Editorial: The Bento Head Wars of Second Life Have Begun in Earnest

For the longest time, Catwa absolutely ruled the Bento mesh head market, almost having a monopoly. But I get the impression that they are now under attack from all sides lately, and possibly losing market share.

The Genus Project has truly fired a shot across the bow with their release of the completely free, absolutely gorgeous Strong Face Bento mesh head group gift, which comes with a couple of fully-featured HUDs (including some things that Catwa used to charge extra for, after you shelled out L$5,000 for one of their heads). Seriously, this has got to be one of the best freebies I have ever picked up in Second Life, and I have seen one hell of a lot of freebies in my 14 years in SL!

I did a little tinkering with the free Strong Face head, and last year’s free group gift of the Altamura Juliet body, and I came up with the following look, which I am rather pleased with:

This avatar is wearing:

Mesh Head: Strong Face by Genus Project (free group gift; includes the mesh eyes)

Mesh Body: Juliet from Altamura (free group gift from Valentine’s Day 2019)

Skin Applier: Mila in the Milk skin tone, from Insol (dollarbie hunt prize in their current hunt); matching Omega body skin applier is free!

Lipstick Applier: free group gift from D’Selles from last year’s eBENTO Advent calendar

Hair: Bella hair in blonde (free Advent calendar gift from JUMO)

Ballgown: Cannes ballgown (free gift from Son!a Edge from the Valentine’s Day Shop and Hop event)

Necklace and Bracelet: Wild Whimsy by Chop Zuey (former free gift from The Free Dove)

Shoes (Not Shown): Sonnet pumps (free group gift from Hilly Haalan)

Animation Override: Chubby Girl AO by [ImpEle] (free from the SL Marketplace). This is a nice, simple, calm, free AO with no crazy movements. I added a free, separate Bento hand animator from the Altamura Juliet package. I am also using the Basic Animation HUD that was included with the Strong Face head by Genus Project.

TOTAL COST FOR THIS AVATAR: Only L$200! (L$100 to join the Altamura group, L$99 for the Omega system kit for Altamura mesh bodies, and L$1 for the Insol skin applier.) If this isn’t proof that you can have a stunning-looking avatar in Second Life without spending a lot of Linden dollars, I don’t know what is. I mean, that works out to less than one U.S. dollar, folks!

This is genius advertising for Genus Project heads, and if I were Catwa, I would be worried. Akeruka has also been slowly chipping away at Catwa’s lead with semi-annual free group gifts of Bento mesh head gifts over the past few years (although they seem to have stopped now). Other Bento mesh head retailers are having sales more often, I notice. Add in the recent avalanche of free and inexpensive Bakes-on-Mesh compatible Bento mesh heads, and the writing is truly on the wall for Catwa.

It didn’t help that, back in 2018, Catwa threatened rival Bento head creators Akeruka and GA.EG with a lawsuit, saying that they had copied the Catwa head UV map (The Whisperer website has all the receipts). Eventually, Linden Lab was forced to release a statement to respond to the brouhaha. Catwa was widely seen as bullying other, smaller Bento head creators, and as a result the company lost a lot of goodwill and respect among SL users.

The question is: how will Catwa respond to the Bento Head Wars? Will they hold their head high, pretend nothing has changed, and continue to charge L$5,000 for their heads? (To be fair, most other well-known Bento head brands cost a similar amount.) Will they lower their prices, throw more sales, perhaps even give away a free gift of their own?

Things are getting very interesting…please discuss amongst yourselves, and feel free to leave a comment with your own thoughts on the matter. Who do you think is winning the Bento Head Wars?

The free Strong Face mesh head group gift from the Genus Project
is truly a shot across the bow at Catwa…

Pandemic Diary: April 6th, 2020

Today marks the start of my fourth week in self-isolation in my apartment, hunkered down with three months’ worth of all my prescription medications and at least a couple of months of food and supplies. I have run out of bread but I have started to bake; I have almost run out of milk, but I have three large bags of powdered milk in my pandemic supplies, which I have started to use.

CBC guidance on face masks (source)

Around six o’clock this evening, I decided to venture outside for only the fourth time since I began working from home on March 16th, 2020. My exotic destination was the nearest garbage bin. I tossed in my trashbag, and then wandered slowly back to my apartment, savouring the fresh spring air, listening to the gurgle and drip of melting snow, seeing the squirrels scamper from tree to tree, and hearing a woodpecker work away at a tree in the small forest behind my apartment complex.

My hand hesitated slightly as I reached for the (external) doorknob to my apartment, to come back inside. Then I faced a dilemma: should I wash my hands before removing my jacket? I decide to wash my hands, take off my jacket and scarf, then wash my hands again, just in case. Relentless handwashing has played absolute havoc with my eczema. (I spared an idle thought to those people suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder, who must be struggling mightily in these unprecedented days of pandemic. I am beginning to understand their levels of anxiety.)

It is only after I am seated in front of my personal computer again that I see the tweet from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (above) in my Twitter feed, and I mentally kick myself for not having the foresight to wrap my scarf around my mouth and nose when I went out. After all, it is a “public space”, right? Of course, I equate “public space” with ANYWHERE OUTSIDE. The fact is, the outdoor space was completely deserted of people except for myself. But what about particles hanging in the air?, I think.

I firmly tell myself to GET A GRIP, that I should be more worried about droplets than particles, that I do not live in downtown New York City or Hong Kong or India or some other area chockablock with coughing, sneezing, infecting people.

I can feel my depression becoming slightly worse over time. I know that I am at high risk of a depressive relapse. However, I still force myself to get up every morning at 7:00 a.m., shower, get dressed, brew a large vat of black coffee, and sit down in front of my PC, log into my work email and the virtual reference chat software my library system uses to chat with patrons, and face whatever the day brings.

This morning, I didn’t realize until well after I had gotten out of the shower, dried off, and dressed, that I had somehow forgotten to wash my hair. I shrug—who’s going to see me with greasy hair?—and continue with my morning routine.

Just a few minutes ago, I learned from Dr. Fran on the RyanSchultz.com Discord (now up to 400 members, with more people joining almost every day) that U.K. prime minister Boris Johnson has been admitted to the intensive care unit for COVID-19. Shit.

And I read another article about how the added stress of a global pandemic lockdown has led to worrying increases in reports of domestic abuse around the world.

And I realize that I, stuck alone in my apartment, I can do nothing about either of these things. I resolve, even more firmly, to avoid the news—all news. (Of course, that is impossible, but I am getting better at it these past few days.)

I had thought briefly about registering with the Public Health Agency of Canada/Health Canada as a COVID-19 volunteer, but I realize that, with my underlying health conditions that confine me to my apartment and put me at risk of a severe case of COVID-19 (not to mention my history of chronic clinical depression), that I would be a rather poor fit to the task.

I’m sad, I’m tired, and I wish this day were over.

UPDATE 7:13 p.m.: My friend Carlos sends me a direct message via Discord, right after I posted this blogpost, and we chat for a few minutes. He gives me his cell phone number and tells me to call anytime, and I in turn give him mine. Being an extrovert, I find that even a brief text chat cheers me up. He sends me a hug emoji and we part company. Thanks, Carlos!

So, feel free to drop me a line if you are on one of the many Discord servers that we possibly share. I’m always up for a text chat!