Discrimination in Second Life Based on Avatar Appearance: Don’t Be a Meshist!


Don’t judge a book by its cover (Photo by Donald Teel on Unsplash).

Is there discrimination in Second Life based on your avatar appearance? You bet. Last October an avatar was banned from a popular music club, seemingly solely based on his appearance.

Yesterday, somebody made a post to the official Second Life community forums bringing up the topic:

People asking for friend but only if you are mesh. This maybe not full racist to you, but just  sub the word mesh to an ethnicity or religion.

One person replied:

Well, mesh isn’t a race, but I understand where you’re going with it. Those people tend to state that they’ve put a lot into their avie and don’t want to look at a sub par one (in their opinion)…I usually just scroll on by if it’s just the mesh thing mentioned. I can’t get butthurt over every stupid thing people write. If someone is that picky about what sort of pixels they want to associate with, that’s on them. There’s too many real issues in the world to worry about, why create more?

And someone had the idea:

Let’s just call it meshism and meshists. It’s a brand new discrimination!

You might be surprised to know that there are actually some places in Second Life that explicitly ask their users to use a mesh avatar. For example, this note appears in the rules notecard of the popular FMD club, which describes itself on its Flickr group page as “Second Life’s sexiest club and lounge”:

No noobish looking avatars. It’s 2017. Get mesh. FMD Staff determines your appearance and if you feel we’re being too harsh, take it up with someone who gives a fuck.

Now, I have been to FMD many times, and I don’t think I have ever encountered a classic SL system avatar there. Everybody has a mesh avatar head and body, and many obviously have spent a lot of time and money pulling together their look. I don’t really know if they do toss you out if you don’t have a mesh avatar, but it’s a bit intimidating.

And the thread in the community forums made me realize that perhaps I, too, am becoming a bit of a meshist. When I visit Frank’s Place, one of my favourite things to do is to right-click/inspect what the other avatars nearby are wearing. (That’s how I find some really great items to buy for myself.)

But I now notice that I am beginning to critique—in my head, not verbally—some rather dated-looking classic avatars. (“2007 called. They want their avatar back.”)

And it’s not fair. Many people who use Second Life can’t afford to shell out forty bucks to get a full-blown mesh avatar head and body, plus associated shoes, hair and clothes. Catwa Bento heads cost L$5,000 or US$20.00. The popular Maitreya Lara mesh body sets you back L$2,750, which works out to about US$11.00. (Honestly, Onyx LeShelle must be taking home money by the wheelbarrow from her Maitreya Lara mesh body sales! Maitreya must have seventy percent of the female mesh avatar body market. And as a result, everybody designs for them. It’s a bit of a vicious circle.)

Avatar fashions change over time. I still vividly remember the pre-mesh days, system clothing and flexiprim ballgowns. In fact, I sometimes pull them out and wear them to Frank’s. Stuff that Nicky Ree made a decade ago still holds up very well today:

Vanity Fair in Red Satin Shine Gown by Nicky Ree 5 Jan 2018_001.png

(All I did here was upgrade to a Bento mesh head—Catwa Kimberly, ka-ching! there’s twenty bucks right there!—and Bento Slink hands.)

What I’m saying here (and what I need to keep reminding myself, as well) is to try not to judge other people by the quality of their avatar. Don’t become a meshist!


Linden Lab Announces a Mainland Price Decrease in Second Life

In a surprise move today, Linden Lab announced that they’ve reduced Mainland land costs by 10%. Here’s a before-and-after comparison chart of the changes (here’s the source if you are having trouble reading the fine print):

Pricing and Allotment Comparison 14 Mar 2018

Another big announcement is that they are doubling the amount of free land that Premium members get, from 512 to 1,024 square metres. So that’s actually a benefit that may entice some people to upgrade to a Premium account. Maybe. (I’ve always thought that Linden Lab doesn’t give nearly enough perks to Premium members. 60 groups instead of 42? Big whoop-dee-do. As an SL fashionista, I need at least 100!)

It’s no secret that Linden Lab is sitting on top of lots and lots of unused/abandoned Mainland, so maybe this is a way for them to sweeten the deal somewhat, in order to encourage more land ownership. I’m rather skeptical that this move will work, but we’ll see. People who were fed up with the high land prices in Second Life either downsized long ago, or packed up and moved to one of the Opensim-based virtual worlds.


Ready Player One: Early Reviews from SXSW Are Raves


The early reviews are in from the SXSW Film Festival, and it looks like Steven Spielberg’s latest film, an adaptation of Ernest Cline’s book Ready Player One, is going to be a hit.

IndieWire: ‘Ready Player One’ Review: Steven Spielberg Delivers Astonishing Sci-Fi Spectacle and Relentless Nostalgia — SXSW 2018

CNN: ‘Ready Player One’ premiere gets cheers, despite technical difficulties

The Verge: Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One improves immensely on the book

Rolling Stone: SXSW 2018: Spielberg’s ‘Ready Player One’ Premieres, Fanboys Go Nuts

And which virtual world has the official Ready Player One movie tie-in? Why, that would be Sansar! (I bet that Philip Rosedale and his staff at High Fidelity are gnashing their teeth.) Aech’s Garage is a lovingly created, beautifully lit, and painstakingly detailed experience crafted by Linden Lab’s Sansar Studios, Intel, HTC Vive, and Warner Brothers, full of Easter eggs referencing 1980s pop culture. It should be a jaw-dropping introduction to VR to many people.

What will be interesting to watch is how Linden Lab plans to leverage interest in the Ready Player One movie into potential user engagement with Sansar in general, and the Aech’s Garage experience in particular. What have they got planned? They haven’t said, yet. (I’m willing to bet they have a second experience hidden away somewhere. They surely wouldn’t let this golden opportunity pass them by.)

This is a very similar situation to the CSI: New York TV show tie-in to Second Life back in October 2007. There was a recent poll of users in the ever-active Second Life Friends group on Facebook, asking how they discovered SL, and a surprising number of people mentioned that TV episode as their introduction to Second Life. Likewise, the Ready Player One movie may become many people’s first exposure to Sansar.

(Then again, I remember that the Second Life tie-in from CSI: NY had some degree of game-playing and interactivity to it, instead of just wandering around admiring the beautiful scenery. Although the situation is getting better (HoverDerby is a stellar example), the lack of interactivity in most Sansar experiences is a big problem in keeping new users engaged and coming back for return visits.)

So obviously, Linden Lab is hoping that the movie will be a success, and will drive people to try out Sansar. We’ll see what happens when the movie opens on March 29th, 2018.


Second Life Steals and Deals: Get a Full Bento Altamura Mesh Avatar Head and Body for Only L$300 at the 2018 Skin Fair

Are you still wandering around Second Life in an old system avatar? Wishing that the more aesthetically pleasing mesh avatar heads and bodies weren’t quite so expensive? Well, have I found a deal for you!

Altamura is offering the Valentina model, a fully-featured, fully-adjustable, Bento mesh avatar head and body package, for only L$300 during the annual Skin Fair! The skin comes with five different built-in skin tones. In these pictures, my alt is wearing the darkest skin tone:

Altamura Valentina 1 11 Mar 2018_001Altamura Valentina 2 11 Mar 2018_001Altamura Valentina 3 11 Mar 2018_001Altamura Valentina 4 11 Mar 2018_001Altamura Valentina 5 11 Mar 2018_001

To get this deal, you must:

The body comes with a number of HUDs. The body HUD has complete alpha, skin and layers controls. The head HUD allows you to change or remove any of the many makeup options. There’s a second makeup applier which allows you to easily change your eyebrows and hairbase to white, blonde, red, blonde and black. There’s also a separate nails HUD for controlling the shape and colour of your nails. There’s an extra animation override just for the Bento hands so you can use it with your older, non-Bento AOs (a nice touch!). And finally there’s a facial expression HUD. You get the whole package!

If you wish, you can alpha out the head using the body HUD and remove all the makeup using the head HUD, and then use your own head with it. (I have tried this body with an Akeruka Bento mesh head and it works perfectly.) You can also purchase an Altamura Omega installer/relay so you can use any Omega products (skins, makeups, tattoos, etc.) with it.

Even better, everything that my alt is wearing in these photos is FREE! The dress and earrings are 7Seas fishing prizes from Sn@tch (all you need is a fishing rod and some patience). The hair is called Evolve, and is a free Gimme Gacha group gift from Analog Dog at the Imaginarium event going on right now! It comes in a full fatpack of colours. And the black high heels are a freebie from Marquesse, available at the excellent freebie store at Ajuda SL Brasil. They come in a pack with four basic colours: white, red, black, and nude. The Altamura bodies have Slink-compatible feet in three heights (flat, mid and high). I have also found that clothing created for Maitreya Lara mesh bodies fits the Altamura mesh bodies well. And of course, you’ve got full alpha control with this body!

And, if you don’t even have the L$300 to spare on an Altamura Valentina head and body, you can pick up a free version at Ajuda SL Brasil! The free version is fully adjustable, but only comes in one skin tone and one makeup version. Look for the big red sign across from some gift boxes lying on the floor of the freebie store at Ajuda SL Brasil.

This special Altamura offer ends when the Skin Fair does, on March 25th, so hurry!


Second Life Versus Sansar: Why Linden Lab Can’t Win, No Matter What They Do

Second Life Versus Sansar

Will Burns of the Andromeda Media Group has written a blogpost about a recent visit he paid to Linden Lab, which is pretty much required reading for anyone who’s interested in Second Life or Sansar (Wagner James Au of the New World Notes blog alerted me to this).

It’s very clear from reading his blog that Will thinks that Linden Lab, or at least Linden Lab’s CEO Ebbe Altberg, is focusing on Sansar at the expense of Second Life. Will says:

Why Linden Lab is so hellbent on pushing Sansar while effectively ignoring Second Life, or treating it like the wicked red-headed step-child internally, is anybody’s guess…

While I was at Linden Lab, I definitely got the feeling that Sansar was the main focus with a near total avoidance of discussing Second Life or its future. It’s technology evangelism at its peak.

As far as Ebbe is concerned, he’s all-in for Sansar while Second Life is … somewhere in the basement level with the engineers.

On one side of the equation I can see why Ebbe would be all-in for Sansar. I’d assume Linden Lab spent a stupid amount of money developing it and couldn’t afford to pull the plug, and so he was likely told to produce an ROI come hell or high water.

Welcome to the board of directors world.

In a way, I’d assess that [former Linden Lab CEO] Rodvik [Humble] made a mess and Ebbe is still trying to clean up and/or salvage things…

As a CEO, Ebbe has a choice to make – He is the captain of the Linden Lab ship, but he also decides what sort of captain he wants to be: Captain Picard or Captain Ahab.

Right at this moment, he’s showing qualities of Captain Ahab, in the blind pursuit of Sansar (Moby Dick). But I believe he’s intelligent and an overall great guy. Smart enough not to sabotage his own efforts and company.

After all, Second Life is still the goose that laid the golden egg. It didn’t die, it’s just being actively starved and strangled by the aforementioned organizational changes and CEOs.

Which is really unfortunate, because I also believe Linden Lab also has some brilliant and creative people there with their hands tied, and who absolutely love Second Life and want to make it better.

My opinion?

I think that Ebbe Altberg and his team at Linden Lab can’t win no matter what they do. If they continue to throw too much time and money at Second Life, Sansar will suffer and they’re betting the future on Sansar. (I’ll bet you anything that none of the dozen people LL recently laid off were working on Sansar.) Yet if they try to promote Sansar, as Ebbe clearly did with Will on his visit, folks who are wedded to Second Life get upset. Or people will say that SL is “being actively starved and strangled”.

Face it: Second Life’s glory days are now behind it. Its heyday was approximately from 2006 to 2008, a decade ago. Its fervent fans absolutely hate to hear people say it, but SL is now merely coasting along, not growing but slowly declining over time, the recent Bento-inspired mesh avatar renaissance notwithstanding. You can see vast tracts of abandoned land when you fly over the continents. It’s still profitable—very profitable—to Linden Lab, but it’s having trouble attracting new users, and the now-dated technology of the platform can only be extended so far. In the general news media, SL is being portrayed as quaint but outdated, and attractive only to those somehow lacking in their real lives, as this painfully-titled recent article from The Atlantic makes clear. (Ouch.)

I can also predict pretty confidently that Sansar’s glory days will lie ahead. I think it’s off to a good start. It only makes sense for Linden Lab to put the focus, the time, and the money on a product which (hopefully) will become the next successful virtual world, the next Second Life.

Virtual reality will only gain greater consumer market share over the next decade (it’s definitely arrived now with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, and it’s not going to go away), and Sansar is being built from the ground up to support VR. Ebbe’s right when he says that he needs to design Sansar for VR first because that’s the hardest bit to get right. That doesn’t mean that desktop users (still the majority of Sansar users) are going to be ignored. It just means that LL has to work that much harder to try and provide feature parity between desktop and VR headset users.

Maybe it’s inevitable that Second Life adherents feel hard done by. Their world is starting to shrink. People are starting to move on. It’s only natural to feel that Linden Lab should be pouring all their resources into keeping SL going forever. But, for better or worse (and I believe it’s for the better), Ebbe Altberg and his team from Linden Lab have made their decision to move boldly ahead with a new, VR-capable platform that will hopefully have a much longer lifespan.

Everybody cross your fingers. We’re in for some interesting times ahead. And no matter what Linden Lab does from this point onwards, somebody’s going to be upset.


Second Life Pick of the Day: Der Keller in 1920s Berlin

I don’t blog about Second Life very often, but today I am making an exception. Vanity Fair paid a visit to Der Keller, a seedy bar in the basement of a building located in the ever-popular 1920s Berlin Project sim (here’s their blog). Proprietress Frau Jo Yardley tends bar, as usual, serving drinks to whoever comes in the door. Radio Desmuke is playing 1920s music.

Der Keller 1920s Berlin 4_001.png
Frau Jo Yardley

Der Keller 1920s Berlin_001.png

Der Keller 1920s Berlin 2_001.png

Der Keller 1920s Berlin 5_001.png

As you can see, all of us are dressed in period 1920s costume (it’s required). Vanity is having a coffee instead of a beer:

Der Keller 1920s Berlin 3_001.png
Vanity Fair in Der Keller

Vanity is wearing:

  • A beige floral casual day dress by Eloise Baker
  • Brown Betty ballet flats by FATEstep (not seen)
  • Meadow hair by Magika
  • Kimberly Catwa head and lipstick
  • Maitreya Lara body and nails
  • Daria skin by The Skinnery
  • and my favourite forest green Darcey eyes by Suicidal Unborn

I’ll leave you with a nostalgic machinima of the 1920s Berlin Project, by Pepa Cometa, set to a song by Marlene Dietrich, Ich hab’ noch einen Koffer in Berlin:

Auf wiedersehen!