Photograph inspired by the music video, “Scared to Be Lonely,” by Martin Garrix & Dua Lipa.
The last several months, I’ve been doing a lot of internal work, and one of the things I’ve struggled with has been trying to find the good in some of the things in my past that seem to get me lost in memory and in melancholy.
But, today, it happened.
Growing up, my brother and I weren’t allowed to watch television, though we found ways around that often. It was a religious thing, and something my father later decided was a bunch of bunk … but from the age of zero to 16, there wasn’t one in our house.
This doesn’t mean there wasn’t entertainment in our home; we weren’t one of those families that memorized Leviticus on Saturday nights for fun, but … entertainment was different. First, I found my love for reading during childhood, and often bought boxes of books and comics at flea markets and garage sales during the summer and devour them on lazy, hot days.
We also listened to … radio. Not country/western; not gospel on Sundays … nothing like that. Since “radio” wasn’t a sin like that “one-eyed devil” (television), I would sit in front of the radio at home and turn the station to our local NPR station after school, and once All Things Considered was done for the evening, I would listen to whatever “Old Time Radio” program they had dredged up from the vaults. You may not know, but before TV was king, ABC, CBS, and NBC got their start providing the nation with radio comedy, dramas, soap operas … pretty much the same thing they do for television now, except you had to bring your own imagination. These weren’t books on tape … it was scripted drama, with sound effects. Imagine movies, or your favorite TV show … now imagine listening to it with your eyes closed.
I was fortunate that this retrospective renaissance was a “thing” during the mid-to-late eighties on public radio. While kids my age were watching The Cosby Show, Knight Rider and MacGyver, I was in front of my dad’s stereo system listening to Suspense, Screen Director’s Playhouse, Fibber McGee & Mollie, or Our Miss Brooks. Yeah, you’ve never heard of them … but if your grandparents or great-grandparents were American, this was their TGIF on Friday nights. I knew Agnes Moorehead from radio long before I heard a snarky word from her on re-runs of Bewitched.
To capitalize on this fad, NPR dabbled in radio plays themselves, or rather … they rebroadcast audio dramas from BBC (who never stopped producing scripted radio entertainment), and CBC. My favorite was a Canadian horror radio show called Nightfall. Think of “Twilight Zone” with your eyes closed. Today, I listened to an episode from their archives. “Child’s Play” was the episode; and although I hadn’t heard that story in 25 years, I was amazed at what I remembered, and what dialogue I quoted along with the actors.
My first exposure to Star Wars was an NPR/BBC production of the trilogy over a period of years. One might think I missed out by not watching those movies as a young boy in the theater, but did I? The sound affects were just as spectacular, and it was recorded in LA, with some of the same actors. The original film series was six hours and some change … the radio adaptation was over 14 hours, the story being fleshed out to a great deal more detail, and played out over several weeks to introduce a new generation to public radio. Having seen the films now several times, I still think I got the better end of the deal as a child – being forced to exercise an imagination that wasn’t limited by George Lucas’ mind. Ditto with BBC Radio’s 26-episode version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Eventually, I grew up, left home, and left my original faith. It’s easy to look on many aspects of those years with sadness … but that one part, that one small part, somehow was better for me than if I had a different experience.
No … I wasn’t robbed. I was blessed, even if it was only accidental.
You remember what it was like when you joined Second Life … how it took up all of your spare time for a couple of weeks at least; how you told a couple of people at work about it, and they just looked at you as if you had fallen off the back of a truck. You loved this new exciting world, and you couldn’t get enough of it.
But, then, you realized that everything you really liked doing – dressing like a Hollywood star, living in a mansion – all cost Lindens (L$), which despite a 255-270L$/USD exchange rate, still cost a lot of money for what you wanted to do.
So … you were at a loss. If you were (or still are) a natural cheapskate like me, you found it difficult to justify spending $50, $75, $200-$300/month in a virtual world living like the Crown Prince of Monaco, regardless of whether you could afford it or not.
You started looking for things to do … things you were talented at that you could make or sell for cold hard cash. No one would think you were desperate (and you may not have been), because creativity is highly valued in Second Life. Creators are king; more popular even than many of our DJs.
Then you realized that sleeping through High School art class was really cramping you out now. What could you possibly do that wasn’t connected to 3D modeling or *Sign of the Cross* … scripting? There was only one other arena … entertainment/adult entertainment, and things weren’t necessarily looking up for you there. When your DJ bestie started talking about streaming subscriptions and live mixing, your mind turned to mush. You may have a decent singing voice, but stage fright has always kept you from moonlighting at the country club.
Eventually, you found a space somewhere as a club host or dancer, or managing someone else’s properties, and while it may not have exactly provided you that virtual Life of Riley, you realized it could provide you a decent sized parcel for you and your family (or your hookups), plus some decent cash left over for an outfit or two a week. You did the math in your head, and the economic Puritan in you reveled at the thought of living in SL on other people’s money rather than spending any of your own … though it meant the end of your private sim and endless fatpacks if and when you finally decided to pull the lever and downsize.
So … what is that magic amount? I’ve thought about this a lot: I’ve only wanted to spend what I could earn inside, and having to buy a single linden made me feel the same way I used to feel using cheat codes on The Sims. It was almost like breaking the rules!
Lets go to the drawing board! So, if this involves working, most people aren’t able to replicate a 40 hour week inside, or if they are, they’d really rather spend that time doing other things. But, if we drive ourselves to it, we can generally work a couple of evenings a week for other people without it feeling like the Orcs of Mordor. Most club work falls in two-hour increments, and since doubling that would mean us working somewhere four hours a week, we can get away with calling this a typical work week for most people in SL (who have jobs and lives outside of this world – no shade).
So, if you’re working four hours a week, what are you hoping to be able to buy? At least one week of rent, and at least enough cash for a full mesh outfit per week … and maybe a little left over for event tipping. With cheap rental land at 0.95 to 1.50 prims per linden, you’re likely going to settle for something hidden away on a nondescript sim that gives you about 1000 land impact (prims) for about $1000L per week. And since a new outfit can easily cost the same (with accessories, and not buying a fatpack), your wardrobe expense can be about the same. Not adding any allowance for tips (hey, you can do that the week you decided you didn’t wanna shop), a minimum survival/comfort budget in Second Life is easily L$2,000/wk.
If you’re only willing to work about 4-6 hours a week in SL, the math is rather simple. For the lessor, you have to find something that will pay you about 500$L per hour. If you’re willing to push your productive time in-world to 6 hours a week, you’re gonna have to find something that easily pays you about $350/hr.
Income like this is not foreign in SL’s club environment – depending on the club, and how popular it is, or depending on how much of “you” you want to put on the market. If you’re super creative, it means you only have to sell enough items a week to make the same in Marketplace (more if you have an inworld store).
Market forces are alive and well on our flat planet that the news media forgot. And in doing so, it has set a living/minimum wage at about 350-500$L per work hour/ per week. Obviously, there are people whose real life circumstances give them more time (or who don’t have the same mental hang-ups as I have about buying Linden) … but overall, it can be relatively easy to work, live, and play without killing yourself in a way that also allows you to keep up with the virtual fashionistas … to some degree.
Now … we need to start thinking about virtual social security!
What do you think? What do you think is the minimum amount you could live comfortably in Second Life?
When social areas in Second Life began to discover ways to boost attendance, they recognized that the higher their average traffic rate was, the higher placement their arenas tracked in SL Search. As SL grew, these business owners realized that this was quickly becoming a mode of survival – if they weren’t on the first page or two of SL Search, they probably wouldn’t get seen at all – regardless of how clever or inventive their establishment was.
SL Merchants came up with a new invention, the “Camper.” They would create (or buy) devices that avatars would hop on and farm anywhere from 1-3 lindens every thirty minutes or so. It created perpetual traffic since SL’s traffic counter algorithms were more interested in time than number of avatars.
Some actually used them for more than one purpose. In a retail store, a “camper” might also be wearing recently released clothing (and have a more attractive title, “model” or something of that nature).
Over time, campers were mostly replaced by a much cheaper solution: bots, but that doesn’t mean those that parked on benches for hours ever left … they just evolved into something else … the Linden Lounger.
The main source of income for these former bench-bots has been for some time to go from club to club in search of paid-contests and linden bombs. A few years ago, they practically ruined the themed-contests at many LGBT clubs … all they had to do was enter, then plop their alts in one by one during voting to cash out the top prize, whether they were dressed in theme or not. Savvy business owners retaliated by requiring group membership to enter, a certain amount of time at the club to enter or vote, and were forced to evict people from the contest who weren’t in costume. Many stopped contests all together.
Don’t get me wrong … the themed contest isn’t extinct, it just hasn’t been worth the hassle for club owners interested in growing their clientele.
As linden bombs began to replace contest boards, these ex-campers found a way to maximize their wins with this new system. True, attendance had replaced voting … but their new hack was to front-load parties with as many of their alts as their PCs, laptops, and smartphones would allow, stand them in the floor, and come back two hours later to count their earnings.
This has created a conundrum for many establishments: How do I create exposure/traffic for my club in a way that benefits clientele, and doesn’t alienate them?
First, we have to look at who these loungers are. In general, they are:
- SL residents without an external source of income
- Aren’t really interested in the club/party scene
- Generally have poor internet connections, and low-end computers
- They’re only present to farm lindens for roleplay or to cash-out (there is a higher distribution from emerging countries than occurs in overall SL population)
Top 8 signs that one (or more) of your attendees is a linden lounger:
- Generally present for every “funded” party at your establishment
- Generally only absent for unfunded parties, or when a higher-payout party is happening at the same time.
- Wears the same outfit for weeks or months (sometimes years) on end
- They generally dress shabbily, or are less likely to have mesh body or wardrobe components. More likely to be in system bodies with very cheap clothing.
- Enters the venue clumsily, without direction, often bumping into other patrons
- Will center themselves close to the stage, or known linden sentry pathway. These loungers will usually cluster close together in the center of the party area.
- Usually won’t dance, tip, or participate in the party in any other way
- Will sometimes TP in other avatars who meet the same criteria, sometimes having variations of the same name.
Pros and cons of allowing Linden Loungers to participate in your venue:
- The only positive is that they add to your traffic count (and this is the big positive). While traffic isn’t the main component that drives search results anymore, it still is a psychological enticement for weekend parti-goers who want to attend a “happening” party. A crowded floor encourages that assumption.
- They reduce prize earnings for preferred customers,
- They tend to hog prime dance-floor space, creating an ugly “newbie” looking clump right in front of your DJ,
- They are perceived as rude since they will “click to enter” right onto their preferred “lounging” space, often bumping, landing on, or moving into the personal space of your preferred customers. This creates a negative perception to your preferred customer who may elect to TP to a club or party without a contest or linden bomb.
- They create artificial validation for the “success” of a party since they only attend for the linden bomb.
Whats a reasonable solution? Getting rid of them altogether is counter-productive to traffic. I have also seen some of these loungers start to participate minimally to create goodwill (and prevent getting kicked off). Some are beginning to tip, although this is still minimal.
It can be a symbiotic relationship, but not without active effort. If you’re a Linden Lounger, you should immediately do the following to disguise your efforts, and to give a little back to the club you’re reaping from:
- Spread out. You’re just as likely to win 10m from the stage as you are right under the DJs crotch. If you’re going to TP in 5 alts, spread them out, too. Fill out their profiles so that it looks like they actually participate in SL.
- Try to fit in to your environment. Look at what other people are wearing. Try to emulate that. Ask people at the club where to buy the items they’re wearing – and spend some of your earnings on 2-3 outfits that you alternate.
- Wait until you’ve fully rezzed to enter the club. It’s just frigging rude when you don’t.
- Develop relationships with people in the club. Make friends. Pay attention to at least part of the party. Don’t be such an obvious gold digger.
- Tip your DJ, host, and dancers, unless you don’t win anything, of course. Spend 25-50% of your earnings on this. It will create the perception that you’re not a nuisance.
For club owners/workers, here’s a few things you can actually do as well:
- Make a list of presumed “linden loungers.” Make it official when you’ve validated this with other club workers. Share your list around the club. DON’T ban them or call them out, but use it to interact with them during the party.
- Remind those that are stalled and slumped over to wake up and dance. If you know the “main” lounger – make sure that’s who you’re talking to, especially if you’re having to discuss several of his alts. If they don’t start dancing after three warnings, kick them out.
- Ask them nicely to spread out. The club is for everyone, not just the obvious feeders.
- Encourage their evolution and growth. Some of these people actually can transform to preferred customers, but not in environments that are condescending or uninviting. Ask them what music they like to listen to. Invite them to go shopping with you one day.
Did I miss anything? Let me know your thoughts about “linden loungers” in the comments below, and how this issue should be managed.