Editorial: Turning 55

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Fifty-five is a LOT of candles! Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Tomorrow morning, at approximately 6:00 a.m. Central Standard Time, I will turn exactly 55 years old. And I’m still not quite sure how I feel about that fact.

There was a time, back when I was first invited into the Sansar closed beta, when I cherished the idea that someday in the future, I would emulate the many successful avatar fashion designers whose stores I visited in Second Life, and create and sell clothing for male and female avatars in virtual worlds, and be wildly successful. But the brutal reality is, that NOBODY is yet making any kind of liveable income on ANY of the newer social VR worlds yet. It’s simply too soon. My dream of taking an early retirement from my job and earning a comfortable side income from virtual worlds is just that—a pipe dream. It’s just way too early. And I have to accept that.

Today, in order to inject a little much-needed perspective amidst the general midwinter gloom of the Sansar Discord channel, I posted the following historical video of the earliest days of Second Life, before it was even called Second Life:

And I said:

Here is a video showing SL back in 2001, which makes it FIVE YEARS until it became popular with Anshe Chung appearing on the cover of Businessweek (item #6 on this list).

SL came a long way in those 5 years and I have no doubt Sansar will do likewise.

The problem is that software development takes time. And software development for a project with as many different moving parts as a virtual world—and a virtual world that supports virtual reality, at that—takes a LOT of time. What’s happening is that people are looking at High Fidelity and Sansar and Sinespace and VRChat (even though the last one doesn’t even have an in-world economy yet) and expecting it to be just like Second Life with its over 15 years’ worth of features and opportunities for vendors, and I’m sorry, but it just ain’t gonna happen. At least, not yet. Fortunes are not gonna be made overnight. We need a reality check.

Some content creators have decided to sit on the fence and see what develops over time with the various social VR platforms, perhaps waiting to see which ones take off and become more popular. Others, disappointed by slow sales in those virtual worlds that already have marketplaces, have scaled back their work. Still others are boldly plunging ahead and churning out content. Only time will tell who made the best decisions.

But with increasing age comes (hopefully) some patience and a little bit of wisdom. While I cannot yet retire and rely on a steady side-income from blogging about virtual worlds, hosting a brand-new show about social VR, or creating and selling avatar clothing, I do take some comfort from the fact that I am fairly well positioned, regardless of what happens on the various metaverse platforms. If one falters (like Virtual Universe, which only six months ago had seemed so promising), well, there are plenty of other places to write about, and people to interview, and fashions to learn how to create using Marvelous Designer and other software tools.

At 55 (well, OK, technically still 54.999…), I may have finally learned not to sweat about the small stuff. And ultimately, it’s all small stuff, isn’t it?

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Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash
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An Artist Contemplates Second Life

Wagner James Au of the long-running blog New World Notes has highlighted the work of artist Erik Mondrian, who found himself so inspired by Second Life that it became his MFA thesis at the California Institute of the Arts:

Here, in Second Life, a vast virtual canvas where we create what cannot be, what could be, what was, and what might be again, I step inside the imaginations of people I have never met, and who I may never even have spoken to, understanding something of their inner worlds nonetheless.

— Erik Mondrian.

Here is the entire nine-minute video on YouTube from which this quote was taken:

It’s quite beautiful, and I would encourage you to take a few moments to watch and enjoy it. If you want to see more, there is a playlist of ten videos shot and narrated by Erik here.