Maybe that’s a bit deep and philosophical, and not nearly specific enough, so let me clarify a little: Why do we choose to involve ourselves in sl?
My question is prompted by a comment i recently saw, along the lines of ‘the only reason I’m in Second Life is for the money – if I wasn’t making money, I wouldn’t be here’ – when i read those words, i realised what a large gulf exists between the person who wrote them, and myself. There are indeed a large number of people for whom sl is a strictly business matter, and i can completely understand that if sl is your primary source of income, or is perhaps a financial buffer relied upon to supplement your earnings, your attitude towards it is likely to be very different to that of someone for whom sl is just a simple pleasure or a fun diversion from the daily grind. If indeed sl is your daily grind, you’re probably not going to relate to sl in the same way that someone who pops inworld solely for pleasure is going to.
It’s an interesting dichotomy, and one of the ways in which sl really does define one of the distinctions between a mere game and a platform that can indeed mimic the real world on a fundamental level. Just as in rl, we have a virtual consumerist society whose needs are met – in the main – by suppliers, ranging from the hobbyist dabbler, right through to the business moguls at the head of vast commercial empires. There’s a whole supporting infrastructure of creators, component and template manufacturers, reviewers, promoters, resellers and franchises which enables the flow of supply to meet demand, constantly generates new markets and explores and promotes current trends and fashions. Whereas in some gaming environments there are vibrant in-game marketplaces, there are few – if any – as well-developed or as lucrative as sl.
The vast majority of money-making in sl is of the low-level, ‘pocket-money’ variety, where breaking-even would be the point at which your ‘production costs’ are fully covered and success might be considered making sufficient profit to pay your way in sl without having to top-up from your real world resources. It is commerce of the ‘playing shop’ variety and is in many cases just a natural, logical extension to the sort of things that we enjoy and would probably do irrespective of whether we were making money from out endeavours or not. If, for example, we enjoy messing about with mesh, playing with prims or designing dresses and we’re half-decent at it, why shouldn’t we put our creations on the Marketplace and see if we can generate a bit of extra cash on the side? And many of us do – we’ll never become millionaires, but it’s cool if we can make a few bucks for our efforts. Some will, inevitably, find success that way, whilst others might well set out with every intention of becoming the Next Big Thing in sl shopping and pursue their aims relentlessly until they achieve them.
There must come a point, however, where a shift occurs and sl becomes a means to an end, rather than the end itself – when it becomes work, rather than play – and i wonder how many people in that particular situation are able to truly balance that equation? For my own part, i know i’d struggle – based on my own rl experience, i know that when a hobby or recreational pursuit begins to move into the realms of making money, there’s always a danger that the very things that make the pursuit enjoyable are going to be overtaken by the necessities that making money imposes… what was once a hobby, completed at your leisure, then becomes a chore, subject to deadlines, quality control and the demands of others. The fun goes out of the activity and we become driven by those demands.
It’s for this precise reason that there are aspects of my real world life, about which others have wondered why on earth i’ve never pursued them as business opportunities, rather than recreational pursuits. In the same way, i enjoy writing, but if i was ever to become good enough at it to be published, i can’t help thinking that’s something i’d struggle to come to terms with, and consequently i would hesitate to ever pursue that route, even if it was offered to me. Certainly, writing for fun is an enjoyable hobby, but when your capacity to pay the bills depends on it, it becomes something you can’t pursue just for pleasure, and something you can’t put down when you just don’t feel like it.
And it’s for the same reason that – even if i was particularly good at doing something inworld – i’d have to think long and hard about whether i’d ever want to turn it into a commercial activity. Being creative for fun is one thing; being at the beck and call of customers who have expectations and demands that override one’s own priorities, is quite another thing.
Primarily, i’m here to enjoy myself and i can’t help thinking that could so easily change if my priorities in SLife were to alter. Those who are in sl for the profit are welcome to it, as far as i’m concerned… as for me, well i’m happy just to take things easy, have fun and let others do all the hard work!
Money, get away
Get a good job with more pay and your O.K.
Money it’s a gas
Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash
New car, caviar, four star daydream,
Think I’ll buy me a football team
Pink Floyd – Money