Friday, June 23, 2017

News and Commentary: "Adult Content Won't Be Allowed" in Sansar

In a Sansar chat on Reddit, Peter Gray (known in Second Life as Peter Linden) brought up the issue of whether of not adult content will be allowed on Sansar. It won't be, at least not for some time after it opens.

Adult content won't be allowed at the opening of Sansar's creator beta this summer. Ultimately, we want Sansar to be an open platform that enables creators to make all kinds of experiences, but early on we also want to be careful that a single genre of content doesn't come to define the platform and potentially limit its appeal to other creators.

Gray's exact words were "at the opening of Sansar's creator beta this summer." But it's a safe bet that the Lab will keep this policy for at least a few years.

It's an issue that's been brought up by the Newser before, as well as New World Notes. With many longtime Second Life residents expressing skepticism about the upcoming virtual world, Linden Lab is taking the opportunity to correct what it sees as "mistakes" in it's development of Second Life. The lack of rules and restrictions on what could be made allowed for a great deal of creativity. Unfortunately, it also led to griefers harassing people with such adult content, notably the infamous "flying penis attack" when virtual real estate mogul Anshe Chung was being interviewed. While these incidents didn't stop companies and people with big pockets from coming to Second Life at the beginning, there's no real argument that it gave some pause.

As the residents of places that are adult-themed will tell you, the freedom to make adult content can be a very good thing, at least when everyone follows the rules. Besides allowing consenting adults an outlet for their more hormonal sides, it allows real-life couples a chance to express intimacy when separated by long distances or when they want to try something they're nervous of on the other side of the computer. While there have been attempts at virtual worlds aimed purely at adult activity, namely "Red Light Center," they have done poorly. One man who told me who's been to both saying it utterly pales compared to the options available in Second Life. And of course there's the Libertarian concept of "let the individual decide" rather than decisions made from above by higher-ups who may or may not understand the concerns of "little people."

But companies tend to be wary of controversy and "bad press" that might go viral and define their product in ways they fear. And with many young adults in colleges and universities demanding "safe spaces," perhaps Linden Lab is getting the impression the current generation of new computer users isn't as tolerant of adult material as the one that came to Second Life in it's early days. And of course, there are the griefers, the anonymity of the Internet encouraging a few jerks to harass and bully others, sexual-themed harassment being a favorite tool of some of them.

In a sense, it brings up an old issue in both real life and virtual life and the Internet. Do you try to protect people from the damage a single deranged or malicious individual can do by installing a great deal of rules and restrictions many will find annoying aggrivating, some finding them smothering to the point they cannot be themselves. Or or do you allow the public a great deal of freedom with only a few rules and allow individuals to better express themselves in works and speech, with the fact a few wicked-minded individuals will take advantage of this freedom for their own ill ends?

In 2009, Linden Lab began an adult continent policy that established an adult-themed continent, Zindra, established an "adult" rating for explicit content outside people's private homes, and residents had to adult-verify themselves with real-life identification such as a drivers license to be allowed access to adult-themed areas. Many residents reacted with worry and fear, seeing this as the beginning of Linden Lab "ghettoizing" adult content to one corner of Second Life or perhaps eliminating it altogether. And the Lab never did add to these policies and the adult verification was eventually relaxed.

One resident, "Zebragrrl," had this to say further on the thread (a few sentences trimmed):

As for the experience, I can only say that experiencing it made it clear to me why it's still not an open public beta yet. There's still a lot of user interaction missing. An example I can give, is of a strange island I visited. The lighting was beautiful, the rendering was beautiful, but all I could do is walk around. I couldn't interact with anything. I could get on a elevator that was constantly moving up and down, but I had to time my exit precisely to avoid getting squished as the elevator took off back upwards again. The UI is pretty. The whole experience really is very pretty.. but all I could do was walk around. And I do mean that. No running, no flying, no driving.... just walking. ...

Was it beautiful? yes. Was it fun? not particularly. Kind of like walking around in GTA V, with all the NPCs turned off. And I think this is where Sansar and SL may be drastically different for a lot of people. This was a VERY curated experience. The whole environment was like a museum, or a singular creation of 3d artwork. I felt like a guest, or a viewer, of someone's creation... not like a participant, not like someone bringing something unique to the experience for others. 
In SL, our world has been built up kind of from scratch, first using rudimentary building blocks, and later with more and more detailled builds, but it's the users, the avatars, that are the real attraction in SL. Seeing each other's individual forms of expression, seeing the cool new things people built, or bought.

Sansar seems to be going the other way.. focusing itself as an engine for artistically crafted 3D VR experiences.. rather than as a meeting place for avatars. I'm not saying that the latter won't come in time.. just that for the moment, it's a little more like visiting the Louvre by yourself, rather than meeting your friends at the pub. More Myst than World of Warcraft.

Is there a place and a purpose for a VR engine like this? I'm sure there is. Is it something that artists can monetize to help cover their RL bills? We'll have to see.

Linden Lab's latest move is moving Sansar further away from the early perception that it would be "Second Life 2.0," and towards something quite different from Linden Lab's existing virtual world. While people can build content, it has to be done using software tools rather than through inworld prims. I've been hearing it's areas can't be connected like Second Life sims often are into continents and larger islands, but each is an isolated place onto itself that can only be portaled into. Ideal use will require high end home computers and be hard to use or unavailable to people with laptops and older machines. An article in Koatu magazine is saying, "Users may pay a small subscription fee for access." And now adult content, perhaps adult language, will not be allowed.

Most middle and working class people like going to theme parks and museums on occasion. But eventually they have to return back to their neighborhoods where they actually do things. This is probably how most Second Life residents will see Sansar, a great place to visit, but not necessarily one to make their virtual home in. Sansar may become Linden Lab's Disneyland, but for most Second Life residents, the grid they've known will continue to be their virtual home.

Hat Tip: Hamlet Au 

Bixyl Shuftan


  1. Bix I have to say ll is going to f them selfs with this and I have been talking to a lot of ppl and they say they will never set foot or paw in there and ll will lose lots of money and time over this sl will still me mine and for a lot of ppl and furrys home I wish ll would just work on sl and up date it as they should ik it can be done.

  2. This is a huge mistake. As much as they might not want to admit it adult content has always been a large part of what draws people to SL. If they drop the freedom and go for a sanitized curation I for certain won't be going there. From all LL has been saying they don't want me there which is too bad for them. I've spent over $4k in real dollars there since I first started hanging out there in 2007. Maybe that's nothing to them but it's that much less they'll be getting from me and from a lot of people.