Betteridge’s law of headlines not with standing, I am really beginning to feel like there is something fundamentally wrong with how roleplaying has ‘changed’ over the last year or so On second life. For those of you who have talked to me in the last few weeks, you’ve definitely heard me say this, bottom line is, I’m not happy, Second Life is not fun for me anymore. And while we’ve talked extensively on why and how ‘we should change this’ I can’t shake the feeling that something is fundamentally wrong, something I don’t know how to ‘fix’.
We could talk for hours on the general issues with the grid, how Linden Labs runs it, ect ect. I’m not going to go down that rabbit hole today. What strikes me, is how the players have changed in the last year or so, and how that change seems to be driving the sim owners/moderators to quit. There is always some turnover in ‘management’ in RP communities, but this year seems to have been very difficult for the owner/operators. I strongly feel there are multiple reasons for this, beyond the high monetary cost of running a sim on the grid, which we have talked about before and I’ll probably touch on here later, there are other stressors at play, Here’s may take, for what its worth:
Player Behavior: (At the risk of biting the had that feeds) When I first came to SL there were very few truly ‘free form’ sims to RP on (Given my 6th Rez day is rapidly approaching I’ve been around for a while mind you), That’s not to say that there were not a lot of sims to RP on, but it was the norm that you played a character specific to that sim, and that characters needed to be ‘approved’ in advance, Sims often used specific meters or races or huds as well. These factors made porting your existing character from one sim, to another of similar genre difficult. Given the expense of outfitting the avatar for playing, and the investing of time into character development, players wanted an easier way to move from sim to sim. In my experience that is more the norm now, characters not beholden to any one sim, but that can be easily played in many sims, in a loose continuum; this is defiantly how we’ve approached RP, both as a player and a sim owner. This has worked out very well for players and gives them much more control over their gaming, it has had some very negative consequences for the sim owners though, which in many ways is not good for the community.
The rise of the ‘homeless’ player, has given rise to ‘homeless’ RP groups. This is both a boon and a bane. Free Form RP has always been a give and take between players, even if one of the players is the ‘moderator’. When people have something invested be it time or money, they are more likely to be supportive of the community as a whole. As players and their non-sim associated groups have become the norm, there has arisen an ‘entertain me’ culture in the SL RP community. Players, and their non-sim associated groups simply move from sim to sim, looking for the moderators to entertain them. This manifests itself in the current “event” based rp. We’re all running events , fight nights, away missions, shooter events, IC classes, sky diving, dances, races, you name it.. we’re even running events for what was certainly the ‘soul’ of pick up gaming, “event” bar social nights, where players come during specific times to rp the type of pickup rp that is really the heart and soul of Free Form RP. And that is really the problem, the pickup day to day RP, that builds the story, creates the background, that really gives the game its flavor, its heart and soul, its gone. Sure you may be able to site a specific example, but in the whole , bye and large, its gone, and its killing the community, and its driving sims out of business.
How you ask? Instead of the sims being cooperative locations for a rich and extended loosely tied together RP universe, we’re becoming competitive for players attention, and for the $L. While this may have always been partially true, the rise of the “Nomad” player and worse the “Nomad” group has moved the community very much in this direction. Players and groups no longer take any responsibility for the day to day function of the sims they play in, they do not contribute, beyond showing up for events. They do not hang out, and generate the day to day RP, following up on the events outcomes. They want to be entertained, they surf the sims, and the group chats and show up ‘where things are going on’, instead of contributing to make things happen. In the past, you could find a group or faction set up on a specific sim, even if they played across many sims, and their presence alone would drive some pick up roleplaying and enhance the community for all involved, this has largely dried up. Now, the sim owners and moderator find themselves under the constant pressure to be responsible not only for paying for the sims, but for running events daily/weekly, to be responsible for writing the full story, providing all the props/sets, we find ourselves responsible for YOUR fun as the players.. and this is fundamentally unfair.
Yes, when I made the decision to open a sim, I know I signed up for both the $$ cost of running it, as well as a certain level of Moderation/Game Master/ Administrative / Management. I’ve been playing for longer than many of you have been alive(30 years, 20 years online), and I’ve been running a sim on SL for almost 5 years now, I ‘get’ it. What players don’t seem to get though, and I’ve talked to many other sim owners and moderators is that in the last year , or two, the player base had divested itself of any ‘giving’. To steal from a very Old Guide to free form online playing guide: ( http://www.ekkaia.org/rpg/orp/guide.php )
Giving: Just as you role-play hoping for a good scene from the other player, they do so expecting a good scene from you. Pay attention to what they say, and their preferences. I recommend writing with the intention of pleasing the other player, and letting them do the same for you. Role-play’s primary draw is that it allows real people to interact in a fantasy (In the broader sense of make-believe, not just elves and magic, etc.) environment. With this in mind, a good goal to set for yourself is making the other person enjoy it as much as you can, and hopefully they will do the same for you. (To make an analogy, you can hug yourself all you want, but a hug from another person will likely mean a lot more.)
There has been a huge drop in ‘giving’ in the SL RP community, both in the player to player microcosm, to the macrocosm of the community (sim to sim) interactions. All I can say, is that personally, on every level, I feel like I am pulling teeth. there is no giving, player’s characters do not interact, at best I feel that my character is a extra or prop in someone else’s story that has no interaction. Sim to Sim, I feel that other sims that we’ve played with have not been giving in their support or time. Its beyond frustrating, its maddening.
The last month or so, its come to a bit of a head for me. My feeling is pretty simple, I pay about $400 usd a month, to either sit in a empty sim, or run events that often get great attendance, or folks really enjoy, but are hours and hours of work to put on, and result in, just an event. I feel that the players have made me personally responsible for THEIR fun. Not only do I carry the finical burden, I carry the full gaming burden, and if I don’t entertain you, immediately, and fully, on every visit, you tp out to another sim, that is running an event, or will spend their full attention on entertaining you – its exhausting, to the point, of being hurtful.
Most of you know, I keep pretty detailed notes and stats. I built the sim, over many years now, to support a wide range of Role-play. We have extensive RP areas for players to utilize from the medical bay, to he market, library, forest and ancient sites, the east landing fields, and extensive underwater area, high port, space docks, public baths, landing bays, ect ect. None of these are regularly used. I might as well open a 250 prim bar, since that is the only location on sim you can seem to find people. Why aren’t these area’s used? Well, because we (the mod team) isnt’ present 24/7 in them. It seems to me, that players don’t actually want a RP sim at all.
Then there is the EXTENSIVE back story that has been developed over the years. Not many RP sims have taken the effort to make the history / back story and lore as accessible to players as we have. We have 3 main locations on the web we post, the wiki, the flicker site, and the botany bay blog. You would think that as they are all interactive, we’d have some player interaction there…but we don’t. The flicker used to have other contributors, but in the last year, they have dried up. The wiki, which by its nature is designed to be .. a wiki, interactive, has had only a handful of pages added since I stopped personally asking people to post on it. And the blog, while less interactive, has many readers, but again, no contributors. This reinforces the whole ‘lack of giving’, players can’t seem to be bothered with contributing in any medium, to strengthen the community, its like we’ve become a bunch of lurkers, who just want what’s best for ourselves on every single level, its not really a model that is sustainable over the long term. I think , players forget, its other players, who run the sims and games, not some giant company like Blizzard that is footing the bill, or paying people to put events on for you. Its players, who have jobs in RL that pay for the sims, players who while taking on the extra work of running the sims, also want to occasionally play.
Bottom line is, I’m not having fun, at all. SL has become a second job, one I pay to go to every night, to generally be abused by people who take no interest in their own gaming, and treat me as if I exist to provide for their happiness and who seem in general to have the attitude that I am ‘lucky’ they spend any time on the sim, because they could TP out on no notice to be elsewhere. To be told “what are you doing for me,” people even ask me for $L, so they can go buy something! .. its madness, and I dont’ know what to do about it.
I’m not saying that I’m closing the bay or anything. But the simple matter is, if it continues being, well, its awful right now, running the sim, then I’ll have to evaluate the whys and how’s of what I’m doing in Second Life. I’m more or less paying for full cost, income is down to about $20K L a month, which is about half of what we were last year. I’m keeping all options open, if we continue to trend down, I’ll look at scaling back, its not ‘about’ the money, but to say that $400 a month out of pocked, to essentially be abused nightly, is hard to justify.
What I’ll leave you is, is this: While how I feel right now is uniquely me, I talk to a lot of sim owners and moderators and the things I talk about openly and publicly (painfully so to be honest) are not unique to me. Look to your favorite sim, where ever that may be, and show them some love, be it with time, or $L, and keep showing that love. Don’t wonder why your favorite sim closes, or your moderator suddenly leaves SL, its getting brutal out there, help us out and show us some love or you may find yourself Rping on mainland next to a club and a hair store soon, because these sims, are run by people, and we can only take so much.