Thursday, October 27, 2005

Keeping Tabs on the Worlds

I find myself visiting this site every day, just to scan the most recent additions. Some of the pictures are very nice, but that's not the reason - the reason is that I'm tracking the growth of the culture in that world. I can't play it, but I can still track it - and, given my interest in how the future of on-line play will evolve, I have a vested interest in tracking it.

That, in itself, would make for a very long post if I were to go into detail. So I won't. Instead, I'm going to talk a little bit about what makes a virtual world great. I'll keep it short.

There are a zillion things you can do to make your game better. But none of those matter if you can't get players. In a game where player-generated content is king - like all games I will ever make - there is one kind of player-generated content that is lord and master over millions of would-be players:


It's well known: put sex in your game, your game sells better. Put elf boobies on your EQ box, panting fanboys buy it.

But that's not sex - that's meaningless flirtation. The games have no capability for sex, and usually filter out "naughty" words and actions. This is done out of fear. Fear of the ESRB. Fear of the retail chain. Fear of the millions of worthless baselines who will take offense at anything you care to do.

SecondLife literally embraces sexuality. Every flavor imaginable. But it doesn't force it on you - it simply, like, allows you to participate if you want to. There's no elf boobies shining at you during boot-up, no wangs hanging over your adventures. Sex is there but not pushing, not interfering, not demeaning.

You see, it's not just sex, although I won't deny many players obsess over it. It's the freedom that sex represents. And the freedom not having some idiot teen's standards pushed on you represents. By saying that nothing is taboo and nothing is expected, you prove to the player that this is a world they can live in. This is a "real world", not a child's petty playground. (This is probably why everything the Lindens ever do is met with derision: they have given the impression that their world is "free", so any time they show their power, they are "going back on their word".)

I would bet that more than 80% of the players of SecondLife weathered the painful learning curve specifically because of either the sex or the freedom the sex implied. Not just men - women, too. Not just teenagers - adults, too.

Get over your fears. The baselines can't stop you. Retail chains are a dying breed, and the ESRB dies with them. Even governments cannot stop you. Make a world which is free, and players will follow.

I hope so, at any rate. :)

1 comment:

Craig Perko said...

The Machine City will not have any sex in it...

But a player mod could. I'm ALLOWING it without ENDORSING it. See?