Yesterday, i touched briefly upon the sl nanny state and the way in which over-zealous policing of the virtual world can change our perceptions and how we relate to it. There’s another aspect to this theme that i wanted to look at in more detail, not so much because i have particularly strong views about it, although i’m sure there are those of you who do, but rather because as mad and zany as i like my sl to be, there are certain things that i also expect a certain amount of rationality about, and a consistency that i’m afraid i don’t always see.
By way of illustration, i’ll be using those twin demons of social depravity – although that’s probably far too strong a word – that i mentioned in yesterday’s post: Sex and gambling.
no doubt these are both pretty contentious issues for some people – issues about which there will be strong and opposing views, although i’d venture to suggest that in either case there probably isn’t a ‘right’ or ‘appropriate’ stance to take – it’s very much a subjective matter, about which an individual’s feelings are bound to be coloured by which side of an imaginary fence they fall: Experience, culture, upbringing and goodness knows how many other factors are likely to come into play when determining how we feel about either. i think it’s safest just to say that the issues are both contentious and divisive and let you figure out your own position from there!
So, what point am i actually trying to make? It’s a pretty simple one, really – when it comes to these, and other related or equally arguable practices and pursuits, Linden Lab seems to operate a completely arbitrary methodology for deciding what is naughty and what is nice. Not only arbitrary, but also inconsistent and, in some cases, downright indefensible in the face of other arbitrary and inconsistent rulings.
Take gambling – which is exactly what LL did in July 2007… out of sl altogether. The resulting mayhem, as a fundamental economic pillar of the Grid was annihilated in a single policy move was classic… businesses and residents financially ruined with no recompense, hordes of residents leaving and, ultimately, a bank run that wiped out one sl financial institution, devalued the entire sl economy by 50% and caused LL to rapidly rethink its policies on inworld banking, again leading to further virtual businesses going to the wall. Why? Simply because LL got panicky about possible restrictions on internet gambling, none of which have ever become reality. The upshot of this is that you can’t gamble in sl – not even a harmless flutter on the Derby on Lady’s Day… try it and you’re in breach of TOS and will be flogged within an inch of your life, or something.
Now, i know what you’re going to say; gambling can be bad for you; that it leads to all sorts of bad things and is addictive… OK, so can boozing, smoking, doing drugs, shoplifting, enslaving people, stock car racing, eating Pringles and having anything to do with sl – and i don’t see any of those things banned by sl, do you? Oh, and bear in mind that in many jurisdictions some of these actions are not only considered objectionable, but illegal too – did you know, for example, that you can readily pick up items on the Marketplace that are expressly designed to be stolen and to encourage thievery? So, LL is happy to condone theft, which is illegal anywhere in the world, but not gambling which is pretty much legal in most places. And, as for keeping slaves… sl practically makes it mandatory!
Before we go any further, perhaps i should mention that i’m not into gambling at all, i think that it is a bad thing but i do believe in freedom of choice and, it seems to me, that LL have quite effectively denied us that particular right in this instance. Now you may not be concerned about gambling per se, however what happens if LL get twitchy about SOPA and decide to ban the use of all copyrighted material, (music, video, images etc), in sl… will you still feel quite so smug?
How about sex? (No, that’s not an invitation!).
Nothing at all wrong with sex in sl, (provided you can get past the fact it’s not real in any way, shape or form, and whilst you’re having a jolly old time with your better half, for all you know they might well have left the room to do the ironing or something else more interesting). In their wisdom, LL have decided to limit such activities to ‘Adult’ rated land for very laudable reasons – not everyone wants to be bumping into exposed todgers and boobies whilst out shopping for handbags, after all; and we do want to protect those poor, innocent 16 year olds inworld – heaven forbid they might stumble across pixel sex in some form or other. Call me cynical, but i’m pretty sure that any normal 16-year old finding themselves in that scenario would probably fall about laughing, before explaining in graphic detail a far better way to go about it. Any teenager reading this blog will no doubt agree totally, (and, if you are a teenager reading this blog, why on earth aren’t you out having sex, getting drunk and snorting cocaine, like any other red-blooded teenager would be?).
So the Lindens have all the sexy stuff nicely segregated and hidden away to protect the innocent but that’s about as far as it goes… because pretty much anything and everything goes, once you get behind those closed doors, and i do mean anything! There are some practices that are happily tolerated in sl that would get you locked up in rl, and yet the Lindens are perfectly happy to let people get on with it. Coming to think of it, if you could find a way to incorporate gambling with sex, LL wouldn’t have any problem with it at all! (Here’s how to confuse a Linden… Ask them if strip poker contravenes TOS!)
It’s these double-standards and inconsistency that winds me up – i wouldn’t mind if LL grew a set of balls and created some consistent and sensible community standards that were comprehensively enforced, or better still, just let us get on with our virtual lives without trying to nanny us – there are tried and tested, effective processes in place for dealing with objectionable and illegal behaviour: Surely we can be trusted to police sl ourselves? But, to ban some things, whilst condoning others that, it could be argued, are far better candidates for a ban is just nonsense.
What do you think?
It’s my life
Don’t you forget
It’s my life
It never ends
No Doubt – It’s My Life