If there is a Universal Truth it is that our lives are built upon Universal Lies. There is nothing particularly nefarious about these lies – we all know they are blatant distortions of the truth, yet we accept and tolerate them without question and still seem somewhat bemused and disappointed when the obvious, equally blatant, truth becomes apparent.
Here are some common examples of the Universal Lie:
- I’ll pay you back next time I see you;
- This won’t hurt – just a little scratch;
- Two generous servings;
- I wasn’t looking, honest;
- You’ll laugh so hard you’ll cry/faint/fart/won’t be able to stop;
- 48mpg in urban conditions
- Flights from as low as £19.99
- Covers in just one coat
That last one is particularly pertinent for me at the present moment, since I’m currently in the throes of redecorating my bathroom. You’ll know by now that I never do things the easy way, and this is no exception – rather than chisel off a whole load of tiles, redo them all, grout and all the other nonsense, I’ve decided to paint over the existing ones… This has meant cleaning and sanding them down, applying a coat of primer and then covering with a specialist top coat of paint. It’s bright yellow, and absolutely guaranteed to cover any surface in just one coat.
As I write this post, I’m currently on my third coat, with a fourth definitely required, and possibly – depending on the outcome – a fifth!
I’m not surprised, I’ve done a fair bit of decorating in my life and no matter what paint, what surface and what method of application I’ve employed, I’ve always needed a bare minumum of two coats, and usually several more to achieve a decent end result. It’s not as if I’m doing anything wrong either – decorating is one of those things that I try not to have to do too often, and I know that whatever I do will remain visible for a while to come; so I try to prepare surfaces properly, use proper materials and good tools, and take my time – besides which, my dad was for many years a professional painter and decorator, so I dare not make a bad job of it!
I guess, like most things, that we live in the real world, not under laboratory conditions, and what ideally in the perfect world would be the truth of the matter – like our ‘covers in just one coat’ – is rarely borne out by experience, and so the Universal Lie is perpetuated. It’s not a blatant untruth, since under specific conditions it may well be true, but for the other 99.999% of the time it’s pretty much never going to happen.
I suppose that the Universal Lie applies to the virtual world too: Take a look at any of Linden Lab’s advertising videos and images for the last 15 years, or indeed for any similar product by any other company, and the hype will rarely be mirrored by the (virtual) reality. Like those movie trailers that only show the explosions and car chases, there’s a lot that’s missed out and nowhere near as exciting. Similarly, there are those advertisements for video games that lead you to believe that they’re almost like reality… Until you spot the small print, ‘Not actual gameplay’! Second Life is no different – the Lab wants to show SL as sexier, sleeker and slicker than it really is, simply because it’s very hard to sell anything on the reality of what you can expect to be getting.
Take a look at this promotional video from 9 years ago, (which seems frighteningly like yesterday!), it’s always been one of my favourites:
Around 90%+ of that video is taking at least a little, if not a lot, of artistic licence. I particularly like the bit where the businessman puts down his briefcase and shakes hands; as if that particular scenario is ever going to take place inworld. (Even if you leave aside the challenge faced by the average user for animating two avatars to be able to mimic that simple activity!).
However, it’s not just the Labbies who rely on stretching the truth a little when upselling the virtual world, if you were to listen to most of the people who spend any amount of time inworld, myself included, you might be forgiven for thinking we were talking about something else entirely. Much as we might think that we’ve become a little disengenuous when talking about SL and that we may think we tend towards focussing on all the points which we like complaining about, we are also pretty good at painting a rosy picture of the platform too. We’ll encourage others to give it a try, tell them about the benefits and good things that we’ve discovered, and gloss over the difficulties, dumbing down the learning curve and in general putting rather a good spin on the SL experience.
I think that it’s all very much part of the same pattern that we fall into in RL. We know what things could be like in the perfect world and we also know that, very occasionally, that’s exactly the experience you can have in SL – but, just like the real world, the everyday reality is quite a bit different. It’s not the deal that we’re led to believe it is, but it’s still perfectly serviceable and pretty much as you’d expect it to be. We are after all, realists, no matter how much time out of the real world we might choose to spend!
It’s like I’m huffing paint and I love it the more that I suffer
Eminem – Love The Way You Lie