and disrespect for others. These will follow us into the next world only repeating the same issues we already fight against in Second Life. Does it make sense to even make an effort anymore? We will really have to start from scratch all over again
To quote Mr. Ebbe Altberg from a recent interview in Variety - (link to full interview at the bottom of this article)
“However, Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg believes that Project Sansar can eclipse Second Life. “Second Life hit the ceiling at the hobbyist level,” he said during a recent interview, explaining that it once had slightly more than 1 million monthly active users, while still attracting just below 900,000 monthly users in 2015. Sansar isn’t just supposed to one day become bigger, but also much more instrumental to the success of virtual reality itself.”
He continued further on:
“But the most fundamental difference between Second Life and Project Sansar is a lot more conceptual: Second Life has always been first and foremost about Second Life itself. Sansar will be about individual VR experiences, powered by Linden Lab’s technology.
Project Sansar will allow brands and other developers to build their own VR experiences, and then deep-link to them from their websites or third-party apps. Users will still have to have the Project Sansar software installed to use them, but it will feel a lot more like custom experiences. “Second Life is a platform dressed as a product,” said Altberg. Project Sansar will be a platform that will allow others to build products. “The experience is the primary brand,” he said.”
So do we trust Linden Labs to lead us in the right direction? The very ones who seem to have shown us abandonment for the promise of something better? Do we fall to our knees and praise words from those who moved on to other projects they are not 100% sure will succeed? Everything about virtual world advancement is based on speculation and words of a few. What power do they hold over our time and creativity? The power to pull the plug if they so desire? What is our incentive to trust?
What about the media? Should we trust them? The free agents who spend their time involved in the community and share the happenings across the grid ( without influence from the Lindens as far as we know) They are the ones that have a greater understanding of what is going on within our virtual community and hear the concerns of residents.
The media who do their utmost to keep the community informed of what is happening in and around SL receive very little credit for their efforts. This then causes rumour mongering while everyone chases their tails trying to figure out what the Lindens will do next. Linden Labs need to recognise that the SL Media can give them a voice much louder than just a few postings on the forums found on the dashboard of our accounts. That’s why I was so encouraged to read about the promise that Ebbe Altberg made to Jo Yardley and Saffia Widdershins about “Question Time”with the Lindens, which appears to be a non starter.
When was the last time a Linden showed interest in what you do unless you are making them thousands of dollars? Everything else is domestic issues and not of concern to them. Although apparently Xiola Linden is responsible for community engagement, whatever that means and I understand that Ebbe Altberg does walkabouts in SL at times and is even alleged to have a SL home somewhere too.
Sim Owners above all have special advantages because they pay huge fees and do all the leg work to provide a place for those who can only afford a parcel to rent. The ones who lose the most are venue owners who pay not only for the land they rent but also for the entertainment they provide visitors, who in turn rarely tip the venues or the musical talent. It is an uneven economy that is consumed with inside politics.
If and when these Land Barons move on to Sansar will they reach the same success as they have in SL or fall to the bottom of the totem pole only to claw their way to the top and repeat the same unfortunate events? That’s highly unlikely since it has been touted that everyone will be given land on signing up for SANSAR, so the need for residential estates will be negated, or is that just a rumour?
Much can be said for the creators of products in Second Life. With so many stores selling fashion, accessories, furniture and other necessities, the market is so saturated and spread thin it is nearly impossible to make a real world living for everyone. The lucky ones have found a niche in the market but the time they spend chasing new ideas and creating new products is traded in for having less of a personal real life that holds the same amount of value. They are forced to weigh the importance of making money and spending a lot of time in SL and being less present in their real world.
But wait! If the rumor that land will be free in Sansar and creators cannot transfer their products into the new world is true, where will that leave the competing creators and landlords when and if a mass exodus takes place? The speculation and unknowns have me wondering if it is even worth giving up everything for a new grid or even live a virtual life, when our real one is more important.
Only time will answer all these questions. My options are to wait to make my final decision and continue to write about Second Life, the virtual world I once loved so greatly and have invested 10 years in, or I can cut my loses and jump ship now.
What will you do?
*Special Thanks to Lacy Muircastle for her insight and contributions to this article