Maybe I've already lived in LA too long, but when I read "PaleoQuest", I picture a game where you hunt down nuts, vegetables, and free range chicken... but no, this Linden Lab machinima is giving me a distinct Jurassic World/Chris Pratt vibe:
I appreciate Linden Lab adding more game areas in Second Life, with a whole back story, quests, and everything, though I have to think any new user expecting anything like this Summer's CGI-animated blockbuster with fully articulated dinosaurs will be a touch disappointed. But maybe the SL dinos have more life in Second Life than seems like in this machinima. (And BTW, Lindens: Please please please stop using lip sync in your machinima until you've fixed avatar mouth animations!)
Anyway, more info and the Destination Guide below the break:
"FREE SPEACH" is a pretty entertaining (if a bit technically rudimentary) Second Life machinima parodying videogame sexism and gender attitudes through Mario, Princess Peach, Laura Croft, and other classic characters:
Anyone who's viewed Anita Sarkeesian's videos, especially this one on the "Damsel in Distress" trope, will get a lot of the jokes. The machinima was produced by Gabrielle Trépanier-Jobin, an Associate Professor at Concordia, who tells me it spins off her PhD thesis on the role of parodies in criticizing gender representation, and is connected to a survey on the topic which you can take here.
Professor Gabrielle Trépanier-Jobin created the machinima with the MIT Game Lab and six MIT undergraduate students. "Second Life seemed to be the only online world where I could mix all video game characters and buy them on the marketplace. Second Life was a little glitchy," she allows, "and we had many technical problems during the shooting, but it was overall a great experience." (Maybe MIT should ask SL machinima master Lainy Voom to give a tutorial.)
Curiously, the title, "Free Speach", evokes the "Freeze Peach" parody of Gamergate and other online misogynists, but Gabrielle says that wasn't intentional:
Ample Avi has been a popular Second Life avatar shape/fashion brand for many years, with a large presence on the SL Marketplace and in-world (map location here, Destination Guide listing here). And since Ample is also a proud sponsoring partner of New World Notes, I asked the founder and CEO, Xme Xue, to share some secrets to creating a successful avatar enhancement business.
Ms. Xue makes about 85% of her real life living through her Second Life creations. ("I have a part-time job," she adds, "which I do from my home, and I keep that job as my safety net.") She works hard for her Lindens, to be sure: "You can find me in Second Life a good 40-plus hours each week," she tells me, 'but the 'plus' part is often the rule, rather than the exception." And notably, in contrast to the popularity of mesh-based creation, with Ample avatar shapes, "Everything is done in-world, using SL-provided tools."
After the break, Xme's tips for SL fashion/avatar creators:
A virtual reality startup called AltspaceVR just raised a new $10 million round of funding "to build social spaces for virtual reality", and the CEO has an interesting way of distinguishing what they're creating from Linden Lab's Project Sansar:
Altspace isn’t alone with this approach: Linden Lab, maker of the popular virtual world Second Life, is currently developing a new platform optimized for virtual reality code-named Project Sansar. But whileProject Sansar is building upon many of Second Life’s core ideas, Altspace is trying to become a more transient social layer. “We are not looking to build a persistent world,” explained [Bruce] Wooden.
I actually haven't seen any report that Project Sansar is going to be a persistent world -- have you? Then again, it's possible Wooden knows something we don't. In any case, it occurs to me that temporary, room-based spaces are the way to go, with VR -- they're easier to deploy, and most people seem to prefer using virtual reality in shorter bursts. (Indeed, AltSpace tells Variety that the average session lasts between 25 and 30 minutes.)
Another interesting tidbit from the Variety story:
I recently received a fairly urgent e-mail from a young woman I profiled nearly a decade ago, who told me the post I had wrote about her had inadvertently caused considerable stress -- for herself, and potentially, for people close to her. The post was a mixed reality profile, containing a screenshot of her Second Life avatar alongside a photo of her in real life, and therein was the problem:
"I've come across certain people on SL who used a reverse image search on the pictures in your blog to find out my RL information," she told me, "so when possible, I'd like to make that a bit harder for them." (Not the images above, by the way.)
Years after the fact, the woman I'd profiled has stalkers who started harassing her in Second Life, and have taken their obsession to the wider Internet. "I actually have been threatened by a guy halfway across the world via Second Life," she tells me, "who said that he would 'destroy my life' by sending pictures of my avatar to my (RL) partner."
They found out who she was in real life through a devious search of her Second Life avatar's name:
SL mesh and animation creator Kate Alderman (who makes cool animations like the one pictured here) makes some interesting points on the ongoing debate, has mesh detracted from Second Life as a creative platform? No, she argues, because creativity takes many forms - not just the prim-based building that Second Life was first famous for:
I think this represents a very narrow view of creation and creativity. Does one really have to rez a native prim to be creative? Torture the thing, texture the thing, link the thing, to be creative?
There are hundreds, nay thousands, of very creative groups in SL. Roleplay and community building are creative in and of themselves. It takes vision and drive to bring people together to work toward a common goal, or even in a common theme.
Decorating, landscaping, terraforming: designing a comfortable vista, or space in which to relax - or get manic - is creation.
"Artiste" types may prefer to think of these things as design, and not art in its truest form, and they are entitled to their opinions. But I see it as art. I can make kick-ass textures, which some folks view as art (I don't, it's more of a science, just like building with native prims in-world). Design, art, whatever, is creative.
There are dozens if not hundreds or thousands of writers and poets who get together in SL and share ideas and use SL as part of their creative process. There's so much inspiration. There are amazing and thought-provoking builds, of course. And those appeal to folks who consider themselves Literary. However, great story-telling requires great characterization, and there are a lot of characters in SL. But better still, there is a lot of dialogue in voice, where a writer can learn how people from other regions and countries speak, and text, where it is often easier to learn how others think. And of course, a lot of the writers groups in SL engage regularly in round-robin story telling. They could do that anywhere, but the ones I know choose SL because they feel more of a connection.
Speaking of which, she points out that most (or at least many) SL creators tend to be solitary people, and on a related point, argues that creative elitism is hurting Second Life community growth as a whole:
Hey Linden Lab and SL enthusiasts, if you really want to grow Second Life's userbase, forget about Dr. Phil or any other old school media like that, and push to get more people making videos like this;
A fun if rambling "Let's Play" video from YouTube gaming personality "everythingdigital1" who recently discovered and fell in love with Second Life (his SL name is "Dtpk"), this is exactly the kind of video that really would grow Second Life's userbase, because it's aimed at the precise demographic who are ideally suited to embrace SL. Here's why:
Take this 5 minute survey to determine your gaming personality -- sort of a Myers-Briggs test for gamers. The survey is from Quantic Foundry, a game behavior analytics consultancy co-founded by my colleague Nick Yee, who's done some landmark academic research on MMO behavior, including in Second Life. And yes, philosophical debates aside, when you take the survey, Nick tells me, you can designate Second Life as a game and describe your play style within it: "The question was completely open-ended." He thinks we'll see some unique personalities emerge among SLers: "My intuition is that it should lean towards the Creativity/Immersion quadrant. And look something like this guy's profile." (That is to say: Calm, Analytical, Completionist, Independent, Deeply Immersed, and Creative.)
But go ahead and take the test, and report your findings in Comments. I did last night, and got these results:
While Bitcoin may be popular for use in extortion shake-downs, it seems to be waning as a unit of exchange for virtual currency: A few months ago (in a post I just noticed, so I'm playing preliminary catch-up here) Second Life blogger "Webspelunker" went looking for Bitcoin exchanges in Second Life and came up empty:
I went back to the Bitcoin exchanges I’d visited in my earlier Bitcoin story only to find them all closed. Further, any other references to Bitcoins that I could find just led to dead ends. Currency exchanges only traded in Lindens for RL currencies. Where are the bitcoins? Maybe there’s another story here!
Maybe, or maybe not. I visited a Bitcoin dispensary in Second Life earlier this month, squirting out free samples of Bitcoin (in very small amounts) "for anyone wanting to educate themselves or experiemnt with Bitcoin" as the land owner told me, so there's still some access to Bitcoin in SL. Then again, if I'm reading it right, the Virtual World Exchange lists the last exchange of Bitcoin for Linden Dollars as being over 5 months ago. (Which means long before Linden Lab withdrew its support for third party Linden Dollar exchanges.) In any case, we seem far from the heady days of 2012 when Bitcoin owners were buying over USD$650K in Linden Dollars per month on a single exchange, and Palmer Luckey himself was going into SL to trade himself some Bitcoin.