This coming Friday is a bit of a personal landmark for me: it denotes ten whole years in Second Life as Huckleberry Hax. Ten years. Where do I even begin to audit everything I’ve done and discovered in all that time? Don’t panic, by the way, I’m not going to do that. This isn’t going to be one of those posts.
But it got me thinking. Most of the people I knew back in the early days of my SL are long gone from the metaverse now. I hardly ever see anyone of my age around these days. People like me, in fact, are pretty rare. You might even say that we’re special. Shouldn’t there be some sort of recognition for us special people who’ve stuck with the virtual world all this time?
I’m not necessarily thinking any sort of financial or material award, although if Linden did decide to give anyone over the age of ten a free private island, I suppose I wouldn’t argue against that. It’s more of a prestige thing. After all, is it not us long-termers who have most invested in the metaverse over all this time? Is it not us who’ve contributed the most? We’ve created valuable content, from physical items for sale to the fashion blogs that make people want to buy the physical items for sale; from running events to creating spaces that teach and inspire and make people want to keep on coming back into SL to see what the next thing that’s made with it will be. A collection of novels about SL that people continue to read today is also a pretty significant contribution, I would argue (cough). Even the most lethargic long-term resident will have contributed through their purchases or just through their attendance and participation in things going on. We’re all of us in some way shape or form involved in the business of encouraging other people to keep on logging in every day. It’s one of the key ingredients of our virtual world that distinguishes it from any other ‘game’: it changes; new things happen; you’re never quite sure what experiences lie just around the corner.
Ten years of service to the metaverse, then. Come on, Linden: there must be some way in which you can recognise this. I know it’s not like anyone forced me to log in every night. I know I could have walked away completely at any moment of my choosing. I know it’s not as though I’ve not taken anything for myself from any of these many experiences. I’m well aware that I’m indebted to SL far more than it’s indebted to me.
Even so, the ‘SL’ in that sentence is far more than just the facility and the software that Linden provide; ‘SL’ is that for sure but it’s also all the people and the things people make inside of it. If I wanted an empty world to kick around in, I’d make another visit to Inworldz. Second Life is the platform plus the people using it. Our use of the metaverse doesn’t just keep it alive, it grows it.
So I want some sort of long service award. According to employeebenefits.co.uk, the top five long service awards are:
- Gift cards or vouchers
- Clocks and watches
- Electrical goods
- Extra holiday/sabbaticals
- Employer’s memorabilia
Let’s take each of these in turn.
Gift cards or vouchers
What amount of Lindens would feel appropriate recognition for the investment of ten years of my life? A thousand? Ten thousand? A hundred thousand? And what would I spend it on? A new suit? A new mesh body? A new residence? A new piece of land? As an alternative to a cash payment, Linden could offer me a ‘voucher’ of some description that would only be valid for certain types of purchase. “Happy 10th rezday, Huck: have an avatar makeover on us.” That sort of thing. But as I said above, I’m not really into the idea of financial reward. Money is just money. And if Lindens were handed out for everyone over ten years old, think how many ex-residents would suddenly appear by magic back in the metaverse, looking for their payout. No.
Clocks and watches
I imagine the practice of giving clocks and watches as a special sort of long service gift can’t make a great deal of sense to young people today. In The Days Of Yore, however (which, according to most people over the age of 45, were better than modern times in every conceivable respect), what could be more significant as a gift than an item you would look at possibly more frequently than any other object in your possession? I totally get it. Would it work in SL? Well, it’s not really going to have the same sort of impact. A Second Life limited edition clock or watch awarded only to avatars over ten could be pretty cool – and it would certainly be one of the cheapest and easiest things for Linden to organise on this list – but it doesn’t excite me all that much. It’ll probably just end up as yet another forgotten item in my already overflowing inventory.
Why give electrical goods in recognition of long service? I suppose we all buy into a shared belief that electrical goods make our lives either easier or that little bit more luxurious. What would be the equivalent in SL? A bigger patch of land? A higher allocation of prims? It could be argued that Linden missed an opportunity here with their blanket awarding of extra prims to everyone last year: why not keep the prim limit the same and incrementally increase it for residents according to how many years they’ve spent active in the metaverse? In practice, however, this would be a massively complex policy to administrate. Plenty of people in SL don’t own land, for starters; those who rent might feel that their loyalty is being ignored. And what about people who own private sims? It’s one of those ideas that sounds good on initial inspection and then progressively falls to pieces the more you examine it. It would end in war. We must never speak of it again.
It’s perhaps a little difficult at first to see how this could translate into Second Life, though that’s not to say that people don’t take SL holidays. On a couple of occasions in the past I’ve booked myself into temporary SL accommodation for a few days: once in an alpine cabin in a winter ski resort and once in a beach hut over water. In fact, I think the concept of virtual holidays might just be a killer VR application in waiting. I think that’s effectively what SL actually is for those of us who’ve stuck with it for so long.
Of course, holiday as a long service award for a company would just mean a period of time given back to you and there is no real equivalent of that in SL. An exclusive SL holiday package might just have some appeal, however. Linden could set up a private area on the grid and invite SL’s top designers to create a beautiful resort. Attractions could include a museum area with famous SL builds from the past (I would love to see The Greenies again), talks from invited speakers about their significant SL achievements and a lounge where there is always at least one Linden about to chat to. On reaching your tenth rezday you would receive a golden ticket for a week’s stay, redeemable at a time of your choosing. I really like this idea, though I suspect it would cost Linden a lot in terms of organisation and maintenance. A shame. I quite like the idea of us old timers comparing notes on our time at ‘The Linden Spa’ and this being a really special moment in our Second Life journey.
In real life, employer’s memorabilia could include pins, engraved pens, cufflinks, mugs and so on. Translating this into Second Life stuff, we find ourselves conceptually not all that far away from the commemorative clocks and watches I dismissed a few paragraphs earlier. Except that that position would be assuming we’re only talking about virtual memorabilia. Why not include real world physical memorabilia also? This might sound like an expensive option, but it could be a lot cheaper than you imagine. I mean, we’re obviously not talking real world gold pens here. We could be talking about something as simple as a physical tenth rezday card or certificate from Linden. Call me old fashioned, but I love adding stuff like that to my memory boxes.
There will be some people, of course, who categorically don’t want something like that (for example, anyone who doesn’t share with his/her co-dwellers that they visit SL), so it might be a good idea to make this something you can opt out of. This brings us back to what it might be possible to receive inworld rather than outworld. I think I have an idea.
I said earlier on in this post that this is really a prestige thing. It doesn’t have to cost Linden a cent, I’d just like some sort of recognition that the time I’ve put into SL is significant and appreciated. As it happens, Linden already have a rudimentary system for identifying different categories of avatar: the colour of dots used on the mini map to identify nearby people. Most of these will be green, but anyone on my friends list will be yellow. Lindens will be blue. Anyone I’ve muted will be grey. And I believe that Moles are purple (I seem to remember seeing this at an event I went to where a couple of Moles were present, but I’m unable to find confirmation of it on the web). So how about an extra colour for anyone over the age of ten?
Critics might well argue that such a plan reeks of and only encourages elitism. They’d be right, and on most days I’d agree with them. The difference here is that I stand to benefit. So there.
An orange dot would be good. Pink would be fine. Better still, combine the two and have peach. The peach dots would be the veterans, the oldies, the guys with all the experience, the residents who complain the most when things get changed or if they feel in any way disadvantaged; the most resentful, the most angry, the residents most likely to think the metaverse owes them just for continuing to show up. You see, everyone would benefit from such a scheme. We Peaches would wear our special colour with pride… And everyone else would know precisely who to avoid.
Maybe I’ll settle for the watch. Happy rezday to me.