Sunday, August 20, 2006

Well, Virtually...

Wooot! I can officially call myself a ‘working artist’!

(Now Mum, before you read on, don’t get too excited. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a real job yet.)

After listening to the Great and Godly Leo Laporte talking about the free online ‘game’ “Second Life”, I thought I’d try it out.

Now, before I get on with my main story, I’ve got something I’ve got to say…Second Life is a weird place.

For those who don’t know, Second Life is a free ‘massively multiplayer’ game. The difference is, there’s no leveling, no missions etc. The best way I can describe it is a chat room on steroids. It’s a big world that you walk around, talk to people and build and buy stuff. Instead of logging on to an IRC channel, you walk your character into a nightclub, onto a beach or someone’s in-game house and have a chat.

The other weird thing is that some people actually make their real-life living in Second Life, because of the amazing idea to make the in-game currency negotiable. That’s right, not only can you buy ‘in-game’ money with real money…you can also sell it.

So, someone could rent a plot of land (which is essentially renting a server on a rack somewhere), then build something that people playing the game pay in-game money to use.

It’s a weird idea, so let me give you an example…you can build a nightclub, and as a real master-stroke, have a live DJ who you message to request songs etc. Then people visit and either pay a cover charge to get in, or just tip the DJ etc.

That’s what first impressed me about the game. I was walking around, a little dubious of the fun-factor the game could provide, when I stumbled across a club with pretty good music. When the song I was listening to stopped, a voice said “This is DJ (Whatever) down at the (whatever) club. If you have a request, come find me on the dance floor. Coming up next is (song name) requested by (whoever).”

Thinking it was just a recording, I found the DJ, and sent him a request. I got an instant message back saying he had it, and it would be in the next set…a few minutes later, he announced it and played it.

Basically, it’s a huge gimmick, and nothing that hasn’t been done before, but it was interesting

Also, for a more traditional business, you could build an actual store that people can walk around, and simply click a picture of the real-life product you want to buy to order it. You pay in in-game money (Linden Dollars), which the shop owner then sells for real money.

However, I stumbled across something on there that actually had me rolling on the floor laughing.

So I’d just installed the game, and was looking around the map for something interesting to do. I’d already visited the freebie stores, and gone to a few ‘island resorts’ and played on the waterslides. Then I noticed a ‘popular’ landmark, which said “The Most Gorgeous Escorts in Second Life.”

I went “…Umm…Errr…Huh?”

Now, I can understand the people who have built movie theatres, or opened stores selling in-game clothing etc…but my first thought was…”This can NOT be legal.”

Bear in mind that as well as in-game stuff, plenty of people use Second Life to sell real Products. Were prostitutes and escorts really advertising their wares in Second Life? Isn’t that illegal? Why hasn’t this been closed down? Kiddies play this game!!!

So in the interests of investigating further (I swear!) I teleported to the location.

I landed in a mall with ‘escort’ ads plastered all over the walls.

…and that’s when I started to laugh my ass off.

There are women (or more likely, men pretending to be women), on Second Life who will let your in-game character have sex with their in-game character for a small fee. (From the ads plastered all over the place, I saw the going rate was around 3000 Linden an hour…which is roughly $12 real world dollars).

I honestly had tears running down my face I was laughing so hard.

I mean seriously, fellas…If you’re going to pay 12 dollars an hour, call one of those phone-sex lines, or go rent a porn movie. If a fairly crude looking computer game character in the buff floats your boat…you have problems. Serious problems.

I swear I’m not making this up. It turns out that virtual prostitution is a thriving business.

(I still laugh when I think about some horny teenager paying for this…not realizing that the person playing the prostitute is actually a 400lb construction worker with tattooed knuckles, called “Big Samson”)

Anyway, now I’ve got that off my chest, back to my main story.

I was wondering around (well technically, I was making my character fly as high as he could go, then watching him drop like a stone) and got talking to someone who told me they were into photography, a hobby I also enjoy. So the conversation got around to hobbies. I said I like to draw and gave her the link to my online gallery.

Being impressed, she asked if I would draw a portrait of her in-game character. I said ‘sure’ (I’m always looking for new stuff to draw).

Now I was planning on doing this just for fun…but she paid me 300 Linden for it!

Ok, so after I’ve just made fun of the virtual ‘Johns’, you’re probably wondering why I think selling a drawing for a tiny amount of virtual money is newsworthy to me. I mean, come on… ‘selling’ a sketch to someone for fake in-game money isn’t much of an achievement. For about $50 real dollars I could build and run my own Second Life art gallery!

Well, here’s the thing. 300 Linden works out to roughly $1.10, and with out a bank account, I can’t actually redeem this money. It’s also not a lot considering sketching, inking and airbrushing the drawing took me around 3 hours. (Woot! 35 cents an hour! I’m RICH! I tells ya).

The point is I started drawing just a few short months ago, and the fact that a complete stranger liked my stuff enough to part with even such a little amount is a real ego stroker.

…and as long as I keep the details quiet, I can honestly say:

“Yeah, I’m an artist, you know…I’ve sold a few pictures.”

Just keep the fact that I only sold it for a dollar under your hats, ok?


OzzyC said...

Don't forget to pay your taxes.

MC Etcher said...

Ha Ha! great fun!