Thursday, July 28, 2011

Why Second Life is like tabletop gaming...or "Why certain virtual world pundits don't get it."

Ah, those Virtual World Pundits. They make CC laugh. They say things like "zOMG, SL isn't popular and Facebook is so SL should be more like Facebook because unless it has double digit growth every month it's a failure". And then you discover that they spend 12 hours or less in-world...a month. No wonder they don't appreciate the in-world communication tools...they're not in-world enough to use them. And as for 12 hours, I can easily exceed less than a week.

See, what those pundits don't understand is that like D&D. Not D&D Online the MMORPG....but D&D the tabletop experience. Let me explain.

D&D requires a TON of time if you want to do it right. A single encounter with multiple enemies can take up the entirety of a single session. That's not counting the paperwork and record keeping involed. Not only that, but the Dungeon Master's workload is even worse, creating a world, creating adventures, it's a major time sink. It's why there's never enough DM's. And there's the scheduling issues...can you find a time that matches a DM's plus other players? That is VERY difficult

Only a small majority of nerds want to go through that hassle these days...and some can't because of time what do the others do? They play WoW, which although grindy, is no where near as complex as D&D. And you can play on your own schedule and STILL play with other people.

D&D is also need your supplements and books.

D&D is not exactly the most newbie friendly game in the world, it's "UI" as it were is very complex and it has it's own vocabulary and a community that has it's own ideas about things.

Not only that, but that community complains every time some new sourcebook with additions is made or when a new version of the "UI" aka the rules is released.

So what does all that remind you of? SL. Like D&D, SL is a niche, it doesn't have to be Facebook. Those people who only log in for three hours or even a dozen hours a month...they're not SL's market. It's the people who spend a hundred hours a month in-world that are. Even if you're a content consumer like me, you still have to "work" for your fun in SL in a way that you don't in other social things. Most people don't want to do that....they want to start their crops, let the cows do whatever...while they're watching American Idol. SL requires immersion in a way that Facebook doesn't.

Here's an sister does her Farmville, while she watches TV. I wouldn't dare do SL while watching TV. There's people in SL who get in a little bit of a tizzy if they even think you're alt tabbed out in a web browser or in multiple IM/group chat sessions. SL requires attention in ways that Facebook doesn' the Facebook crowd isn't SL's audience and it's useless to pursue them in an obession for "Growth".

SL doesn't need rebranding. What it needs is for the pundits to figure out that being a niche product for a niche market is a fine and good thing in and of itself.


Miss D Ember said...

Had not thought of that particular analogy before but you are spot on. SL might like to be Facebook for ad leverage, but it is niche market of a very dedicated kind.

Thanks for sharing.

Gabrielle Riel said...

Amen CC! :-)

I can not believe the amount of people out there who still consider "niche" a dirty word. They are living in a late 20th Century paradigm. They have missed the boat into the 21st Century, where "niche" is (and will be) what fuels businesses.

Big does not equal better. Big = greedy. Big = catering to the lowest common denominator. But it does not *have* to be that way.

I look at the Niche Geek Empire of Leo LaPorte, his "This Week in Tech" organization. Leo worked for Tech TV in the late 90s/early 2000s. Tech TV went under because its corporate overlords did not think it was "big" enough.

Fast forward 10 years. Leo and his team have created a network of shows (probably 3X as many as Tech TV had) from a base of 500,000 rabid fans. Network TV looks at 500,000 as nothing, and yet it's providing not only a decent living for Leo and his team, but also a far better product than ever existed on Tech TV!

Attempting to compare Facebook to Second Life is like is comparing Wonder Bread to a freshly baked baguette in Paris. Yes, they are both bread, but does that mean they are identical? It's the details that make the difference...the niche.

I don't care what "pundits" say. I look at This Week in Tech, and then I look at my son playing Club Penguin. I am going to watch what he and his peers do with virtual worlds, and I am going to ignore the 40+ year old pundits. I would much rather live in the 21st Century, tyvm!

racingstripes said...

Hey, have you tried the Vision Racer yet?