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Thursday, December 03, 2009


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Bettina Tizzy

Big congrats! That's huge news for machinima AND film making on many fronts. Cost effective cinema and storytelling, a boost for the medium. So good to hear.

Nisei Oh

Wow! The trailer has really good quality. We need more products and information about Second Life, because, against failed predictions, 5 years later, SL is the future of internet.

Nisei Oh
NOD Stores Owner

Indigo Mertel

This is great news and the trailer looks awesome.

Of course, there is people who manage to turn good things such as this into negative press for SL as usual. Like Erick Schonfeld does on TechCrunch here: http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/12/03/second-life-2-0-sundance/ . That post on TechCruch is getting hundreds of Twitter RT as I type this.

I am starting to be concerned that what will really kill SL will be the amount of hostility it gets on the web.

Fogwoman Gray

Wonderful! Can't wait to see it.

Pooky Amsterdam

Next the Oscars! This is fantastic - Bravo and well done! Machinima is a great medium and incredibly valid as a film genre.

Chantal Harvey

Can not wait to see! Mayor breakthrough for machinima, congratulations Jason Spingarn-Koff!

Nine Warrhol

Looks good , just hope it isn't a thing where they put the money and work into the teaser and not the rest of it, will watch anyway if I get a chance . :)

Paisley Beebe

@Indigo Mertel Knocking Second Life is about to become an olympic sport..the competition is about seeing how derisive you can be, if your'e uninformed you get 5 points, per incorrect fact, use the word loser in a post, 2 points per mention, interview that guy from Rooters you get 20 points for every negative thought...oh sorry not thought, um sentence, he didn't have any thoughts..Mention weirdos 1 point (thats too easy...) re mention American apparel leaving and Rooters...again...4 points per company.

Remember folks frame every stupid post you see saying that Second Life or any other virtual world is dying...Cue Crickets..ect...cause it will go in the Pool room with the ones I framed in 1985 where people said the internet would never take off....And my special pride of honor in the pool room goes to the guy who was head of the Digital Media at AFTRS who told me he "hated Second Life" it was never going to take off, the numbers were dropping and besides he didn't have time to make an avatar" who has just announced the same school is now running a Graduate program in Video Games and Virtual Worlds, doncha just love it! she says smugly. http://www.pixelsandpolicy.com/pixels_and_policy/2009/12/australian-film-college-introduces-graduate-degree-in-virtual-worlds.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:%20PixelsAndPolicy%20(Pixels%20and%20Policy)
What is a video game anyway.... I thought they went out of fashion along with Atari..in 1993 or so ? a VIDEO game???

Gary Hayes

Paisley. I think you may have crossed lines re: AFTRS & Second Life. I have been at AFTRS since mid 2006 when I set up Australia's first full Island for an organisation which is still there Esperance. You can find out what we do in the space here - http://www.simteach.com/wiki/index.php?title=Second_Life:_Universities_and_Private_Islands
Plus of course I personally created many other Austrlalian and US presences as well as leading machinima. So. I have no idea who you talked to, it certainly wasn't the Head of Digital Media but like any organisation, especially ones with traditional media practitioners, there are mixed views and perspectives on the importance of a new form and how it may or may not affect their 'traditional' production thinking.

Regarding the term Video Game (I think the article itself decided to change the name) the original course info is here - http://makeit.aftrs.edu.au/int-games.html ) So again you have your wires crossed. Always check the source.

Finally as to AFTRS and innovation. Via our lamp.edu.au initiative we have been mentoring industry professionals to think outside the box regarding Film, Game, VW hybrids and last night at AFTRS we had the premiere of a world 1st - a game integrated with live action to create a 10 part episodic from Clayton Jacobson and Jim Shomos both pioneers in smart production. Ubisoft are delighted that their games are being used to create something which is much more than the sum of its parts. Filmed on 5DII cameras, script to audience (nineMSN) in less than 7 weeks and feature length productions on the way. All closely linked to AFTRS and its backward thinking :) See it here - http://mordykoots.com/

Anyway not sure what your SL bashing post was about when we should be celebrating SL machinima and hybrid filmmaking coming of age - which is really what my comment is about.

Gary Hayes

Oh and I forgot to mention. Given SL is under constant attack from the media it actually makes sense that those involved in SL perhaps support and create strength in numbers and 'accurate' voice rather than mud fight with each other ? :)

Corcosman Voom

Congratulations, Jason. Best of luck at the festival. I hope that some day in the near future residents will be name-dropping Jay Spire as a mark of success.

Adric Antfarm

It's amazing the buzz generated given the hundreds of films that walk away from Sundance unattached and having seen only credits, but I am going to go with the crowd and give a thumbs up hoping the 11 year old girl thing does not return the creepy rumors we've all tried so hard to lay to rest.

Marianne McCann would of been a good subject, but we have what we have I guess.

soror nishi

wonderful, congrats to all involved.

Arcadia Codesmith

So, the guy who wrote the Techjunk article... what does he have showing at Sundance?

Franklin Lubitsch

To Gary Hayes: apparently sir, you don't recognize sarcasm when you see it. Plus, though you claim to be from Australia, you don't seem to recognize Paisley as one of the most visible Aussies on Second Life. Her weekly tv show, Tonight Live with Paisley Beebe, broadcast from within Second Life, is probably the most watched SL tv program. She's best known on that program for bringing the best of Second Life to light. SL bashing? I hardly think so !

Paisley Beebe

I apologise Gary I got his title wrong it was Digital Media, Director of Division. You will have to take my word on that. I won't publish his name. I wan't aware that I was bashing S.L or in a Mud fight, just pointing out how people who do "bash" SL will be eating their words. I remember the conversation so clearly because at the time, I was furious about it, and quite offended as to how dismissive he was to me and my work and S.L I also ranted quite a bit about it at the time to my staff..who will back me up on this. It happened midway through 2007. There will be plenty of others like me, who get ridiculed for what we do also feeling a little bit "smug" when they see the S.L bashers joining us.

Gary Hayes

Franklin, you like many in SL miss the point about the external PR problem - I think sometimes SL users put the PR in 'problem' :) Firstly though, yes I know the SLCN.tv team very well, personally in fact and also done my bit for SL too over the years - some here. And yes know Paisleys work and perspective on traditional media very well.

But back to my point which was lost. That for many 'outsiders' (as my SL friends often ungraciously call them) and who haven't experienced long creative, educational or social sessions in Second Life it can appear to them be filled with 1st life losers, wannabees and misfits. Yes you heard me, that old one. But it is still a very new one too. I spend many hours in game worlds and social virtual worlds as many know (apart from you Franklin) as do a small number of other 1-2 million regulars in SL? but 99.99% of the planet see SL as a place to drop-out, escape from reality and like many who misunderstand MMOGs, be anti-social. The press particularly would rather millions stop playing games and get back to buying their ad filled newspapers, please!

If you are in SL and are reacting badly to this already, about to pick up your comment keyboards, then you are part of the problem. "We know the truth, why can't they, are they idiots"?! Let me explain. Both Linden and many hard core SL users (especially the ones recreating the real world inside SL with TV shows, sports events, marriages etc) are not very good at explaining to the uninitiated and especially the press, about the often amazing 1st person user experience one gets from being in a wonderful, space with endless potential and possibiity. They somehow expect 'them' to understand with little or no explanation. The hype of 06/07 was partly to blame too where Linden videos & magazine adulation promised this fluid alternate lifestyle - which for 100 000s who tried it became a clunky, poor 1st and last time experience when they ended up in walking in treacle orientation zones or mature sims.

We, that is everyone reading this (because to be honest anyone not into SL will not be here) need to be less in-fighting and back-stabbing and offer clear explanations of SL and customisable social virtual worlds in general, stick our heads out of the sims and be less 'immersed'. Gary from SLCN explains it very well when I invite him up to AFTRS (yes in Australia!) he is aware of the external reaction to his pioneering work and here is a great session we did a few months ago on a Virtual Story / Machinima day we ran and Gary W the director of SLCN talks clearly about SL, Virtual TV and its perception externally. More about that particular seminar here too.

But to cut a long comment short. Hamlet's post is celebrating a film that will go someway to addressing the backlash, long tail (excuse the metaphors) we are in at the moment. Hardcore SL users should really be pushing a positive message vs having a go at those who they think 'don't get it' - which is why I responded to Paisley's comment bizarrely aimed at a renowned film school that mostly, does get it...we need to learn how to educate better and not be so knee jerk and reactionary to those who, to be honest have made a choice not to spend hours in front of their computer trying to work something out as complex as SL can be. As soon as SL becomes as easy as Yoville or Habbo or Facebook then we must do the best we can - be as one voice, clear as to the benefits and less on emulating traditional media and more on showing it's individual sublimity - RIP NPIRL :(

Gary Hayes

HI Paisley - don't worry I all too well know what it is like to pioneer, I have the arrow marks in my back to show for it (pioneers get shot in the back...you know the one). But as you say things will turn - which is why I think projects like Mordy Koots (Australian again!) and Escape from City 17 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1UPMEmCqZo - help traditional filmmakers get the benefits of Game Worlds and filmmaking, least that it allows much more Epic storytelling capability than the usual 'kitchen sink dramas' that often come out of ALL film schools. See my previous comment re: bashing the SL bashers...regards to G and K !

Hamlet Au

As I've written before, the *only* guaranteed way to stop the backlash is mass market adoption. 750K monthly actives is definitely not a ghost town, but many more Internet communities with user-created content are much much larger. People used to make fun of social networks, but then tens of millions started using on them, and the critics soon shut up (mostly). If you really want to stop the bashing, advocate changes that will grow Second Life so it has millions of regular users, not hundreds of thousands.

The irony is, a lot of SL users, often the same folks who complain about the bashing, *don't* want mass market growth. Check out the comments in my series on mass market adoption.

Gary Hayes

Yes Hamlet - but chicken and virtual egg. You can't get mass market until the perception of the 'product' has some clarity for those who really have no idea what it is?!

I am sure your 'series' has many great ideas in the comments, but until there is a positive PR machine from those who can connect to traditional media (and a large part of this responsibility comes down to Linden who have to my mind been overtly silent over the last 18 months) that mass adoption goal will not be realised. Barrier to entry aside for the moment - one practical example for me would be regular PR case studies put out by Lindens of the people, educators and enlightened businesses who are meaningfully utilising SL and have good metrics. One thing that is missing for me is the 'real life' face of SL users...who are seen to be 'just like the rest of us' - if you excuse the simplification.

This documentary and others also need to take less of a 'lets see what makes these strange people who hang around in virtual space tick' - vs the other larger web communities that doesn't have a weirdo stigma.

Remember SL is on a slippery slope here, I suppose a bit like MySpace that too now has a stigma. It needs to adopt Facebook and Twitter 'attitude' and try to find a clearer identity rather than all things to all 'users'. For example long before Twitter took off SL's chat/IM was almost identical - one thing that Linden should have done at that point was to pull the power of social chat into external interfaces. They still need to externalise many parts of the services into much more accessible 'management' interfaces - but I could go on...and sure it has been covered. My main point though is the 'SL is for social deviants or misfits' message coming from media and even docos made by filmmakers who show understanding, will mean mass adoption is and will always be someway off. I fully expect a successor though to come through a network that already has 350 million users - must go, "Farmville 3.0: City Life" to play... :)

Paisley Beebe

Thats ok Gary, I big Fat "I was wrong, and Paisley Beebe was Right!" applogy from the person... who will remain nameless...will be just fine! I'll be waiting with baited breath..for a long time I suspect...as I will from just about everyone who has told me Im one of those losers, you mention, who can't cut it in the RL TV so am creating pretend TV in Second Loser Life.

I'm thrilled this film is getting notice, but yep, appalled at such a mean spirited write up from the blogger Indigo above pointed us to. shruggs, But It's a fine line between letting the naysayers and ill-informed continue to ridicule and spread misinformation and correcting them.

However it does make it really tough when you get people quoting such posts like that one and the one from the recent BBC article back to you as to why they will not take you or your work in Second Life seriously. Those type of blog posts can be unfortunately very damaging, as I found out when I approached AFTRS back in 2007 to ask if any students were interesting in finding out about what I was doing in SL in regards to Television Production. I have no doubt that the "Person" I spoke to had read at the time one of the many "Second Life" is dying posts doing the rounds at the time. And not to be a pedant, but its now Treet.tv SLCN.TV went the way of many trademark violations ...better change that on the AFTRS blog also.

Hamlet Au

Gary, I don't think PR is the problem, Second Life still gets more positive press than any virtual world/MMO combined. That's not even an exaggeration! World of Warcraft was featured on one episode of "South Park", and I think that's it, while SL has been featured on "The Office", "CSI", on Cinemax, and now this movie. Not counting alt accounts, about 12 million people have created an SL avatar -- that's a mass market! About 300-400K people still try it every month.

Trouble is, most of them quit soon after, because they can't figure out what to do, where to go, or how to use the system. *That's* the problem, the churn rate. Until those design and usability problems are fixed, more publicity will just create more churn.

Gary Hayes

Hamlet - I avoid comparing WoW and SL or Aion and vSide for a variety of reasons. One major comparison that would be relevant though is the of 100% who try 10% tend to carry on using MMOGs and SVWs and 1% become regulars (so SL is dropping below that off a reg base of 13 million?). Sure Tats has covered this in a few places.

But that aside your examples and Paisley's previous comment again reinforce my point about the 'odd-world' stigma which is holding back more widespread use of SL. (Remember I am a card holding SL user - for those who may pick this up half way through the thread!!) Particularly the y-demographic who see it as a place filled with 36 or something stay-at-homes (which sadly isn't far from the truth!)

The office piece I recall was derogatory about SL with the nerd guy trying to say SL was a 'valid' acitivity? In CSI, the lead character and a couple of supporting cast were looking at SL as an odd place full of hackers and pimps or plain weirdos - I recall the serial killer frequented SL. As Paisley says wonderful TreetTV pieces and great serious machinima are swamped by more negative rich media and higher read traditional press. Sadly the good stuff will never be seen by most non-SL users - well once in a blue moon on a public service late night Sunday slot!

Your right re: user experience and churn. Truth is an Amateur UI & poor support = amateur user base and the quality of feedback to improve SL will be much lower. Also more widespread positive PR will produce churn yes but it is then up to the host company to be seen to be listening and implementing suggestions. I personally have made some major requests over the past 5 years without any acknowledgement, tracking or anything implemented. The SL interface for me is as it was in 2006. Nothing is changing fast there - regardless of how many times NWN have covered it or the SL website has put call outs. I would go so far as saying a complete redesign of the UI is required immediately or...

I think SL is now in a damage limitation zone and as you, Bettina and even Mark K himself have shown by commenting on 'mean spirited' anti sl posts over the past few days...this is no longer about a steep learning curve UI or orientation system problem but about SL permanently being relegated to Social Virtual World also-rans. A mid noughties game changer sadly sidelined. It will continue but it probably has 6-9 months tops to try to regain some sort of control and potential win back hearts and minds. That and Linden Lab doing some dramatic improvements, stop resting on land sale laurels and saying something anything positive to trad media, very very quickly!

Franklin Lubitsch

Gary. Sorry I haven't responded sooner, I was busy in RL (that place we sometimes go to for a little R & R). I sincerely apologize. I should have realized what you were driving at. I didn't, and I'm sorry. Your posts following my response bring up excellent points, and i look forward to what you have to say in the future. :-)

Paisley Beebe

Gary I agree with you on your last few posts here. L.L has to start promoting their biggest asset the residents in S.L who are doing some really amazing projects and work. I know that in the past L.L did not want to show favour to any one company or individual, but I think we can all agree that has changed, particularly with our now Gold Solution Providers List. The Linden Prize is one attempt by L.L to do this, but that only highlights 1 or 2 Citizens and only in one particular area.

The problem is, that whenever L.L does try to promote in-world creatives they get slammed by people who don't agree the person is talented enough, and there is a huge outcry of "what about ME!" its a real predicament. And its been brought about by Linden Labs initially insisting they wouldn't promote some people over others, even if some people were certain favouritism was going on. In R.L obviously if one artist gets an article in a magazine of National Importance, you are not going to usually get a lot of "Hey how dare you promote them, what about so and so, and thats not fair.." True L.L are very much the Govt in our world and a gold stamp by them certainly is very very lucrative and sometimes financially beneficial.

So if we agree that to counter the effect of bad publicity about "Loser Basement Philanderers" and "Weirdo Nutters" How does L.L then fairly promote the thousands and thousand of people who are doing amazing things in SL, that might actually impress the General Global Public.

Yes we have showcase, but even on the Second Life website its not a great diverse showcase of projects and organisations in Second Life. And show case won't have as much Real Life reach as an article in the New York Times.

There are some great blogs and magazine articles about Second Life highlighting some great and worthy Talent in SL. And many many of Treet.tv shows highlight Second Life residents that are interesting, worthy of attention, Talented and achieving incredible success in S.L whether large or small.

The larger problem maybe that RL Press is in a Second Life is Dying, or is for weirdos phase, and no amount of positive spin will convince them to publish anything positive, right now, the bad spin gets attention and sells papers.

Presenting the correct numbers is a boring and not very exiting way to counter attack bad press, especially if that press is centred around the "awful losers" in Second Life.

Second Life needs another Anche Chung type story to get the overall perception away from where it is right now, not necessarily based around financial success but based around an amazing story that is about a "normal" person using Second Life in an extraordinary way.

M is putting out spot fires right now...but what is needed is a mighty Elvis water bomb type PR campaign with some real stories about the wonders of Second Life. Glossy video adds are fine (like the one on You Tube this week)..and will help, but the people who "love to hate" second Life won't be swayed by those...

I would love to tell people what I do in SL and have them mention a great article they read about S.L instead of quoting me a S.L is dead article or the one about the man who had an affair in the U.K with a woman in S.L..but no one I know has seen the NYT interview with Angie Mornington or the great one with Filthy Fluno...Bad News Travels Fast?

Some good PR might not solve the problem of retention as much as the confusing U.I (which I still don't think is That...complicated)...no more than Microsoft Word...which I still find complex..But at least it would get people to consider that its worthwhile learning how to use S.L if there is so much to gain.

Hamlet Au

Paisley, any time Second Life gets a big press story, it *does* get a spike of new users. The trouble is, 95% or so of those new users leave. How would more press per se improve those numbers?

"The office piece I recall was derogatory about SL with the nerd guy trying to say SL was a 'valid' acitivity? In CSI, the lead character and a couple of supporting cast were looking at SL as an odd place full of hackers and pimps or plain weirdos - I recall the serial killer frequented SL."

That's not quite what happened. With *The Office*, the script was pre-approved by Linden, and while Dwight the nerd is shown playing Second Life in the beginning, at the end of the show we find out that Jim (the only cool guy in the show) is also playing Second Life. Really smart way of addressing the negative image, actually. With *CSI*, it's an assassin who used SL to contact her target. However, a member of the CSI team is also an SL user, as is a cool mechanic guy they talk to. More importantly: The CSI episode was produced in collaboration with Linden Lab, which featured CSI on the homepage, while the producer and CBS developed an ambitious spin-off to the show *in Second Life*, so CSI fans could solve mysteries in Second Life. Again, *huge* press event.

And again, in both cases, big spike of news users. Almost all of whom soon left.

Toxic Menges

I think this is fab news, for machinima, and for SL.

By bringing the stories of the lives of the people who use this medium is probably the only way to help people understand SL and to demystify what has generally been seen as a nerd pastime.

Make it personal, make it human - you make it much easier to process.

Then it's down to the Lab to make it less of a mountain to climb to get immersed..We still need viewers for different skills levels, LL!

Peter Robinson

Nothing new here, this has all been done before. All these subject matters have been covered.

Why now in 2010 is this worthy of the Sundance Film Festival? Stop being seduced by the ooohs and ahhhs of how shiney the trailer looks. The subject matter is negative and doesn't help in killing off the negative press we endure. Second Life is actually as prosaic as Real Life. The world we live in just doesn't make for a good story if it's not based on a negative story, hence why these documentaries concentrate on the sensationalist. Which we all know are the exception, not the rule. The facts:

Man lives his life through his 11 year old av. His subconscious!? This is age play and borders on the world fear of pedophilia. [negative story]

Av meets Av and it's not that rosy in Real Life: All seemed wonderful in Second Life, met in Real Life and wonder-of-wonder its not all it seemed... [negative story]

Woman makes money from virtual clothing business. [old story]

I can count a dozen documentaries that have covered all these subjects. Ad nauseam.

Lauren Oh


The problem here is the gutter bloggers being part of the Google News feeds. This includes the nasty and biased dealing of people like Prokofy Neva over at Second Thoughts and the Alphaville Herald. What we actually need is more resident's creating positive stories. Stop expecting Linden Lab to do it. In absence of action, the SL gutter bloggers fill the void with vitriolic attacks.

They think they're the cure, when in fact they're the disease.

Lauren Oh

Wiz Nordberg

I'm not sure whether the movie is something to celebrate or not. It's just a movie, and we'll have to see how good it is, as a movie, not as a celebration of machinima, which I'm not sure it is. More than anything, I am curious about the message. Are mainstream audiences ready to accept that "reshaping relationships, identities, and ultimately the very notion of reality" is OK? Will the movie portray such activities be perceived as good, or odd?

I don't think mainstream audiences are ready to view SL as anything other than escapism. And I have a lot more data on this than just some casual observations. At Treet, we collect volumes of information about every single blog post, mention, comment, and reaction to our videos. We focus in very specifically on people who are non-SL users, examining carefully what they think. It is pretty clear that only after somebody uses SL for a period of time do they begin to see that, rather than escapism, it can be an enriching, remarkable experience, as Gary Hayes (who I respect tremendously) points out.

Focusing on the negative reaction of the press, of SL critics, and of the mainstream population is pointless. I believe that they are right, for the most part, and that the problem lies not with them, but with SL itself.

For as rich as SL seems, it is not rich enough. It is not easy enough, and its interface requires tremendous effort to master. Having a true immersive experience requires, first, a belief that it can happen and the desire and patience to learn enough to reap those rewards. Worse, SL is segregated in a tiny cubicle of technology. While the world is moving to an entirely mobile, bite-size, thin-client experience which provides rapid gratification, SL is mired in the technology of the past, requiring enormous downloads and suffering from varied experiences based upon what kind of graphics card you have and how facile you are at navigating the dozens of settings which affect how well things are rendered and how they look.

In my opinion, any documentary today will just shine light on this tiny niche, not convince people that they should be going out and doing it themselves.

Obviously, we would not be working so hard on Treet TV unless we believed in a bright future for immersive and enriching virtual worlds. We do, and it fuels our desire to do better and better. But, having your eyes wide open is important, and at this point, Facebook need not worry about SL competing as a social platform.

But, in order for mainstream audiences to jump on the bandwagon, exponential improvements need to occur. The experience must be able to be "sampled" instantly and feel good when you do. It needs to be ubiquitous across platforms and devices. The barrier to entry needs to be how many clicks away the experience is, and a download must not be one of the steps you need to go through. We have no doubt it will happen, but it's not there yet, and it may not even be SL that does it.

When the web was very young, anybody using it was a weirdo. They were esacping into a world of computers and were often compared with PC hobbyists of the time that liked to play with their TRS-80s. The 3 hackers from the "Lone Gunman" on the X-files were disturbingly quirky nerds who spoke a language that mainstream viewers would laugh at as caricatures of the kind of dysfunctional introverts that used the Internet.

The problem was that the Internet, at that time, required the same kind of belief, patience and effort that SL requires today. We would not want to use the Internet of 1993, just as those who will eventually enjoy immersive experiences would not want to use the SL that we enjoy so much today.

Seeing the future and making it happen are two different things. The solution will lie not in convincing people that SL is good enough for mainstream users, but rather in making it so.

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