Like so many cultural diversions that seem to have found a welcome niche in sl, gacha is a Japanese innovation that appears to be gradually developing an appeal outside its homeland – particularly in sl, which may not be surprising when you consider gacha’s provenance.
Those who have never played gacha, or felt the need to indulge in its charms, or those of the ‘yard sales’ that spring up in the wake of gacha events, might possibly be bemused about the whole phenomenon – why is it so popular, and what is it about this particular inworld system of vending that can make it such an emotive and enthralling pursuit? And it certainly can be emotive – the furore and bitterness that follows the launch of any new event from participants aggrieved at what they feel to be dishonest practices adopted by content creators, coupled with the backlash from said creators about deceitful practices adopted by those who choose to sell on their gacha spoils, is completely bemusing to the unititiated.
It’s something that baffled me for a while, but it strikes me that the reason both behind the success of gacha in sl and the powerful emotions it inspires, is one and the same. At its heart lies the seemingly universal condition that there are certain things of value we feel we have to possess, ‘no matter what the cost’. The actual value of any object of desire is immaterial: it is the element of desirability that drives our emotions and – often through clever manipulation – instils in us a perceived value, which is an infinitely more powerful driver.
Those things that increase an item’s perceived value often have little to do with its worth – uniqueness, rarity, availability, fashion, peer pressure and the knowledge that we lack what someone else might possess – the ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’ element – are all factors that can easily lead to a skewed sense of proportion and value. It is these drivers that cause a normally rational person to blow their entire monthly budget on an item than is on sale for a limited period only, is a ‘special edition’ or a ‘collector’s item’, and it is – of course – one of the mainstays of the advertising and marketing professions. It’s something that anyone who has brought up a child and had to deal with the arguments about those ‘must have’ trainers will be intimately familiar with. On a smaller scale – but in exactly the same fashion – anyone who, as a child, ever bought a second, then a third, Kinder Surprise egg, simply in the hopes the gift inside would be the one their brother or sister was lucky enough to get, will know the sense of disappointment when we fail to strike gold, along with the fervent and certain knowledge that ‘just one more’ will be the magic number. We forget entirely that our pocket money is paying not only for the egg, but also for the ‘gift’ inside.
That, however, is not the whole story – there’s a darker side to gacha, which in some ways is blatantly obvious, but for some reason, we choose not to dwell on. It’s quite obvious that gacha is a form of gambling – you pay a sum of money in the hope that you’ll strike lucky: the more desirable the object, the more you’ll be prepared to risk to win, and the more frequently you’ll play. It appeals strongly to the risk-taker within us, and equally strongly – and more insidiously, to any latent addictive personality we might be disposed towards. It’s a pretty safe bet, (apologies for the pun), that there are a decent number of us who could be described – in the nicest possible way, of course – as addicted to sl: we have a compulsion to log in whenever we can to the virtual world, and it is precisely this sort of personality that gacha both appeals to and is more than capable of controlling.
And let’s just consider for a moment what makes those items for which we will gamble away our hard-earned lindens so very desirable… Imagine i’m a gacha owner who creates pixel widgets – i stock my vendor with pink ones, green ones, purple ones, orange ones and red widgets. Apart from their colours, they are all exactly the same, except i label the green ones as ‘rare’ – i don’t even have to program the machine to dispense them less frequently, because i know you’ll just keep feeding that cash in just as long as it takes you to get a green one! Even then, you’ll keep on playing, just to get an orange one to complete your collection – you can always sell those eight red ones at a yard sale.
At the end of the day, who’s the winner? Yep – you might have your green widget, but i’ve got all your money!
P.S – Bet you thought i’d be posting about Fartbook’s purchase of Oculus Rift, didn’t you? Nah, it’s a pointless exercise – no-one knows what it means except for Zukerberg and Luckey, (now there’s an apt name, if ever there was one!), and neither is telling… although Luckey does have a few interesting things to say, but let’s face it, you can say anything if you’re a multi-billionnaire! By the way, this blog is also up for grabs and open to bids – shall we say a measly billion quid? Bargain, if you ask me!
‘Cause all you women is low down gamblers,
Cheatin’ like I don’t know how,
But baby, baby, there’s fever in the funk house now.
This low down bitchin’ got my poor feet a itchin’,
Don’t you know you know the duece is still wild.
The Rolling Stones – Tumbling Dice