VR Developers: You Really Need To Talk About Your 'Bedding Taylor Swift In The Oculus Rift' Problem Before It's Too Late: "I can personally guarantee Father Misty that virtual sex with avatars of non-consenting real celebrities is hardly the most disturbing thing that exists in the virtual world -- not even close. And while his point is a socio-cultural one (and a very valid one at that), it's also one, in less poetic treatments, can hurt whole industries. Because I can also guarantee he's raising issues that the media will focus on, when and if VR ever really starts to gain mass adoption numbers. Because that's when the hype honeymoon ends, and the hard questions begin."
The Trouble With Calling Virtual Reality An "Empathy Machine": "Unless and until VR becomes truly mass market, content created for empathy purposes will tend to be highly self-selective and self-affirming. For instance, it's one thing to create a VR experience about what it's like to be homeless in real life, but the only people likely to experience it are those who already empathize with homelessness as a real life problem. Does anyone really think even a VR enthusiast who has no evident empathy for the poor in real life will invest the time and effort into having an experience which is intended to challenge their world view?"
Avatar Skin Tone Experiment Reveals Strong User Preference For Whiteness: "In virtual worlds and MMOs where most aspects of avatar appearance can be instantly changed by a few button clicks -- including gender and skin tone -- do we leave our real world attributes and preferences behind? After noting that avatars with lighter skin seem to get more likes than darker ones on Flickr, I enlisted the help of Mandy Smith, a popular SL fashion photographer on Flickr, to take two photos of the same avatar in the same pose in the same location, with the only difference being her skin tone..."
Second Life Content Creators Now Likely Making More Money From Second Life Than Second Life's Own Corporate Owner: "Only last month, I estimated the company and its users were earning about equal revenue from SL, but it looks like the latter is doing better. (And grassroots content creators generally don't have to rent an office or help cover expenses like transportation costs, as Linden does!) It's an unexpected outcome for both the company and the users, and is the flip side to all the customers complaints about Linden Lab's high land tier costs. Overall and in aggregate, the users are getting the better end of the deal."
Strawberry, Unbound: How A Virtual World Helped A Young Muslim-American Woman Become More Politically Active In The Real One: "I have always been pretty shy in the real world but Second Life has helped me overcome that a bit," Strawberry says. "I have more confidence to approach people or be more outspoken in the real world because of my experiences in Second Life. I wouldn't have thought about sharing my thoughts on such a global or large platform. It also encouraged me to carry the fight and resistance in the real world as well by going on marches, protests, calling my local officials, etc..."
WATCH: “RLForever”, A Powerful Virtual World Tribute to Real World Loss: "Creating machinima and images in Second Life became, as he puts it, 'a type of therapy to be honest. I needed to find a way to balance the emotions and fires in my heart with the realities and tragic nature of real life... We are all full of madness inside, we hide it from others and ourselves, yet it remains. I use my creative work to explore this madness, to embrace it, cherish it and value it and in the process, hopefully, understand those around me better and love them more.'”
After the break: VR and porn, Bitcoin euphoria, virtual worlds and HBO's Silicon Valley, Overwatch's female fans, the aftermath of an Atlantic Monthly profile of Second Life, and -- oh yes -- the Internet and the end of the world:
You Know The More Bitcoin's Value Goes Up, The More Useless Bitcoin Likely Becomes -- Right? "I mean, look at it this way: say you owned some highly valuable baseball cards, and you knew that there were thousands of business owners around the world who were also baseball card fans who'd accept your cards in lieu of cash. Would you swap your mint condition Mickey Mantel card for a new car? Or would you put it on eBay in hopes of selling it for the most cash possible?"
Raph Koster: The Internet Of Things Has Become An Existential Threat: "How critical is Google as a whole? If Google went down for a month, I am pretty sure we would see worldwide economic collapse. How much of the world HTML economy passes through Google hosting? How much of it is in GMail? How much is dependent on Google Search, Google Images, Google Docs? The answer is a LOT. And because financial systems are now also JIT, ten thousand corporate blips where real estate agencies and local car washes and a huge pile of software companies and a gaggle of universities and so on are suddenly 100% unable to function digitally (no payroll! no insurance verification!) would absolutely have ripple effects into their suppliers and their customers, and thence to the worldwide economic market. Because interconnection without redundancy increases odds of cascades."
Overwatch's Female Userbase Twice As Large As Other FPSes, Reports Nick Yee Of QuanticFoundry -- Here's Why: "16% percent may not seem like a lot, but for a game as popular as Overwatch, that means millions of extra players, compared to sausage-centric franchises like Call of Duty or Battlefield. And dollars: Since Overwatch has sold over 30 million copies, the game’s female user base is about 5 million -- who’ve given Blizzard roughly $250 million. Among them is Annette, a 20-something from Denver, pictured here rocking her cosplay as Overwatch character Symmetra. Her username is 'fevercadence' and if you’ve played against her, she has probably kicked your ass..."
Beyond Games, Virtual Worlds Are Still In A "Explaining Pied Piper" Place: "We're seeing a new wave of open-ended virtual worlds reach the market, and that's great -- I'm excited to see how far they've evolved, and how much more is possible in them. But as they roll out to the wider consumer market, we should keep in mind how little the category of virtual worlds has evolved in the general understanding of what they're good for. (Beyond gaming, 3D chat, and entertainment.) And just because virtual worlds can now have far better graphics, get far higher concurrency, and run across far more platforms -- including VR, which is itself still in this Pied Piper position -- we shouldn't assume they'll now be embraced by a broad range of consumers. That, or prepare to order a lot of pizzas."
Three Reasons Why VR Porn Probably Won't Make VR Mass Market: "There's a number of virtual world sites catering to people interested in porn with ultra-realistic avatars, but Second Life remains the market leader for this kind of content. Thanks to a "(virtually) anything goes" policy, much of Second Life content is erotic or outright pornographic in nature. Just how much content in SL is porn is subject to debate, but roughly half the most visited Second Life sims are Adult-rated, most of which are explicitly porn in nature. But while virtual porn is popular in the virtual world, porn didn't make the virtual world itself popular -- as regular NWN readers know, Second Life usage has remained flat since 2006. If anything, the pervasiveness of porn in Second Life probably hurt Second Life's user growth, causing companies and consumers to negatively (and unfairly) pre-judge the world as mostly being about porn, indelibly marring the Second Life brand. It's unclear why VR porn would fare any better, let alone grow VR as a category."
Leslie Jamison Responds To Virtual World Academic Tom Boellstorff's Criticisms Of Her Atlantic Monthly Feature On Second Life: "Many readers I’ve heard from felt that complexity and humanity in the piece--Second Life users as well as people who had already dismissed Second Life without a second thought, before reading it—others didn’t. But I’ve found all the reactions--here and elsewhere--fascinating, and yours has certainly asked me to interrogate my own piece is useful ways, and have so many of the other comments on this thread—so thank you for that!"
And thank you, everyone reading this, for reading over 2017. See you in 2018!