Sunday, March 22, 2009

and you may be acquainted with the night, but I have seen the darkness in the day

Today is International Talk Like William Shatner Day (in honor of his seventy-eighth birthday). You must see that, if you're any level of fan at all--because it's five minutes of everything! It's got instructions on how to talk like William Shatner; it features anecdotes on his career; it has instructions on how to talk like Orson Welles! It's five minutes of everything!

Go watch. We'll wait. (And thank you, Edward, I would not have known had you not sent that to me!)

Now, then. We pick up more or less where we left off yesterday, today with a comment from Yumi Murakami on Cory Edo's post:

The basic problem is that so much of this plan is unstated so far. We don't know:
- what the guidelines and borderlines for content that must absolutely be moved are going to be;
- what responsibilities avatars and landowners on the PG grid are going to have.

For example, "having a sex bed in your house will not get you moved" - well, that sounds OK - but a sex bed, plus a few emotes, becomes a rape scene. A medieval castle with a set of stocks outside might have them used for sexual purposes or might not, how will LL decide? Will it be based on the wishes of the landowner - which might not be respected by visitors, so a user could still encounter adult content on that land?


It's all in how things are used, isn't it? Say you have an attractive pose bed. It has fluttering curtains, a simple linen counterpane, spiraling mahogany posts. It sits at the top of your house, where one-way glass lets you recline upon it and look out a clerestory window.

You bought the bed because it had full functionality, but now, most of the time you use it for cuddling with your sweetie, or just--as some avatars, including me, occasionally still do--laying down to sleep before you log out.

You do nothing untoward or sexual on that bed now. It has everything, but it's not being used.

So. You're off somewhere far from home. Maybe even far from the grid. Some newb hustler and his blonde bimbette of choice break into your house (not that hard, even locking the doors won't stop some people) and find your sex bed. They start writhing on it with their oiled skins and screaming OMG YES THERE OH at the top of their lungs. One of your neighbors gets ticked off, cams in, sees them--and ARs you.

You weren't even home. But now you've got the abuse report team notifying you that your "adult" equipment needs to go, or you need to move.

Is this plausible? Likely? That's the thing, we don't know. And I'm sure discussion is all well and good, but at this point, shouldn't the Lindens have some idea of what they want done?

Cory Edo fails to get the point again:

Again, Blondin said personal stuff in your own house isn't subject to this. Its a moot point to freak out about. And how do you know the people that don't want to live next to an extreme sex club are in the minority? Compared to the people that actually make a living off the extreme sex scene, I'm pretty sure they're not.

All right, let's take your average Jane Rickshaw (apologies if there is an actual av with that name out there, it wasn't intentional). She's maybe calming down from her days as a surfer blonde, she's looking for new property because her beach house rezoned into a dance club, and part of where she likes to walk along the surf takes her into their music range, and she's just not that into "getting jiggy with it".

Someone tips her to Caledon, and she wanders around for a few days, and talks with some of the residents, and decides the land and the people are just adorable, and she must move in. She buys a little parcel in Mayfair, next to someone's mini-castle, and she thinks she's found her home on the grid.

One day, she's out flying (in a hot air balloon, it was just so cute she had to buy one), and she rises maybe a bit higher than she should, losing sight of the ground below. At 900 meters she comes across a square of dark-pigmented stone hanging in midair, someone's skybox. She accidentally (or maybe not so accidentally) cams inside and sees stocks. And stretching racks. Things with rings and cuffs attached. She's so very shocked, she stands up and plummets to the ground.

She promptly ARs everyone she can track down, and for good measure complains to the Guvnah. And she tells everyone she knows about how shocked and horrified she is.

1. Is Miss Jane wrong to complain?
2. Is Miss Jane complaining about an extreme adult situation that needs to have the owners of said skybox give up their own parcel of Mayfair and move to Pervistan?
3. Does Miss Jane need to move to a more PG-friendly area herself?

Before you answer any of those questions pro or con, for those who don't know, all the sims of Caledon are private estate lands. In fact, the big names in the sex industry--which isn't what Caledon is in the least--nearly all have their own estates at this point. Private estates will not be affected by this ban/relocation plan; the Lindens have said that much at least.

Let me say that again because it sounds vaguely important: Private estates that feature adult content will not be moved, only "adult-themed" mainland ones.

So what's "adult-themed"? To Miss Jane, that skybox--though clearly above 750 meters, as is currently the restriction in Caledon for adult activity--is far beyond what she thinks she should have to deal with. To anyone else, though? That would be everyday happenings in Caledon. If you don't want to potentially be offended, don't be nosy, goes the thinking.

And again, private estates will not have to move. Necronom VI, the Doomed ship, Toxia (originally started, amusingly enough, as a reaction to the factioning and off-balance roleplay in Lumindor), Midian...none of these places are on the mainland.

So what are people complaining about? Escort services, I'm sure; the tackier of the free sex areas that don't have their own islands as well; strip clubs where noobs wander asking for sex and it's a grind and a half to get tipped. But they mentioned violence as well--and that has to go beyond Jessie's redneck elves, doesn't it?

People continue to wrangle, and Cory Edo continues to wrangle back, for the next ten pages or so; there were some fun comments on either side, but in the end, I decided not to go with quoting either.

What I will say about the various parry-and-retreat sessions going on is this: Cory doesn't get it. He's fixated on what the Lindens have said in these five various threads, which all boils down to Stop worrying, stuph in your home isn't a problem, it's just the stuph that goes way over the line, okay? Like rape and killing and stuph. What we all know is something people just don't want, right?

And therein lies the crux of the problem.

Perceive this clearly: I am not playing advocate for damaging places. I don't care who you are, no one wants a rape for breakfast. That being said, however, that's not what those of us against this plan are really most upset about. What we keep coming back to--and what the other side keeps not hearing--is that the definitions for "Adult" and even Mature are iffier than we want. And perhaps more than a few of us are coming to the realization that the definition for "Mature"--in place years now--has always been iffy.

And we're suddenly feeling a very deep unease, because on the one hand, we're being explicitly told--by Lindens--that skin shops and sex equipment in homes won't label anyone "Adult"--but their very own rules say otherwise. It's confusing, it's frightening, and it's angering.

Ananda Sandgrain sums it up nicely:

How would I measure offense? I have no idea, that's why this is such a troubling issue! Better to allow easily-offended folks to move into a gated community at their own option rather than engage in what could be an enforcement nightmare and encourage witch-hunts all over again like we had with the "short av omg age-play" debacle.

And let me tell you, since I was forefront in most of that, spending a large number of days at that time as a short--but I thought mature-looking--doll--trust me, I got everything from warnings that there would be warnings, to death threats--and no, I'm not kidding. Because I had a key in my back and was under seven feet tall, people took time out of their day to IM me and say I should be ashamed of myself for "being seen like that" and should just kill my avatar and get off 'their' grid.

You think segregating "Adult" businesses and individuals--under any definition--will help this situation? What are the Lindens really trying to accomplish?

While, I likely will continue this off and on, the nail in SL's coffin for me was hammered in by Jeska Linden:

Let's be clear here - this change is not about deleting content or controlling behavior. All of the same content will still be available, just located in a different "virtual" location (and still a teleport away!).

This change is about enhancing Second Life for all Residents by giving them greater control over their inworld experiences. It should help to allow a greater granularity of control over what Residents see, and provide the best available method to make Adult content accessible only to those who ought to (and who desire to) access it.


Let me be absolutely clear here: while all of the advertising, media stories, and interviews that have come out of Linden Labs trump loudly and victoriously about Second Life being the place where we can truly live life again--making different choices, doing different things, and by that same extension, connect to more people, expose ourselves to new ways of communicating and interacting...the Lindens do not believe this.

Listen. Listen carefully. The Lindens do not believe that their game is anything more than a game.

Like WoW. Like Runes. Like PSO. Like Ragnarok Online. Like LoTR Online, City of Heroes...

Hello Kitty Online.

Gaia.

There.com.

Do I even need to continue? We are living in a world that its creators do not believe in. "What's the fuss all about?" they will continue to say. "It's just a different port." I mean, it's not like moving matters, it just means you're shifting to another server, right? It's not like you matter, either, right? I mean, you could still be you, in Second Life...or Ultima...or World of Warcraft...or...any other game, right?

It doesn't matter. Here, there, it doesn't mean anything, so why get worried?

If this is really what they're thinking, I can't think of a single reason other than the friendships formed to stay playing their damned "game"! If it's not more than that, why are any of us in there day after day? Though I did give up my premium membership over their complete and utter mishandling of the Homestead situation, I was contemplating reacquiring it. Now, I can't think of a single reason, including those friendships, why I would.

This is a very bitter place, and I'm going to get away from it soon, because it's very much like bathing in acid while eating tin foil, sharp and disturbingly painful. But right now, all I can think of is--why are they even bothering asking our opinion, if this is what they think of their game? Why not just eliminate adult content entirely, one mouse click, and they can have their "better world"? I mean, it's not like it matters in any way. After all, none of us are real...

When Runes of Magic loads, or one transports within the system to any other location, there is a transit screen with a bearded, strong-thewed Nordic warrior, the scantily-clad lady mage behind him casting powerful bolts from her outflung hand, as monsters encroach. They use this screen to pass on handy tips from the company, as SL does with its load-in screen.

One of their tips is in the nature of a reminder, to remember that every player we see and interact with is a real human on the other side of the screen, so be polite. Be nice. Remember what may seem like a mortal slight or a grievous emotional injury here may not be read in the same way by that other human, so keep it in mind.

I think the Lindens have forgotten we're real people on the other side of our screens. I think they've lost all perspective that we're not just little plastic people with fake names, animated by whimsy and will.

And that, if nothing else, is what will kill this "game". Because if it's just a game, then there's no real need for any emotional--or financial--commitment to it. After all, there are more games out there, aren't there? I mean, none of this actually matters...it's just pixels.

But to some of us, it matters. It matters greatly. Too bad the Lindens aren't listening...yet again.

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