The Metaverse Wishes It Could Be As Cool as Old School Second Life
Mark Zuckerberg will never demo shopping for genital attachments.
Josh Gondelman’s depressing vacation in Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse makes for fun reading. The Metaverse reminds me, as it reminds others, of the nativity of virtual world pioneer Second Life, which is still going after all these years and looks a hell of a lot better than the Metaverse.
That in turn reminded me of the time I spent inside early-days Second Life while writing for Valleywag, the long-deceased and largely deleted Gawker sibling blog. One of many key differences between Second Life then and the Metaverse now is that the former was absolutely filthy with sexual mods you could purchase for your avatar. I also explored various corporate and political presences in Second Life, but the sex stuff really drew users in numbers back in the day.
Before I share the links to these reports, consider yourself warned that the contents are extremely NSFW. The first installment is mostly intact in the Gawker archives, while the second chapter is perhpas better (or worse) viewed on the Wayback Machine because many of the screenshots remain online for your viewing displeasure.
Similarly, please do not peruse the below excerpt if you’d rather not learn about the graphic commercial and technical logistics of virtual sexuality in 2008. On the advice of reader enthusiasts, I spent a good deal of my Second Life tour attempting to purchase a penis attachment. It was … not hot.
Ignorant as I am about the technical side of how such things work -- in Second Life! only in Second Life, I promise -- I examined what seemed an appropriate penis attachment for my male avatar. The "aroused cock cut version" was a "scripted penis with HUD control unit, skin color control, sound, animations, cum, pee, touchable by other players to make you aroused." First off ... SOUND? Is having a great-sounding cock now important, as well as length, breadth, stamina, and sperm volume (judging by favorite spam email subjects)? My attention was diverted by these questions when I realized that two people had materialized nearby and were fucking on the desk next to me.
I backed away in alarm -- what's the social convention here? Was this their house? Would the guy think that I had no penis because I was looking at the penis attachment advertised on his wall? The male disengaged right as I took the snapshot above. While his lady remained bent expectantly over the desk, he walked over to me and said, "Hi." I was so alarmed by this sudden attention that I panicked and tried to fly away. Instead I hit my head on the ceiling and lingered there a moment before awkwardly aero-stumbling through the top of the doorway. After checking to make sure I wasn't being pursued, I hid in a tree.
Certianly the Metaverse will never get this smutty, especially since the avatars are designed to be legless and sexless. But setting aside sexuality, what makes the Metaverse inherently boring is its hypersmoothed, anodyne, manicured, controlled, and corporate vibe. The most tedious aspect of VR enthusiasm is the dream of a world that is 100% programmed and brand-safe. It’s never going to be even half as lively as Roblox and Minecract already are, and those environments are entirely productized. And the sad thing is that all the ways people will eventually figure out how to subvert the Metaverse will be equally boring and tedious, as opposed to the unexpected elements of positive, creative anarchy that make online life (or real life) most worth living.