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Monday, July 18, 2022

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Luther Weymann

If you are not already doing this, I encourage you to try it a few times. When you are out and about in SL, like a big dance venue or out on the mainland, look at your nearby avatars and see if there are any Day 1 avatars near you. Then do the unimaginable, say Hi to them, and ask them if they need any help on their Day 1. You're going to find out many have no idea how to rez, that they don't know about the SL Market or that it has tons of free stuff or how to unpack, they have no idea what a sandbox is, how to click a dance ball and join in, or most shockingly, they won't answer your IM because they don't know they have IM. And you'll find that the long walk the avatar was supposed to take at the birthing center and read all those How To signs was a total failure. The first hour of SL noobies is a nightmare of corporate thinking about how to build and sustain a user base. I offer no ideas here because I've been offering good ideas about this for over a decade and a half, and no one listens. But it would help if you gave it a try. Say Hi to Day 1 avatars and tell them you can help. You won't believe what you are going to hear back.

Martin K.

Thanks for featuring my comment!

> Then again, I do still think that aesthetic holds them (and Rec Room) back demographically, with their main user base being teens and young teens, while platforms like VRChat not to mention Fortnite with their more expressive art appealing to older teens and the early 20s crew.

I've thought about the reasons for the demographics quite a bit.

Sometimes there are probably feedback loops at work that lead to somewhat homogeneous demographics. One feedback loop for games with user-generated content and non-personalised world recommendations might be this:

  • A large group of users engages consistently with specific worlds.
  • Those worlds tend to do relatively good in the non-personalised world recommendations for all users.
  • Users with similar interests will benefit from the recommendations, while users with other interests will have a harder time to find interesting worlds.
  • The result is that the specific group of users will grow and engage even more with the specific kinds of worlds, while other groups of users will shrink.

Another feedback look for games with monetized, user-generated worlds is probably this:
  • If the majority of money-spending users prefers certain kinds of worlds, creators will be incentivised to produce such worlds.
  • As more such worlds are created, the whole game becomes more attractive for users with similar interests as the majority of players, while fewer worlds are created for users with other interests, potentially making it less interesting to them. Thus, the majority grows and other groups shrink.

In this and similar ways, players sort themselves into "their" communities, which become relatively homogeneous. (This kind of sorting is not limited to communities of computer games, you can also find it in the real world, see http://www.thebigsort.com/ .)

How can games overcome this trend towards more homogeneity? By breaking these feedback-loops, in particular making sure that all world recommendations are based on individual preferences. And this is not a new idea: it's just the reason for the success of Web 2.0 as Amazon, YouTube, and social media learned to personalise recommendations. And, yes, this will lead to many small echo chambers - but that might still be better than the whole community being a single, giant echo chamber.

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