For a long time, I've thought there's something terribly skewed with a world that privileges content-creators above all others -- above those performing services, or non-profit work, or land and homes sale or rent, currency exchanges, and all other non-content related business. "Content creation" has come to be defined very narrowly in fact, as merely "physical content," i.e. visible and manipulatable virtual objects that are purchased or given to inventory. The content of other kinds of services or entertainment that don't involve a "physical" type of right-click is so often ignored or even scorned -- events organizing, socializing, services like rent or land sales are all considered "beneath" a content baron's valuation system.
Yet such a view is short-sighted to say the least -- indeed, I'm going to call it "fascist" because the utopian desire for control in creating a world represented by this reprehensible ideology of content uber alles needs to be fought as hard as RL fascism has been fought over the years precisely because it spreads and seeks to dominate others.
The very word "content" as it is used in our modern world and our ultra-modern "game-saying-its-a-platform" called Second Life always gives me a certain chill. When someone begins to wield around the word "content," you know in fact they are relatively content-free and actually colour-blind as to the content inside the content because they just want to manipulate the world as world-managers who believe making the world entitles them to governing it, too.
That is, they aren't thinking about the actual content of content, they're just thinking all things rendered as one category they need to jerk around and control, called "content". Content is just good because it's content. The quality of the content maybe doesn't even matter. Everything is reduced to just one category of thinking, like a Power Point presentation -- content. Whether an attractive club or a spiritual temple or an outstanding work of architecture or Sleezywood Trailer Park -- it's all "content". Content can draw more or less dwell, but it's just...content. Content is needed to sell the game. Content-creators therefore are to be favoured uber alles.
Everyone knows that gamers burn through Gamedev content faster than Sherman through Georgia. They gobble up everything that Gamedev sweats over for months and weeks to make and then clamor for more. That's why GameDev, Inc. begins to privilege content, because they see it as an engine of their gamer worlds. They don't seem to have the imagination to break out of this cycle to see if there is anything more than content in a world -- relationships, non-content service and land related business -- the complexities of the world.
In fact, if it were up to the game devs, they'd simply call land "content" too (after all, they program it in order to create its appearance on the server) -- but that's too miss a fundamental split in our world, and one becoming more and more evident with each passing day.
Second Life prides itself on its "Your World/Your Imagination" sloganeering, and it's supposed to be about players themselves making and selling the stuff in their world. So far so good. Except those who delve into it a bit discover that it's not really so much "yours" because of the "any reason or no reason" clauses in the TOS that enable summary expulsion from the game without due process. As Cocoanut has often pointed out on the forums, LL often takes advantage of its positioning on the game side of the aisle to appeal to gamers and people flipping through websites looking through entertainment, and promises content -- and the game of making content which is fun. Then they double back and appeal to the "platform" side of the aisle so that all those die-hard gamers working tirelessly without pay on their "platform" can have some sort of justification for their bosses as to why they are diddling around with a game, and especially a game with such pecular tools like LSL and the building grid.
I find it hilarious, when I get to talking to programmers and scripters and so on in SL, that they often tell you they have RL jobs that pay them a forture so they don't need to make money, or they have lots of spare time because they just do a little consulting while they work at home and spend hours on the game. But then they begin to bitch about their evil bosses from hell or their evil clients who just don't understand that SL isn't a game. Usually somewhere in their equation is an effort for them to get paid even more money or slack off even more just by getting some boss or client somewhere to buy this pig-in-a-poke that SL isn't a game and that time spent twirling around in the sandboxes there isn't really gaming. (I'm still baffled on this "isn't a game" stuff how they can expect anything that isn't a simulation not to be seen as a game merely because it's a simulation -- given that the simulation is 90 percent or more used for entertainment, not serious things like mental health treatment or piloting airplanes).
By feting and cosseting the content-creators -- the people who mainly make up the Feted Inner Core -- the Lindens are trying not only to feed that voracious appetite for content of game customers but just get their "platform/game/thingie" to be more ready for prime-time, scaling up, and mass sales. It's really a wonderful formula, shoe-stringing along R&D and getting thousands of smart people to work for free -- in the non-profit world this is considered wonderful leveraging of partners and a kind of "social entrepreunership" -- in the foundation world it's called OPM (Other People's Money, the kind you always try to spend instead of your own foundation's) and it's only really in the labour union world or the world of the workaday person that it's called "exploitation of labour".
Creator-Fascists have been experiencing loss of sales recently, and it's hard to know why. Maybe it's summer and people would rather be surfing in the real world. Maybe people just get tired of buying all that overpriced content that breaks down and never is fixed by these arrogant content-creators who think they can plunk something inworld in a vendor, and logoff and go play World of Warcraft for 8 hours and never wait on a customer. There's an awful lot of that in SL as we all know. The kids haven't grown up.
And lately, the struggle against Creator Fascism has grown sharpened as more and more ordinary people just begin to get really pissed off at the favourtism shown to content creators -- who are not all that -- and the failure to devote equal attention to the other types of infrastructure needed in a world -- whether it's the ability to organize other kinds of income generation or appreciation of the work of club owners or event organizers.
Oh, well that's assuming that the job is to make a world, you know as in "Your World". More and more, I think the job is just to make a Developers' Directory with 3-D showcasing for resume-polishing and advertising to other game companies, "platform" companies etc. A kind of about.com or business.com for tekkie gamedev types to shop their wares. Maybe if SL fails as a world and a "country" (which Philip called it in 2004 -- but he doesn't call it that any more) it could still have a respectable existence as a big 3-D Yellow Pages of programmers, scripters, graphic arts designers -- because that's really the direction its going in.
More and more, there is a sharp distinction between what I would called "Sandboxer" and "Settler". The Sandboxers are the creators who hang out in sandboxes because they scorn land ownership and think houses (especially those with bathrooms in them and kitchens, even!) are for chumps and brainless blondes who call you "hon" and wear bling. They care not about quality-of-life issues like lag or security script bouncing of avs to home because they either don't experience them or they feel like any effort to curb them might curb the boundless license they've been given by LL to script and build to their little hearts' content.
Settlers are people who come and live in the world, they're those people who use this "platform" for "socializing" -- something David Linden seemed reluctantly willing to admit was a "purpose" of this "not-game" ROFL. They build houses, they furnish them, and they make little families, sometimes with elaborate family ties like sister-in-law and great aunt (and these aren't just the Italian-last-name mafia roleplayers). I'm impressed at how many of my tenants take their houses very seriously, furnish them very realistically with a wide variety of tastes and esthetic choices, and make elaborate social networks and events tied around weddings, store-openings, helping each other during divorces or break-ups, even births of "children" who come in the form of either NPC infants or other humans playing child avs.
Settlers care if camera angles are shoddy in a building that a GameDev might think "looks good" because they actually live in the world and live in the houses, unlike the Sandboxers. They care about lag, even as they might be creating a lot of it, and actually often comply with requests to reduce lag in various ways.
Settlers might be the laughinstock of urbane and sophisticated 20-something know-it-alls in the sandbox, but they are the route toward civilization. When the green dots stop flying around aimlessly, flitting to clubs, even griefing and blowing up stuff, and start to spread out across sims and settle down, they contribute to stability. They spend more, and stay online more. For the life of me, I can't understand why LL doesn't value green dots doing that. Instead, time and again, they make decisions to favour the green dots piling up in one big pile of poker-chip lag, or not even logging on. I suppose from the grid-monkey's perspective -- and their perspective probably unconsciously or consciously makes up a certain bedrock of the LL perspective -- a green dot is best when a green dot never logs on. When he logs on, he makes strain on the servers and trouble tickets.
A green dot is second best when he piles up predictably at 8 p.m. or 12 p.m. according to the events schedule at a club or a Tringo lot. That leaves the other server blossoms to spin endlessly without strain, and makes the load-bearing units very visible and therefore all the trouble tickets in one place. What a grid monkey could be expected to loathe, however, is hundreds of green dots spreading uniformly across each server, maybe 7 or 10 only to a sim, and parking and staying for long periods, building, and using scripts, whether food eating simulation or sex simulation. This creates a load across servers, and more trouble tickets and must be loathed by the green-dot managers. More trouble tickets, as more people actually try to live on sims they expect not to be laggy, and get mad when they crash or lag for server-side reasons. I suspect it's why the green-dot managers never really do much to help the green-dots distribute in a more civilized, world-building manner across sims.
Each night, I'm fascinated to study the SL map and watch the 50 or so islands that Anshe Chung and others have made where the green dots are spreading out uniformly and staying -- and to watch even my own considerably less territory of Ravenglass Rentals, where people spread out in twos and threes and sevens across the sims where I have property. I also see vast tracts of emptiness...and huge poker chips piled at clubs and tringo.
Creator-Fascism isn't always so visible in the world, where the settlers can often be more visibly present -- and in fact settlers often start out clubbing and always continue to club and seek out Tringo as a revenue generator even after they settle, so they more than dominate the events list.
But Settlers know they are in SL on sufferance, and that at best, they are looked at as hordes of cattle who are supposed to just graze on the results of the content creators works, and shut up.
More and more, the Creator Fascists are making themselves heard as they find that there is a significant -- but still not major -- encroachment on their world by Settlers. You get things like Crystalshard Foo, a prominent FIC scripter, essentially telling a newbie to shut up about looking for money-making opportunities and just "make stuff". You get Marcos Fonzarelli, some months ago, annoyingly explaining how content of his type -- complex and shiny buildings -- is naturally to be favoured over whatever Joe Plywood would make on his little 512.
The real Content Fascist award goes to Cienna Samiam, however. When asked to freely associate about her ideal world of the future, here's what she posted:
"There are eight things I would implement before settling back to watch:
- Sim Zoning; retail, residential, entertainment, arts, and academic.
- Boost maximum number of avatars per sim to a minimum of 10% of total world population.
- Create a segregation of account types: Creator and Consumer. If you're a creator, you only earn from what you build (no stipend), but you have unlimited prim allotment for things YOU create yourself and do not pay upload fees so long as the items being uploaded are used in content that exists outside your inventory. If you're a consumer, you cannot build and must purchase prim allotment (account fees, etc), but have a regular and sizeable stipend to spend in the world.... a stipend that is directly contingent upon how much content exists in the world (this ties purchasing power directly to creation and bridges the gap between the two types -- creators are incented to build to boost the amount of stipend in the world which in turn raises the chance that stipend will come to their stores/pockets).
- Create an in-world employment agency that funds new creator accounts by bidding out all LL based content creation; perhaps even in assembly line format (e.g., one person gets paid to create textures, another gets paid to apply them to specific items, another to place and link prims to form units, another to create plants and landscaping, etc.). Creators are permitted to bid upon any project, but failure to deliver according to standards for quality or timeliness result in disqualification for a period of time that lengthens each time a failure is encountered up to the point of exclusion. Consumers are not permitted to bid, as they cannot build.
- Create an encrypted offline storage vault for all creators, to include tools for texture management, inventory caching and archiving, and offline building (within a 'barebones' construct that includes male and female avatar models) for later import to SL. This would provide basic prim manipulation as well as texturing and possibly even some level of animation tool.
- Completely overhaul the existing permissions system to allow for assignment of permissions on a temporary basis as well as by date -- this would permit a variety of business models and interactions in the world that are not currently possible.... up to and including contract-based building and modification services.
- Implement e-book technology or some form of pdf services to support and build the publishing market that has been trying to get off the ground in SL forever.
- License the SL product and allow people to build their own worlds. Create a hosting environment for transport between those worlds and instead of trying to oversee the worlds themselves, make money on connecting them to one another.
I'd include more ideas... but it's almost Sci-Fi Channel time."
You wonder what Enabran Templar, who was so eager to crack my head for "splitting SL into groups" and "calling for unity" would say to his pal Cienna, who is handily dividing the entire world into 2 horridly restricted groups, a division that doesn't serve the world and ultimately doesn't even support the Creator Fascism is represents.
Or here's another contribution from Dianne Mechanique...which we can only hope is part tongue-in-cheek (surely it must be), also musing about her ideal SL:
"Just off the top of my head....
1) Get rid of *any* way that anyone could make any *real* money (US dollars or whatever) in Second Life.
2) Remove *all* censorship of any kind (PG, M or "offensive" content)
3) You have to be over 25 to join.
4) You have to pass an IQ test and/or a creativity test to join.
5) Make stuff or die! (you get booted if you are only a consumer and nothing else)
6) (optional) Random chucking out of anyone I think is an idiot (all those homophobic mafia guys and griefers)
All of this woud reduce the population to the point where we all get basically our own sim, so the resources would be tremendously increased for each of us that remain."
I find this staggerinly offensive, and I'm sure many others -- even content creators and even some of the Content Fascists. It goes without saying that the world doesn't divide up so neatly -- many content creators also consume, especially from other content-creators -- in fact some celebrated content creators only sustain themselves by dint of their little cliques that gather around and show each other their bags and shoes and stuff and buy from each other.
The notion that a "consumer" wouldn't even be allowed to so much as rez a platform for his house, or a deck for his waterfront, or even a cube to put in a landmark or something is just staggering. Imagine crippling the creativity of the world in such a way that everyone who wanted so much as to rez a prim of any type had to pay to do it, while content creators would not have to do so and would go on being feted regardless of their merit.
They really show their hand with this stuff, these Content Fascists, and it's why they need a collossal pushback.
Imagine if the Creator Contents had "temporary" permissions too. They could simply poof a creation they didn't want to be in someone's hands they didn't like (I think "kill copy" function used by builders is serving this purpose already in some instances). They could force people to buy samples and temp copies of things that would poof and compel them to pony up much more to keep their creation permanent. It's just endless, the control over other human beings that creators wish to have.
Many people are happy to consume...but with consumption comes consumer demands for customer service. And the arrogant Creator Fascists are often extremely skimpy in this department. They put loads of free stuff out in the world (like the tv script Crstyalshard Foo put out) but then they don't service it precisely because it's free. Or they make something cool and then don't release it precisely because they fear and loath customers and customer service and just want to entertain their friends around the sandbox.
In fact, the content creators who just use content creation as a form of entertainment are the loudest screamers about "monetarizing" the world and in anybody doing more than "having fun" in the way they think fun should be had.
blaze Spinnaker is a forum contrarian who I've come to discover over the months is an incredibly skilled manipulator of people and the forums in general. Often when he feigns to be your friend on the forums and quote you, he's merely trying to appeal to your vanity and ultimately either steal your idea or make you look stupid. I'm fairly certain he uses a variety of untraceable alts for this purpose, but he doesn't even need to, since his incendiary posts as blaze more than do the job. I still thought he was more or less in favour of the land side of the economy, however, although I should have known better. He was among those complaining about land for sale in the for-sale list although it was deeded islands -- his usual argument is to say that he was just about to invest big in something when he found that it wasn't reliable -- as if his big investment is going to be some sort of behavioural modification.
Now blaze has really taken the cake with his naked slam on GOM. He's played his hand -- or else he's just being ultra-incendiary as usual.
Many business people are alarmed to hear about LL's encroachments on a resident-run business of enormous importance -- Gaming Open Market. It appears that LL is poised to do what amounts to a hostile-takeover of GOM. Some large businesses are so concerned that they aren't even making any comments for fear of pissing off their lords and masters, the Lindens, which might turn their X-Ray eyes on their sector next (shopping websites, the rentals business are all likely to be hit next -- oh you wonder how could they target the rental business? By putting in a feature that enabled renting automatically in the regular land tools, so that rental scripts wouldn't be required, is just one of a number of ways this might be accomplished -- or by simply flattening the tier so there is no longer any bulk discount or tier leveraging possible).
You wonder how a company that relies so much on the image of "Your World/Your Imagination" and the sales-pitch about making money in the world could afford to play so fast and loose with player-run businesses but it all becomes more than rational when you accept the Creator Fascism model of the world.
Here's blaze in the latest brilliant exemplification of Creator Fascism:
They are not doing this for profit. What profit is there to be made? Not much. GOM is a very low margin, low profit business. SL realises this, so why are they doing it? At the risk of pissing off two of their most important customers?
Because they are trying to help the community of content developers.
As content developers we need a solution which allows for 1 click purchasing of our content. We did not have that with GOM.
This is something that will create instant liquidity and increase demand for the content that 1000 of developers create for SL each day.
Content Developers - your revenue will rise because of this
LL realises they have a choice, let the community down or piss off Jamie / Tom. They chose to sacrifice the few for the many - a wise decision."