Thursday, February 22

SecondLife, Age-Play, and the Flood Gates

The virtual world SecondLife is easy to dismiss by most folks. To many it appears just to be EverQuest or World of Warcraft without a real game attached to it. But is coming a fascinating experiment of what people do given almost total freedom.

How will the economy develop? (It is all about owning land.)
Who owns something when it is virtual, when the concept is virtual? (That is still up in the air. I would love to see a survey of "creators/sellers" in SL and how they feel about DRM on music and movies and such.)
When vandalism and anarchy become relatively easy and non-punishable and anonymous, will everything slip into anarchy? (A bit but in general folks like order.)
What will people do will freedom to act out their fantasies?

Turns out the answer to that last one is that some people will "play" at child-adult sex.

This should surprise no one. I am going to pass on making statements about sexual fantasy roleplay and how it is healthy in some cases... if everyone is one the same page and everyone is a consenting adult. I'm not going to talk about the dangers of not actually knowing who the person behind that virtual avatar of an eight-year old is.

But I have been expecting for awhile that SL was just a media uproar in the waiting. Companies and musicians and artists have been running to SL as the "next big thing." And so have politicians. It was only 2004 when the media became amazed at Howard Dean's use of the Internet. Three years later politicians see SL as a relatively cheap way to reach people. I am just not aware how many of them realize what also goes one there and that when the media gets their mitts onto it what will happen.

Well, apparently the Dutch have noticed and are looking to take legal action. The Netherlands has laws about virtual child pornography. It's hard to say where this lands. Is there a difference between disturbing pictures/video of adults pretending to be children (and perhaps not telling the viewer it is an adult) and two consenting adults roleplaying? But I imagine that distinction will not be debated with much coherency. As the media, especially the U.S. media start to pick up the story, SL is going to be seen in a whole other light.

It shall be interesting to see how it is covered and how it effects the SL community.