(file under long and boring)
last week lordfly digeridoo raised the topic of players charging real life wages for second life work in the second life forum (link
). this was a few days after i privately gave him some friendly advice to not cut off his own nose by publically undervaluing his abilities when the market is ready to support more (link
). he asked how much he should charge and whether this was fair. while many supported the idea, there were also many that thought it was a ridiculous proprosition. the truth in this matter is that real life wages for virtual world work has been a part of SL since 1.2. however, architects, a content creation industry to which lordfly belongs, just happen to be as incredibly undervalued in second life as they are in everyday life. moreso.
players do indeed make real life wages from SL if they are not architects, fashion designers like nephilain protagonist, skin texturers like munchlower zauis, land traders such as anshe chung, and certainly vehicle and weapon makers like francis chung, make tremendous returns for the time spent tinkering in a game. these players invest a lot of time and energy into their SL products and services and often at risk, to provide 3rd party content and services to the player community. surprisingly though, in a 3d virtual world, those that arbiter the environment of SL with the 3d virtual architecture are unacclaimed as succesful content creators.1. the avatar is just a packet of pixels
one reason for this is that in everyday life our physical bodies make shelter a necessity while in second life architecture is but a mere stage set. while north americans by and large live in uninspiring shoe box apartments and carbon copied tract housing and mcmansions, work in just as ininspiring office towers, shop at warehouses like costco and walmart, and fine dine at lovely chain restaurants like denny's and pizza hut in the sea of parking lots due to some unexplicable cultural aversion to good architecture and urban planning, physical necessity requires the services of the professionals that oversee the development of our built environment. in secondlife, a consequenceless game slash visual chatroom that it still is, our avatar has no such needs. shelter is so unnecessary to the enjoyment of sl that the majority of players do not even own any land to build on.2. i need new clothes to go to the club
a second reason for the virtual architects marginalization in SL is its relatively small market. for a player that does choose to have a home or a store, like in everyday life this player needs but a single instance which can provide a wonderful stage set for quite some time. so house shopping is not a frequent activity amongst players. meanwhile, avatar accessories, such as clothing and hairstlye, dynamic content such as vehicles and weapons, and emotive content such as cuddling couches and sex beds are the kind of things that relate directly to the activities that are the essence of SL, those being communicative and interrelative in nature. av accessories in particular, are much more useful in personal expression in SL as they are directly upon the avatar. a house is an indirect expression that is only in play when players playing upon that stage.
due to frequent per capita purchases, fashion designers in sl are able to leverage the mass market to support their income, while architects are not. for this reason it is no surprise that there are dozens of professional quality avatar accessory makers while arguably not yet a single professional quality prefab designer to my knowledge (except perhaps one - neil protagonist -who makes single room sky boxes which just barely qualify as architecture by insightfully recognizing the stage set role of virtual space in SL at the moment).
another thing to consider in the comparision of fashion and accessory design with architectural design is that owing to the av mesh and skeleton, all avs are essentially equal, while housing size demands also vary with the players teir.3. building is fun and therapeutic
a third aspect of SL that i believe prevents skilled builders from finding success is that unlike scripting or texturing, at the beginners level, building is by far the easiest and most accessible. manipulating the basic geomotries is relatively easy, and there is no need for outside support. scripting, meanwhile, for those without any exposure to programming, is like learning a new language. that's great for the kids on the teen grid, but at age 30, unless you can sign me up for a structured course, i'll pass. texturing in photoshop not only has a similarly steep learning curve, there is a 600$ price tag on photoshop to contend with. when a player has to chose between dressing like a noob and living in a nice prefab or having a sexy av and living in the self made baby blue box with seams and with nice cylindrical stone textured tower with a cone on the top in the corner, they will choose the later. not only will they choose it, they will be over joyed with their creation and the feeling of satisfaction, as their childhood imagination takes hold and that baby blue castle is the same one prince charming lived in in cinderella.
after having recieved dozens of tours in the last few years of baby blue light prim castles, shiney
retexture gnu sloped roof siggy romulus freebies (you know what i'm talking about, you all lived in it once), and sprawling flickerful three story peach coloured mansions from proud and jubilant builders nobody could ever convince them to give up their fun and sense of accomplishment in exchange for a technically superior prefab, nor should anyone ever want to.4. zomg i won't pay a lot of money for something fake
and the final reason i believe that virtual architects are undervalued in secondlife is because it's still a world of hobbiests. custom 3d design is a time consuming process and if it is a custom project it is consequently very expensive. given the choice of buying a mediocre 3000 L$ prefab, building it themselves, or hiring someone with actual 3d skills at a rate of 3000 L$/hr right up to 10-15 thousand L$/hr, a player will choose the former two options. this drives builders on the lower end of skill level to work for pittances to enjoy their hobby, and higher end builders to refuse commissions. it's like the internet in 1992. who was hiring professional web designers then for their website?what does this mean for frank llyod avatar?
is all lost for virtual architects then? will sl simply be unable to support a vibrant market for architecture? i certainly don't feel that is the case. i think the market still hasn't been tested with high quality and critical architectural design geared for SL. we have not yet seen the architectural equivalent to the dominus shadow. we are waiting for someone to spend weeks or months on a line of houses that will just blow our minds with their beautiful textures and mindnumbing primiliciousness.
in the mean time, the handfull of top end builders interested in working in SL quitely organize themselves for the next Wells Fargo or some more hand offs of welcome and orientation areas from the chronically understaffed LL art department.