I stumbled on to this post about a guy and his wife who tried Second Life out and had a good laugh. I always have a little more room in my day for a good cynic.
Yesterday I downloaded something called Second Life. It is like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, except you can't shoot anyone, and you can't hit people. You just walk around. There are no prostitutes, and everything costs real money, and you can't rob anyone to get money. You have to use your credit card, with real money, to buy fake money to use in the game. It's not actually like Grand Theft Auto at all.
After reading Castronova's book "Synthetic Worlds," I went in search of a good follow up book. I found exactly what I was looking for in "Got Game - How the Gamer Generation Is Reshaping Business Forever" by Beck & Wade. This book is now a few years old but has a few stunning observations (based on a lot of survey and research data) that is very much worth sharing.
I'm only going to pull one one single point from the book to highlight here - but would definitely recommend that if you are either a gamer, or a manger, you get this book now and read it! It's worth a look even if you don't agree or are confused or dubious about some of the research as I was. Much of the premise is that "gamers" are going to be a very, very different breed of worker and manager. The book at one point draws an analogy to the 60's - a generational gap. However, this gap is more about gamers vs. non-gamers than age differences.
The biggest thing that had me thinking about is general mentality around failure. I'm sure you've worked with people who refuse to fail at any level and will spin and push the facts to always make it appear that they haven't failed. Take a look at politicians, or your boss, when was the last time they failed at something and happily admitted it and moved on?
If you are a gamer or parent of one, you'll understand this quickly. Take any game from Zelda to Rainbow Six to Madden Football. Failure ("Game Over") is temporary. Not only can I hit the reset button or simply create multiple save points as I play - I'm actually rewarded for failing; every time I fail, I learn one more clue to my ultimate success.
So failure is good! When we fail in playing a game all that happens is that we learn to jump or double jump over a mushroom, find a secret sword or figure out how to exploit the Bears defense.
What the book points out is that there is an entire generation (a LARGE generation at that) of people think that the way to success is through repeated failure.
Personally, I buy this in a big way and think that this is going to have a large impact as the power shifts from the older, non-gamer generation to the younger, gamer generation. I can already see it happening can't you?
In case you are wondering, here's what I'm playing these days:
Yes, I'm a bit schizo regarding Second Life - but there is no doubting that there is something interesting going on which needs to be explored...
And so with huge thanks to the folks at Better World Island and Riversong Garden, the IRC has it's first ever presence in Second Life as part of the NMConnect Media Arts Symposium. At the last possible minute, space was made available to us and Riversong was able to get an installation up and running. The artwork is actually from a trade show display being shown this week in Las Vegas at the Project show.
If you are a Second Life user, you can visit the installation (this is a SLURL link that will launch Second Life directly.
I made a very short video (pass it around after making some comments please):
I just got back from visiting the new exhibit in Second Life put up by the Alzheimer's organization in Ontario. Like Camp Darfur, there is a lot going on here - this is a wonderful example of how you can build a "cross-border" (those borders being the real and the virtual) exhibit.
The entrance is what you'd normally see in the real world - a physical building with a doorway. It's interesting to me that most everything we've seen so far in SL is a direct copy of the real world. The oddest of those is classrooms/seminar areas that have seats... why would my avatar need to sit? In any case, once you go into the exhibit, you'll learn about the organization and read some very sad stories of those affected by the disease.
The builder's did a good job in building displays that are engaging by having wonderful photos (all of them have attached notecards for more information).
I think however, what I loved the most was "The Memory Board" game. There's nothing special about the game itself - what I loved was that it existed as part of this exhibit. It would have been too easy to throw up some photos and info and call it a day... but they went that extra step to build interactivity in. It's a huge bonus that the game ties so nicely into the message/mission. I'm only mad that I didn't get the high score!
Given all the recent yay/nay sayers floating around (Clay Shirkey's piece started a firestorm of blog posts and comments here, here, here and here) I think that this exhibit gives us a very small glimpse into the vast potential of virtual worlds.
For the record, I'm a huge proponent and believer in virtual worlds - but am just as curious to see if Linden Labs can survive being a pioneer as there seems to be some new players on the scene.
This terrific post by Clay Shirky summarizes much of what my subconcious has been telling me for a few months now... the hype is overwhelming the reality of Second Life.
As I've demonstrated through this blog, I'm big on experimenting with new stuff like Squidoo, Tagging and Second Life. I've been thinking about SL for almost a year now, and still haven't come to any solid conclusions - and will continue to experiment.
However, the post from Shirky is a worthwhile read simply because how it debunks the media hype so effectively and jars you back to something more grounded in reality (as opposed to virtual reality).
I've had my own issues with SL, including how difficult is is to congregate with large crowds (everything suddenly moves very slowly), how unregulated it is, and how high the technical barrier is to participating (both in hardware requirements AND in the tech/geek mindset).
I'm appreciative of the skepticism because frankly, the positive media hype makes it feel too good to be true.
As for how it relates to NPOs - I just don't think it has a big enough footprint yet. From a revenue standpoint, it's time-consuming and difficult to figure out how to make money (when I say money, I'm talking about money in large quantities - depending on what NPO you work with the specific amount will vary!).
The removal of a large revenue opportunity led me to think about how to use SL for awareness and patient services. Given the size of the SL universe it's not clear to me that SL is in fact a viable option awareness either. There just aren't enough people in SL right now for awareness or patient services to be a clear winner. As an experiment it's great... it's just not yet part of a global marketing strategy. This is where Myspace and Facebook seem to excel - there are sufficient numbers on those sites to attempt to do some awareness and patient services work.
One area that I'm very keen on however, is training. The ability to use SL or other virtual platforms to conduct training and development is more controlled, and would have a measurable outcome. As an experiment, I've posted on this topic earlier.
Is SecondLife going to collapse under the weight of its own hype? Very probably. But just like Web 1.0/2.0 (yuck, hate that term), something else will replace it one day.
Unfortunately, today's live event addressing the situation in Darfur with Mia Farrow didn't happen as planned. After crashing and having a hard time finding the location after teleporting in I found out that there was a fire at the hosting company in Boston. That said, LCMedia built a pretty amazing sim, complete with a powerful slide show and a video from the Holocaust museum.
Whether SL lives or dies, it's evident that virtual worlds are here to stay. I counted at least 30 avatars mulling around, and that was after they told everyone that the event wasn't going to happen. The graphics, interaction and social aspects of meeting in an environment like this are stunning.
If you are interested in marketing at all, I highly recommend that you find some time soon to get an account and check things out.
After leaving the Darfur exhibit, I teleported over to Techsoup for their weekly meeting where I met someone who told me that they were working on a way to connect interaction within SecondLife to the Internet - the ability to sign up for an email newsletter or become an advocate directly from SL is a terrific thing. I can't wait to see how this will work!