Amid so much controversy over the myriad failures of real world advertising in Second Life last week, two regions sponsored by real companies were busy attracting steady waves of visitors. As featured last week, there's the astoundingly beautiful Kowloon city, from a Japanese design studio which recreated the setting of a cult Playstation game, so fans could rent space to "live" within it, while also integrating real world brands with the companies' official approval as a potential revenue stream.
Then there's "Greenies" [direct teleport at this link], from a small British development company called Rezzable, which plans to use it for retail and events. But where SL sites for large corporations like Dell, Sun, and Reebok attract but a few hundred visitors, Greenies is, with little official promotion, already bringing in several thousand visits per week.
The difference? Like Kowloon, Greenies leverages Second Life at its best and most essential, creating a fully-realized place that is open-ended enough for freeform exploration and improvisational creativity, a locale where Residents can respond to the vivid and wonderful strangeness with their own imagination. As the video above suggests, it's not enough to have a 50's-era living room expanded to mountainous size, nor that it's infested with mischievous aliens. To make it a true Second Life experience, you need to bring your own sense of manic fun: explore the place with two Transformers, say, then a dancing fly and a silent crow on a WWII fighter plane, then maybe later on a flying hotdog, with reggae music streaming around you all the while.
But make no mistake, Greenies is still part of a company project-- just a rare one where the company's marketing demands don't choke out any possibility of genuine delight. This is the insight gleaned by Greenies' lead developer, Pavig Lok, who's traded notes with fellow 3D builders who've created marketing sites for other real world clients.
"The feedback I've been getting from many of the folks that do commercial builds is that in the process of realizing the clients' requirements, they usually end up watering the build down 'till it's of limited interest," she tells me. "So it's not that there isn't a whole population of SL artists champing at the bit to produce cool fun builds, it's that the people who could let it happen don't.
"You can see with Miss Tat's [headcount] figures," says Pavig. "It's the in-world joints with the creative freedom that get the most traffic, rather than the commercial ones-- mainly due to their focus on giving people what they want."
By contrast, she goes on, Rezzable hired Pavig and her team, and gave them the freedom to realize the Greenies space. "Light Waves does the Greenie sculptures that got famous from sandboxes maybe six months ago." Pavig worked with him and LittleToe Bartlett to realize a place that seems like an immersive Pixar movie.
The irony is, Greenies does include several real world corporate brands that have had less successful runs at their own SL locales. I
nod to the giant soda bottle behind us. "It occurred to me Coke would
be scoring huge impressions now if they were actually paying you to
have that bottle here."
"Coke did a clever thing," she says. "They freed up their trademark for use in-world-- they recognize they get more out of their branding here if they let people actually use it. So for them it's free advertising and for us it's an artistic borrowing that's instantly recognizable. I hate to say win-win, but that's how it works for them. And embellish it to a positive effect, without breaking the world’s underlying structure."
As for Rezzables specific for-profit plans, it's probably a mark of Greenies' strength that Pavig isn't quite sure. "They haven't even launched yet so it's hard to say," she tells me, "but what it appears to be is creating SL businesses that are sustainable by relying on high quality builds and good Second Life artists."
Video features Bobby Troughton as the lead transformer and fly, and LittleToe Bartlett as the crow. Among Greenies
developers are Pavig Lok, Light Waves, and L. Bartlett. LOLcat embellishment by Hamlet.