If you visit the Sansar homepage (and you’re not already signed in with your Sansar account), you will see a brand new, revamped homepage for the five-year-old social VR project:
One noticeable change is the “18+” logo prominently displayed, something which I do not remember seeing before. Wasn’t the age limit formerly 13+? I can’t recall, but I was pretty sure that teenagers were allowed onto Sansar, back in the days when naked base humanoid avatars were forbidden (you had to have baked-on underwear, or your avatar would be removed from the Sansar store).
So, it would appear that the new owners of Sansar are going to allow adult content. This would probably give them an advantage, in that few other social VR platforms currently allow adult content. Let me disgress by explaining how Second Life (Sansar’s predecessor in many ways) handles adult content.
BACKGROUNDER: In Second Life, they have a system where a sim (the basic parcel of virtual land) has one of three ratings:
- General: “A region designated General is not allowed to advertise or make available content or activity that is sexually explicit, violent, or depicts nudity. Sexually-oriented objects such as “sex beds” or poseballs may not be located or sold in General regions.”
- Moderate: “Second Life’s Moderate designation accommodates most of the non-adult activities common in Second Life. Dance clubs, bars, stores and malls, galleries, music venues, beaches, parks, and other spaces for socializing, creating, and learning all support a Moderate designation so long as they do not host publicly promoted adult activities or content and do not use adult search tags.”
- Adult: “The Adult designation applies to Second Life regions that host, conduct, or display content that is sexually explicit, intensely violent, or depicts illicit drug use.”
While generally, Second Life is meant for people age 18 and up, in special cases, those age 13-17 can get in. Those 16 and 17 years old are restricted to sims rated General, while those age 13-15 “can access Second Life through an affiliated organization and will be restricted to the private estate of that organization.” Also, for those 13-15, older SL users won’t be able to access these private estates, except for pre-approved adults affiliated with the organization (e.g. teachers). This is intended to create a safe space for young teens, separate from adult areas.
So, it will be interesting to see whether Sansar will hold to a firm 18+ age rating, as I suspect, or if (like Second Life) they will set up some sort of system to gate-keep adult content, thereby allowing those users under the age of 18 some limited access.
Back in 2019, I wrote an entire editorial about adult content and social VR, which you can read here. Much of what I wrote then still applies today, particularly that adult content can be a double-edged sword! However, if managed properly, it can add life ( and longevity) to a metaverse platform. Whether you like it or not, sex sells!
What do you think? Please sound off in the comments, or join us in the RyanSchultz.com Discord, where over 700 people representing various social VR platforms (and flatscreen virtual worlds, too!) meet to discuss, debate, and argue about the ever-evolving metaverse and the companies building it. More information here.
UPDATE Oct. 5th, 2022: I have been informed by a Sansar staff member:
Just a small clarification, we are adult only but without NSFW content, so it’s still safe for [a] professional or academic setting.
So it would appear that I was wrong in assuming that Sansar will permit adult content. I stand corrected! The staff member, EvoAv, goes on to tell me:
A lot of other things fall under [the] 18+ category, and mixing adult users with teenagers/kids has potential issues of its own. Our users have been predominantly adults throughout Sansar’s history, so we do not see this as a limitation, but more of a safeguard that will allow us to introduce content geared towards adults, just not NSFW, or at least give us the option to change our minds later if we want to allow NSFW content with some moderation in the future.