The thought crossed my mind as I was sat, waiting for a train, at a rather disagreeable station, located in a less than salubrious part of a rather dingy and lacklustre backwoods town. Opposite me, a youngish lad, thumbing through his mobile phone, which was pumping out some unknown ‘tune’ in a thin, tinny, and overwhelmingly uninspiring fashion. Putting aside the actual ‘music’ (for want of better term), my overriding thought was ‘That sounds really crap!’
So often today it seems that people are willing to settle for less than optimum quality, even though there’s no earthly reason that they should. Despite technology allowing us to experience our pleasures with the greatest clarity and quality than has ever previously been possible, it seems that we are more than happy to sacrifice this for portability and convenience. Of course, this makes perfect sense when we’re out and about, but all too often we’re equally willing to put up with less than best when there’s absolutely no need to. How many of us, for example, still turn to a phone or similar to listen to our favourite songs at home, despite the expensive music system lurking in the corner of the room. I’ve even know people watch a movie on their phone, whilst a massive 4k flat screen languishes unused in front of them!
It strikes me as very modern phenomenon. If I look back at my own younger days, high fidelity was very much high priority – as a music-loving kid, I vividly remember saving for months to buy my very first HiFi tuner/amplifier, (none of those rubbish all-in-one midi systems for me!). It was back in the days when Boots – yes the chemist – sold good quality audio separates, many of which were actually Philips, Pye and Aiwa builds with the ‘Boots Audio’ branding – just how good the kit is can be gauged by the fact that it’s still in almost daily use many, many years later, still giving top notch performance. They don’t make ’em like they used to! I used to build my own loudspeakers too, and the thought of listening to music on anything less than the best, or as close to the best as I could manage, simply wasn’t an option I’d consider.
Settling for second best has never really been my thing, but in order to appreciate quality, you really do have to understand what you’re getting in comparison to the alternatives, which is why I’m often confused by the stance that some people constantly take when it comes to SL.
Take the all too common scenario that sparks a flood of online commentary, along the lines of: ‘SL is dying’; ‘People will leave en masse for other platforms’; ‘No-one will stay in SL faced with such high tier/the Linden’s attitude/blatant content theft/broken features/old technology (pick any one – they’ve all been used ad nauseum). The scenario itself is pretty much irrelevant – it could be a new SL feature, the removal of a feature, a change of TOS, the Lab mentioning Sansar… The list is endless – the public response is always the same, a bunch of people saying how much better their own favourite alternative virtual world is than SL, and how everybody should move there and abandon SL for good.
You see, I’ve tried out a number of the alternatives to SL, and whilst some are very good, most undoubtedly offer better value for money, and the majority give you far more freedom to shape your virtual world as you wish, I’ve yet to find anything approaching the quality and fidelity of SL to date. Certainly there are some glossy, shiny platforms out there – but they come at a price, and that price is rampant commercialism, little freedom of expression, and expensive incentives. Then there are the SL clones – they may look the same, but in terms of content and scope SL leaves them standing, with many lagging years behind our own virtual world, technically and qualitatively – and, as for concurrency… You could explore some grids for days and never come across another soul.
Back in the day when virtual worlds were the greatest thing sinced SLiced bread, SL was streets ahead of the game and the last word in cutting-edge. These days, in comparison to how we perceive technology to have progressed, the temptation is to dismiss SL as ‘old hat’, past its prime and a bit of an embarrassment, to be honest, but the truth of the matter is that when compared to its peers, SL is still cutting-edge and – unless you know anything to the contrary – it is still the best!
What about the new kids on the block: Sansar and High Fidelity? These will undoubtedly be worlds apart from SL in terms of technical prowess and capability, but even they – initially, and possibly for a long time to come – will lack the social and economic maturity that has been achieved in SL. No, people won’t be leaving SL in their thousands to sign up to the new, trendy alternatives – they have invested their time, energy and money into SL for far too long just to wave it goodbye and, at the end of the day, we love the place just too damned much to give it all up for a platform where we’ll have to become noobs all over again, without even knowing what we’re dealing with.
Personally, I’ll stick with SL for now – old, it may be… but it still works, and to me it looks as good as it ever did.
I wish I had a bottle
Right here in my dirty face to wear the scars
To show from where I came
Manic Street Preachers – A Design For Life