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Friday, August 22, 2008


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Paisley Beebe

Personally Im happy a about the trend! Gen X's are largly forgotten now in marketing and media. A huge percentage of Movies entertainment and music is geared towards "kids" they have plenty to do, let them graduate to places like SL, at 47 the high end of the Gen X I love that I can find a place I feel comfortable and catered for at last!!! and I think more Gen X's are learning about the internet and the web, Second Life was designed by Gen X's, the original vision was a non goal non competitive place, not a game. Funnily enough my 8 and 11 yrs old can't wait to get onto SL when they are old enough to create and explore and yes they do play Games, they got bored of Club Penguin in about 2 weeks there was not enough to explore or see. plenty to play and win, but they are a new generation so perhaps what ever Gen they are will be different again? who knows. Right now Im happy not to have anyone under 30 on SL, at least Im amongst other who don't think Im a silly old fart playing games :) they get why Im here...

Ann Otoole

So basically these studies have concluded the so-called Millennial Generation are drones.

Not a good scenario but fits with many wacko anti corporate anti republican conspiracy theories in which we are all destined to become ants in a big corporate ant hill.

So LL needs to run TV commercials is all. Just start ordering the kids to join SL, spend their money, and stay.

Do people really think it is this simple?

Leben Schnabel

Sure, GenX could be attracted by the very unique free-form social environment in SL.

That, or younger people are just not willing to dig through the unholy mess that is SL's user interface, while a good part of GenX is familiar with unaccessible technology from the early years of PCs and the internet.


While the argument is interesting, it's hard to get past many other potential explanations, some of them much simpler, such as higher expectations. When you've grown up expecting the latest and greatest computing experience, Second Life may not be especially compelling.

Generation X" generally refers to people born between 1961 to 1981-- i.e., between the ages of 27 and 47 now.
My understanding is that people generally consider the Baby Boom generation to have ended sometime between 1962 and 1964, with Generation X defined as having begun after 1964. Other than the Strauss and Howe definition I'm now seeing on wikipedia, I've never heard anyone place them between '61 and '81.
Troy McLuhan

Cute double entendre in the title! I definitely belong to generation eccentric.

Pavig Lok

I think we underrate the millenials capacity for freeform play. They do seem to be doing it elsewhere though. Chances are us old farts just aren't aware of where precisely it is, as we only catch them in the act when they settle on some of the "casual virtual worlds" we target at them directly... but like casual games, they're not a good indicator of what people actually do when they're not goofing off. Oh well..

We're certainly aware of when younguns come into SL to play metagames of certain types.... just not when they come in as classic "residents". Personally I think there's probably more than the stats reveal.

Doreen Garrigus

I have talked with several Millennials about Second Life. They all, at first, have wanted to know how to win. When you tell them there is no way to win, they shift uncomfortably and ask what you do there. The answer "anything you'd like," makes them pale up around the edges.

This is the first generation of kids to be scheduled from wake-up to bedtime, ostensibly for their own good. Not only are they not used to free-form play, they are suspicious of it. It seems unproductive to them, like they might fall behind, somehow. It is a generational marker.

My age group---Generation X, The Thirteenth Generation, Baby Busters---distrusts authority and institution. We were the first modern latch-key kids. Our parents divorced in record numbers. A third of us were aborted. Schools were underfunded, class sizes were huge. The point, when we were children, was to escape the institutions that were fundamentally hostile to us into a world we created, and we still carry that desire. Second Life absolutely caters to it. Of course we dominate there.

Toxic Menges

Habbo etc are very much safe places to play, they are the nanny state (although Habbo is trying to shrug this image somewhat). The play is focussed and the world dictates some of the actions and activities.

Also consider that the millenials have a stupendously short attention span, are usually doing things in 3 or more tabs on their browsers, and in some cases haven't ever read a book, and have no desire to "spend" that amount of time on one activity.

The learning curve for SL might as well be a trip to the moon in terms of difficulty for them. Until the New User Experience is dealt with (I have always toyed with the idea of viewers with different UI's to match the experience of the user), then the millennials will not be able to part with their time to learn how to enjoy their time in a meaningful way for them in SL.

Ann Otoole

Stop telling them there is no goal. Tell them the goal is to become the leader in an SL industry with minimal or no investment other than time and effort.

I.e.; become the preeminent weapon system provider for PVP in SL without spending any money. Just taking the tons of money out you would make. Attach dollar signs to it and I bet they get interested. All they have to do is figure out how to pull the rug from under DCS.

Much more of a challenge than bleeping bits on a screen. Probably more than their weak attention spans can handle though.

Melissa Yeuxdoux

I hesitate to label a whole generation together as incapable of freeform play. Remember when we got the same labeling, with TV, movies, and Disney supposedly force-feeding us images that formerly kids reading books would create for themselves? Before that, radio imposed its notion of what characters sounded like, and still further back is Plato's lament of the damage this new-fangled "writing" stuff will do--people will get lazy and not memorize things any more!

Kedawen Darrow

I guess, considering I was born in 1982, that I'm a pretty good mix of GenX and GenY. I can understand some of the points people make about GenXers accepting less-than-perfect technology and just wanting to do their own thing. But a lot of times I find myself feeling like I *need* to find a goal in SL and follow through with it. Interesting things to think about, for sure.

Doreen Garrigus

Some information for the record: I was a young mother. These are my children we are talking about. My own children.

I scheduled them tight, helped them do the same thing when they got old enough, to make sure they had advantages that I didn't get when I was a kid, and to make sure they kept up with all the other kids whose parents were doing the same thing.

There was one semester when my oldest was in middle school that she was preparing for two theater productions, her orchestra concert, and a choral performance, in addition to working on three big final projects for school. She left for school at 6:30 in the morning and didn't get back home until after 11:00 pm. She was eleven.

She is a creative and motivated young woman. There is nothing wrong with her attention span. She is not a drone. But she doesn't know how to be at loose ends---she is not even sure of the value of it. She very quickly screens out irrelevant information because she has to. There is so much information flying at her all the time that if she tries to process it all, she will break down.

Have you ever had an insanely busy month or three at work and then taken a vacation? All of a sudden, everything stops. You are at loose ends and you have no idea what to do with yourself. Do you find yourself poking at your Blackberry, trying to see what's up at work, because you don't remember how to do anything else?

There is an entire generation of people who have grown up like that. We wax poetic about free-form play and they fix us with a baleful, are-you-stupid glare because, frankly, they just don't have the time.


Could it as simple as the fact that LL has made very little effort in that age group? The teen grid is more or less a flop, with plenty of more interesting competition that is simply stealing away those who LL had hoped would age into the main grid.

John Lopez

What about a simpler explanation: Second Life's earlier adopters happened to have a large group from that generation. As new people arrived, they either were from that generation (and found people they could relate to in terms of shared experiences) or they didn't.

I know that when I arrived and found people who grew up on hair bands and 80s music, I could relate better than somewhere like VSide, where I felt like the only adult at a teen's birthday party.

Social effects are probably *far* more important than anything to do with mental characteristics.

Galena Qi

I hate to bust a good story, but my interpretation is that the fraction of Millenial users over 18 is representative of the demographics of the countries that use SL. For example, the 2000 U.S. census (adjusted to 2008) gives the following breakdown using your definition of generations: Millenials (18- 26) - 20%, Gen-X (27 - 41) 45%, Baby boomers (42 - 65): 36%.

Given that many of the countries with the heaviest SL use have an even older demographic than the U.S. (Japan, many European countries), I don't think there is any shortage of Millenials. There is an oversupply of Gen-X and an undersupply of baby boomers.

Caliburn Susanto

So what's disheartening about it? I'm with Paisley, let the "kids" go elsewhere. However, that aside ...

This seems like a no-brainer to me. As the years have gone by people have become generally dumber (how else could Jay Leno and his ilk make a living asking people on the street simple questions and getting totally ignorant answers?) and their attention spans have shriveled down to minutes, and in some cases seconds. In short, if something requires thinking and doesn't provide instant gratification then forget about it. No way. They're outta there.

Second Life, as much as we who are addicted love it, is a clunky, stilted, laggy, crashy mess, and all actions are totally contrived and often hysterically (or aggravatingly) bad. I mean, "I don't have a pose ball for that" is kind of pathetic when you think about it. ;-)

Second Life isn't a quick hit, it's a slow burn. IF you stick around and IF just the idea it exists fascinates you then it grows on you and you become hooked. But if you are looking for thrills and chills, good graphics, and goal-oriented fun then it's a huge bore. Good I say. Let them be bored and go play WOW. Less people means less database server stress and less in-world lag.

Galena Qi

Oops - I listed the wrong age ranges in my previous comment, but the %s are correct for all US adults 18-65:

Millenials (18- 26) - 20%, Gen-X (27 - 47) 45%, Baby boomers (48 - 65): 36%.

However, I agree with the earlier commenter that Gen-X is usually considered to begin in about 1965 (age 43).

Balthasar Bookmite

Hmm great. I will be even more of an anomaly. Personally, I like somewhat of the freeform nature of SL. As an only child I had to make my own fun when I was small so it comes naturally.

I also think that the sites that are growing with my age group are growing with the youngest section. I played Gaia for a few weeks and noticed that the majority of the players were around high school level with the occasional older player. Re-enforcing the targeting of high school students was Gaia Prom.

I think I kind of know why we are so regimented. In today's college admission situation parents are pushing outside activities like sports, music, voluteering, etc. The structured sites mirror these activities to a degree so it is familiar to the gen y internet user.

Also as a member of the few gen y, I feel a bit isolated because there aren't many people my age and i tend to attach to people my age. But since I get along with older people easier I tend to feel better than others in my age group.

Also remember that the oldest of Gen Y is just starting to get higher on the job latter, still in schoo, not making full salary, ect. Gen X is however is starting to settle down and have the extra cash to spend on nice avs and other things within SL. Personally if I didn't have cash to buy nice av customizations, I wouldn't stay for very long. Also Gen Y is a generation that grew/is growing up with videogames with out the sigma of being a dork, or at least with certain games, and are spending time in front of those.

Balthasar Bookmite


Gen Y not into freeform play?? hmmmm...



...I just think they don't like SL much.

cyn vandeverre

I've seen a lot of articles recently which say Gen [whatever] is like this and that and this other thing, and then make wild assumptions based upon this kind of hearsay. It's ridiculous.

Before we start tearing our hair out over something like this, let's find some more people from that age group and actually ask their opinion.

Ann Otoole

I can't go anywhere on the internet without seeing ads for IMVU and zwinky. LL could advertise. Advertise in a manner that appeals to whichever demographic. And we would see more of that demographic

But the question must be asked can the system handle another 50,000 concurrency right now? No need to advertise if the system is operating at maximum capabilities. In addition the entry barrier (OI confusion) has to drop and the UI be improved.

Once SL can handle 250,000 concurrency (250,000 happens to be Eve Online's claim to number of accounts per server) and the UI is made to be intuitive for basic use then some decent advertising is in order. And, if residents are really interested in the future of SL, they can stand up and help make sure there are increasing numbers of compelling activities in SL for new residents.

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

Since I was quoted here, I'll add my $.02 (or whatever that comes to in Linden Dollars). I'm a typically long-winded academic, but let's see if I can cut to the chase.

At our university, we began to see some radically different students about the year 2000. AJ Brooks, and a group of SL-using educators I joined last week for a round-table discussion, also saw a similar shift and would bear out much of what I'll say below (chime in AJ, if I misrepresent anything we discussed).

These post-2000 first-years and those who followed them are not "drones," and they are quite pleasant in to have in the classroom. They do their work (even read books!) as long as they understand the relationship to goals in a course, connections to the rest of the curriculum, the consequences of not working (/me is a hard-ass grader).

They have not, however, tended to be as creative as the risk-takers I taught in the 90s.

By and large, these Millennials deeply dislike SL. AJ Tan of Cornell writes well about her own dislike...worth a read (thanks to the Round-Table participant who shared this):


Luckily, their misgivings diminished with more mentoring and structured activities in-world. By the way, it's not merely gamers' distaste here: in my last class, the gamer-crowd actually said that SL was "getting there" in terms of graphics and physics.

Why are these students so overly cautious and averse to free-formed play? For one, they've not had time to play, and a few studies aside from Strauss and Howe's book bear this out.

Incidentally, I do not "blame" goal-oriented parents like Doreen who take children to activities and "play dates" instead of parking them in front of game consoles. Strauss and Howe found that, on average, this generation spent fewer hours gaming as kids than the next older demographic did.

My own thesis--backed up with a lot of observation and talking to young people--is that entering SL is like diving into a land of strangers. Millennials use advanced tools and can master something like SL's clunky client, but they would prefer to do so in a network of people they ALREADY know. This is how they use Facebook, at least in my experience. They call their parents on the phone every day...I always ask my first-years about that...every hand in class goes up.

Again and again in classes using SL I have been told some version of what Doreen writes here: "how do I win?" or "I do not like to talk to strangers, especially when they have cat ears, a tail, and a bandoleer or TNT plus a pink teddy-bear strapped to them."

Hamlet Au

Very interesting, Iggy. Come to think of it, danah boyd made similar observations here:


Gahum Riptide

Tail end Gen-Xer here.

I would say it has far more to do with the general uncreativeness and lack of imagination that I've seen in "millenials". I see it all the time at the University, students who just can't think for themselves and rely on others, or other things to do it for them (electronic media, the internet, etc). That's not to say all millenials are like that, but I've met far too many who are. They are the entitlement generation (this is my name for them as I find it suits most of them far better), the generation that wants everything given to them, told what to do, and ready made. For the most part, they aren't interested in creating things.

What this means for Second Life is that as there is no goal, no focus, and no guided play, they feel lost of "bored" with it and give up.

But, that's just one cynic's opinion.

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

Gahum, I like the Millennials a lot, especially their ability to do hard work.

We also need to note that we are being US-focused here. Most of my international students really love SL and don't complain about having "nothing to do" there.

I'd love to hear more from NWN's international readers on this.

Teachers will adapt their pedagogy to the times. If you guide and mentor US Millennials, they do pretty well in-world. It's the same approach I use on Habitat for Humanity builds...when my students have nothing to do, we collect and sort spare nails and screws to "save the team some money."

Tiessa Montgolfier

I see everyone is entranced by the speculation regarding the social difference between generations and likes to gloss over the fact that the fundamental population math outlined in the article is wrong. I provided numbers as did a commentator in this blog that show the populations are about the same size when accounted for by proportion of the general population and for the possible number of them that can use the service based on the number of years of people that can possible use it.

Attempting to deduce the creativity of an entire generation based on the fact that only 1/3 of their number can possibly use the service, is a very specious argument.

Hamlet Au

It's interesting that SL tracks to the age demographics of the general population, but I don't think that entirely explains the near lack of Gen Y in Second Life. Recall again that the 24-and-under set has *dropped* over 10% in the last year. Why?

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

Tiessa, don't turn to me for statistical analysis...I'm an English professor who struggled to get a B in my grad class in stat methods.

My and Lee Carleton's thesis comes from first-hand work with Millennials. The negative reaction to SL is well noted by educators with more experience than I have in-world. We riffed on this quite a bit at last week's round-table hosted by AJ Brooks of EDUCAUSE Virtual Worlds.

Here's a caveat. I don't know "Club Penguin" at all, but isn't it a place for open-ended play? My and Lee's thesis may collapse as younger Millennials enter virtual worlds for adults.

I hope so...as Vygotsky noted many decades ago, “from the point of view of development, creating an imaginary situation can be regarded as a means of developing abstract thought.”

Shava Suntzu/Shava Nerad in RL

There are some other explanations you may not like.

(1) there's an outstanding Jira which will never get enough votes to get fixed, where if you try to register a teen for Teen Life on a computer than usually runs an adult account (hello! Not every teen has their own computer???) the registration is denied. Bluntly and without message. As though I were a child predator attempting to spoof being my own child. LL, if you want teens on the teen grid, make it such that if they share a computer with their parents, they can still be registered.

(2) If I'm 18-24, I have no critical mass of friends my own age on the adult grid. This is full of fail. Many of the activities on the adult grid are likely to be disconnected from my experience or even squick me. Look at the music line-ups in search (folk, jazz, 80's covers,...) and tell me that a young person is going to be psyched by this. The Xers have made SL their ghetto.

(3) if I *am* 18, I may still be using my parents' payment information and identity from when I illicitly joined the adult grid at 15 three years ago. Therefore, you have me in the 35+ cohort, and I'm not about to explain differently.

(4) If I am 15, see above.

Me, I'm 49, so officially a boomer. But I can tell that SL is not set up for younger folks, and your millenials are the folks *least* likely to have the time and agency to make SL their own. So if it's "our world," it started as the world of a set of mostly gen-x early adoptor creator types, and now it's the home of a cadre of mostly gen-x consumer types.

Neither of those majority influences are going to click as being welcoming to a young person who appears on the grid without a friend to be native guide and help them find the much smaller community of age peers and interest that is there for them.

Shava Suntzu/Shava Nerad IRL

Dektora Saenz

When I look at that article and comments, it makes me wonder what the debat is base upon. Is it the number? Testimonies? I do not say it isn't based on anything, but to me those numbers are incomplete. I couldn't find any age groups infos to the statistics page linked (never sticked my nose into these), so I just wonder what those percentiles stands for: total number of residents? residents that looged in in the last month? 6 monthes? Year?
And how about the fact that the Xgen age range covers 20 birth years while the Ygen only covers 8... I'm not saying there is no truth in the various conclusions above, I just would like more info on the numbers to analyse them deeper...
Also, that "drop of 10%", what does that percentile represent? Maybe it just seams that it dropped because a lot of 30 or above joined in the last year. Not because they are more attracted to the concept, but because thay have heard about it more often (ie CSY-NY for example)

Also, just my 2 cents, but when I was a student, I had an old laptop that would not have been able to handle SL. And I couldn't afford internet connection at my flat. Now I work, I bought myself a powerfull desktop and a DSL line...

I'm 28 by the way and always though I was Ygen (yes, I do remember the 80s pretty well, but still). Maybe also it's because I'm french, and the populations are different here than in the Us, but I don't feel like 20ers are less rebellious or creative than Xgeners. But I am no expert on the subject, as I don't have regular contacts with people in their young 20s.

Also the "ghetto" argument is very interesting to me: who can afford to rent some land and mod SL? It is logical that if most land owners are above 30, they create something that appeal to them and people of their age group. If someone younger comes in, he may feel that SL isn't for him/her, not because he doesn't want to bother with making his/her own goals, but just because at first glance, SL did not "speak" to him/her.

Just my 28 years old french gal opinion in the mix. I just found the subject very interested and had to jump in the pool and comment instead for lurking for once.

Mecha Innis

I think cost is a significant factor as suggested by the last respondent.

SL doesn't work on old or low grade computers. You need to have expensive equipment and costly high speed internet for SL not to crash constantly. This prevents many people from joining SL. I have the latest laptop and high speed internet and still experience a lot of lag which makes SL frustrating. I'm upgrading my memory from 1GB to 4GB which will cost a lot.

Also, you need to have a credit card and purchase skins, clothes, weapons, equipment and animations for SL to be any fun. Simply surviving on freebies won't sustain interest.

Also, to be a resident requires a good income - to buy land or rent.

I can't afford to be a resident as this requires a constant stream of payment, although I'm Generation X.

Basically, you have to be affluent to enjoy all that SL has to offer.

Just a few thoughts.

Matthew Perreault

As Melissa pointed out above, every generation laments the new generation's lack of [insert quality here]. Why do we always forget this as soon as we enter our 30s and 40s? Does part of our brain leave when we donate genetic material for the newcomers?

I can remember so many idiotic criticisms of GenX when I was growing up as one of them, and hearing the same sorts of things come out of the mouths of GenX adults is beyond disgusting.

Now get off my lawn...

Laura S

I was born in 1957, so I'm well before either generation. In SL it's not always clear just how old anyone is in RL. Even behaviour is no indication.

If that analysis is correct, does that mean that Gen Yers are unimaginative (or just don't care) and prefer to do as they're told? That doesn't bode well for Real Life, does it?

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