Is Frogger More of a Virtual World Than Second Life?

This morning in the tub when I was trying to think of some more headlines that would make Second Life sound bad without being too obvious about it, I decided it was again time to make some subtly negative comparison of SL to something else. And the perfect example was right there on the bathroom wall, on my poster of old arcade games: I would make a post saying that Frogger is more of a virtual world than Second Life!

Now this might seem weird at first glance, since people don’t usually consider arcade games to be virtual worlds, but the thing is, there’s no one agreed upon definition of “virtual world”, so really I can write anything that pops into my head, and no one can say that I’m wrong. So nyah-nyah in advance to all you negative commentors!

In order to make Second Life look as bad as possible, I think it’s useful to think about all the ways Frogger is more or at least as much of a virtual world than Second Life, and not think about any of the things that suggest the opposite. Here’s at least eight:

  • Frogger is geographically contiguous – Second Life is not. Long ago, it was possible to walk from one end of Second Life to another. Now, SL is dominated by thousands of private islands, many of which are artificially inaccessible. By contrast, you can hop from one end of Frogger to the other, if you don’t get run over, just like it’s possible to walk from New York to Australia in the real world.
  • Frogger has an internally consistent, universal physics — Second Life does not. In some areas of SL you can fly; in others, you cannot. You can even change the position of the sun, and soon, the very way light is filtered. And so on.
  • Frogger has a pre-existing ecosystem of flora and fauna — Second Life does not. Alligators and speeding trucks thrive in Frogger. Outside of virtual pets and the rare virtual ecosystem, SL is mainly bereft of animal species, and has none that exist independent of their human creators and owners.
  • Frogger is self-contained and relatively separate from the the wider Internet — Second Life is much more integrated with the web, and therefore, arguably less “worldly”.
  • Frogger doesn’t have much dynamic user-generated content — but Second Life doesn’t have “natural” dynamic user-generated content either. In Second Life, user-created objects artificially instantiate out of thin air; also, Minecraft is better than Second Life, too.
  • Frogger is a single unified experience of a world — Second Life contains multitudes of very different world-like experiences. A “world” that contains, for example, space marine shooters, fantasy MMOs, urban roleplay, furries, Goreans, real life educators, metaverse artists, and so on and on, seems less like a world, than a platform for multiple worlds. The real world, after all, contains only one kind of thing, not many different ones!
  • Frogger has not stubbornly continued to be successful despite my constant sniping — Second Life has. Not that I’m bitter or anything. But someday SL will finally fail, and then people will stop snickering at me behind my back, pointing and giggling about Blue Mars! Someday they’ll all pay!!11!1!

Ehem. Sorry.

Of course, none of this suggests Frogger is superior to SL, oh no not at all, didn’t mean to suggest anything like that, any more than I did in my “Why call it Second Life when it has a low retention rate?” story, or my “Coffee and Power can succeed unlike SL which is a pathetic failure” story, or my “Second Life has failed due to poor execution and market timing” story, or my “Second Life is doomed because I am not in charge of it” story (parts 1-27). But I will say this: If you’re interested in widening the market for virtual worlds (and I am), it’s a good idea to widen the definition of the category, preferably enough so that it includes some CEO that will reliably return my calls.

Second Life’s Transformation into Profitable Chicken Farm Seriously Threatened by Second Life Users’ Hate and Fear of Change

I was recently talking to one of my very good CEO friends with whom I regularly hang out at exclusive meetups and other trendy events, and while I don’t know if he agrees with me about everything, I do know that many present and former Lindens, US Presidents, and the prophets of all major religions, including Philip Linden, probably do, because after all I am right, and Second Life is doomed unless it changes completely.

In particular, Second Life will inevitably vanish into oblivion unless it does three things:

  • Implements “click to move your little person around” like the Sims,
  • Integrates intimately with Facebook,
  • Transforms itself into a chicken farm.

And I don’t mean some stupid virtual chicken farm, I mean a real-life chicken farm, with chickens and stuff. Have you seen the profit margins those places make? It’s insane!

The chicken franchise is, after all, orders of magnitude larger than the Second Life franchise, or even the Sims franchise. Everyone eats chicken! mmmmm, chicken!

Of course Second Life’s current stuffy narrow-minded piggish repulsive decaying stupid users, who don’t listen to me and even satirize me in their weblogs even though they have probably never even talked to Rodvik, will moan and whine and kick their little feet about this, because they hate and fear change. And chickens. They are chicken-haters!

The inevitable changes to the UI that will allow you to click and move your little person to the window where they can buy Linden Lab stock, the only necessary operation once the company is transformed into a profitable chicken farm, will be met with stuffy narrow-minded piggish repulsive decaying stupid whining, but I will counsel my good friend Rodvik (who I call “Rod”, or even “Roddy-baby”) to ignore them, since one’s current users are always less important than the millions of users that one might have in the future if a miracle occurs.

And you should by no means read or pay any attention to people who advise listening to current users, because they are wrong.

The Tyranny Of Those Who Show Up

At a recent Zero Linden office hours, someone asked of Saijanai Kuhn what body had elected him to be in charge. Never being one to hold back just because a question wasn’t addressed to me, I said that it was because Saijanai had stepped up and volunteered to do things like collect and post chat transcripts, write various Wiki pages, try to coordinate meeting schedules, and stuff like that.

And it occurred to me after I said it just how awful and elitist this sort of thing is! Why should someone be allowed to carry out sometimes difficult and often thankless tasks, just because they’re willing to? What about all those people who aren’t willing or just can’t be bothered; why should they be excluded from what might turn out to be a position of power, or at least one that someone might remember to say “thanks” for once in awhile?

The initial suggestion, that some body might elect people to be in charge, doesn’t solve the problem. Elections are decided, after all, by those people that vote. What about the non-voters? Elections and “democracy” are, at bottom, just ways of hanging onto power by those people that lots of voters like; hard to imagine anything more elitist!

This sort of problem is pervasive in Second Life. The Lindens hold “open” office hours, but are they really open? Of course not! The only people who can speak at these “open” events are the people that bother to show up! And that’s a vanishingly small fraction of the population. Even among those who do show up, only a fraction of those people actually express an opinion. And there is the great fallacy behind all this talk of “openness”: those in power are listening only to those who take the trouble to speak up. How can that be fair?

The AW Groupies group is another example: three people are the “admins” of this “open” group, which means they’re the ones that allow in anyone who asks, only banning (and only in theory, apparently they’ve never done this!) people like porn spammers. And why do they have the privilege of adding the dozens of people who IM them wanting to join, and of maybe someday having to ban a porn-spammer? Because they volunteered! They signed up! What about all those thousands upon thousands of SL residents who didn’t volunteer? Why shouldn’t they be doing this as well?

The problem is everwhere. There are “open” forums where “anyone” can post their opinions about the policies of various organizations and estates in Second Life, but are they really open? No! The only people who can speak in these “open” venues are those who take the trouble to do so. How can we call this “openness”? All of these so-called “open” mechanisms in fact just define an elite, of people who take the trouble to find out that they exist, and then to express their opinion. This elite (which I call the “Self-appointed Volunteer Posse”, or SVP) are the only ones whose opinions count, the only ones who get to provide input!

Even with those surveys that the viewer pops up on the screen at logon time; are they open to all? No! Only those who bother to respond, and who are therefore members of the SVP, will have their voices heard. This is the tyranny of those who show up!

So what is the solution? Dominance by the SVP is clearly elitist. Voting just creates another elite, consisting of the friends and sidekicks of those who bother to vote (SVP again, you see?). The only solution would seem to be a strict rotation: every week, say, a different set of Second Life Residents (and Linden employees) should be put in charge of a different aspect of the world. For that week, only the opinions of that set of people will be heard, and they will be heard whether or not the people in that set care to express them (details are still to be worked out). This is, it seems to me, the only way to get the SVP out of power. And I sure hope someone steps up to implement it soon!