Humble endings

leaveMuch as i hate to follow the crowd, it would be terribly remiss of me to ignore the biggest sl news story of the year so far, which was not so much broadcast, as mumbled from source to source, like some enormous game of internet Chinese whispers. Then again, how else would we expect Rod to tell us he was leaving? If there’s one thing we’ve learned about him over the past three years, it’s that communication with end users is not exactly a strong point! And, since Mr Humble is at heart, very much a games person, it seems eminently suitable that news of his moving on should become some sort of game: from spilling the beans on Facebook… a few loaded words to influential bloggers… then watching the ripples spread out, as bloggers, commentators and forumnistas took up the refrain: “Rodvik is leaving!”

i imagine it must have made a very pretty pattern as the news spread outwards, and Rodvik does like his patterns – it’s no surprise that part of Rod’s legacy – one of the Lab’s first forays into the big wide world outside sl – should be called just that. Indeed, his legacy is an interesting one – it’s no secret that i found it difficult to suppress a groan of displeasure when he first took over the reins, and i didn’t really give him much of a chance: before he was two weeks into the job, my scathing disrespect for him was pretty obvious. At the time, i was convinced that we were on the slippery slope to ‘The Sims – Remixed’, and for those first couple of years that the man with the senator avatar was calling the shots, it seemed that i wasn’t far off the mark with my misgivings.

rod_001But that has all changed. Rodvik surprised me. SL seemed to hit a turning point last year – long awaited, (and when i say ‘long awaited’, i mean many years of waiting), improvements to sl started to become reality, and that’s a trend that has continued to date. We’ve started to see a somewhat more communicative Lab and even, in recent months, a Lab that has started asking us – the end user – how sl should be improved. Certainly, we haven’t seen a return to the golden years, when the Lindens walked amongst us and we could even count them as our friends, but it’s a definite improvement over the stony silence we endured after ‘last name Residentgate’ destroyed all trust between ‘us’ and ‘them’. Actually, i’d even go so far as to say it’s something of an improvement over the somewhat slapdash, and occasionally, weird approach to communication that the Lab employed prior to that unseemly disagreement.

Overall – and this is what surprises me – i’m quietly impressed by what Rod has achieved. SL itself, is definitely a hell of a lot better, in both performance and features, than when he took over. There are those, of course, who insist it’s the worst it’s ever been, but i have a sneaky suspicion they haven’t actually set foot inworld since 2004. Similarly, Linden Lab – although we have no metrics to measure how well the company is doing – is certainly not struggling. Any company that can continue to maintain and develop something like sl; that invests in churning out several new products in its portfolio, in rapid succession – products which are very much experimental and unlikely to make money; and, on top of all that, manages to acquire new talent along with a couple of complementary – and thriving – businesses, cannot possibly be considered anything but prospering. Forget the argument about sims closing in sl – Linden Lab can comfortably live with that because they’re no longer a one-trick pony and what they learn from their investments in other strands in the sector is likely, ultimately, to shore up and perhaps even revitalise any ailing parts of sl.

Herein lie Rod Humble’s strengths – he isn’t, and patently never was, an sl man and that – though it irks me to admit it – has been the Lab’s and sl’s salvation. Unlike you or i, who eat, sleep and breathe sl, to Rod it was just a product: a product which, in the big, bad world of games and technology, struggles to hold its own – and to have that approach is not inherently a bad thing. He understood that the Lab needed to diversify and strengthen, but in ways that us residents would neither agree with, nor prioritise, because we are blinded by our sl-tinted spectacles that preclude anything that belongs the wider world. Sure, he stopped speaking to us – but what did we ever have to say that wasn’t inward-looking, parochial and short-sighted? Unlike most of us, he didn’t have that sentimental attachment to sl – he had no qualms about calling it a ‘game’, or a ‘product’ and, at the end of the day, it’s done us little harm, and mostly good.

It’s not all perfect – there are many still smarting from the TOS changes and i’m sure we can all find something to criticise about the way he’s conducted his tenure as CEO, but overall i think he’s done us a whole lot of good, and whoever follows on will find it a difficult task to fill his shoes. i wish them luck.

rodvikHowever, my overwhelming feeling about the last three years is one of bemusement. Rod Humble has been something of an enigma, and i don’t think that i’ve ever really understood him as well as i think i’ve understood those who came before him… i can’t help thinking, that there’s something about the guy that has simply never ‘clicked’ with me. Perhaps, Rod Humble, for me is best summed up by that odd image he eventually chose for his profile: i’m sure most of us never realised exactly what it was, and just like the Voynich Manuscript, i can’t help thinking that Rodvik, all along, wished to remain enigmatic, indecipherable and very different from anyone we’ve experienced in Governor Linden’s chair before.

You know what? i’m going to miss him, and i think sl will too.

Good luck, Rod!

s. x

It’s difficult to say goodbye after only one life
The rain will fall down replenishing all of our broken dreams
And this burning tree that’s withering will bloom again
Would you believe
Goodbye, goodbye
Plankeye – Goodbye

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