Griefers, revisited

Gee, this didn’t even come from something that happened inworld…

I received this comment yesterday, and I’ve been torn as to whether to post it. As you can see, I did…and that’s because I think it’s important to illustrate the culture that Linden Lab has allowed to flourish by allowing anonymous, free accounts on the Second Life grid.

If you recall, I suggested in my November post on griefing that:

Griefing continues to plague Second Life, and it’s clear that petitions for improved grid conditions are falling upon largely deaf ears at Linden Lab. So it’s up to us – the people who pay Linden Lab – to state our case clearly and succinctly.

…and I did, at least to the best of my ability, closing with the answer to the question of, “Considering Linden Lab’s mission statement, can you explain how permitting a culture of rampant, uncontrolled griefing connects us all to an online world that advances the human condition?”

The answer is simple. It doesn’t. Linden Lab has to own up to this fact and stop the griefers now. If they do not, they will likely face a class action lawsuit or an exodus of paying customers.

To which, yesterday, this comment arrives:

What part about “Game” Do you not understand?
You like to have fun this way, they like to have fun that way.
Don’t be so hash [sic].

I am very against you, Its a free internet and they should do what they want. And if you don’t like it, ask them to stop. Don’t just be all Insta-ban. That’s mean. And video-games are meant to ESCAPE from reality, not to be educational, not to be infromal [sic], but to be FUN. Which is a word that is obviously forgotten here. But hey, if banning people on first sight and filing forms is fun to you…weird.
That is all.

My thoughts and this response illustrates the cultural divide between those of us who have made a meaningful investment of time and/or money in Second Life and those who haven’t. If you haven’t made the investment, there’s no need to look at Second Life as anything more than a place to get one’s thrills. Like kids everywhere who “tp” houses and plant a “For Sale” sign in someone’s front yard in the dead of night, or who spray graffiti on the walls of buildings or trains — or hackers who attack websites for kicks, griefers don’t look at the system they are damaging as anything more than a toy to be broken. They see no intrinsic value in the grid. THEY LOOK AT IT AS A GAME.

And that’s the root cause of this divide. We, who have invested ourselves in Second Life, look at Second Life as a means to a productive end. Whether it’s a place to exchange ideas, promote creativity or even make a couple bucks, we place value in Second Life. Griefers don’t. (Granted, we may look at SL as a platform upon which we can play games…but we don’t look at the grid as a game in and of itself. BIG difference.)

Now, let’s take this back to Linden Lab. How can Linden Lab, who supposedly wants to encourage the growth of an online world that advances the human condition, permit such a fatal flaw in their online world? I’m not saying that non-paying, anonymous accounts should be banned altogether, but the notion of limited access for such accounts should be a no-brainer. Let visitors come into Second Life and explore, but limit their ability to do harm…that’s all I ask.

But Linden stubbornly sticks to their policy of allowing unlimited privileges for non-paying, anonymous accounts. I’ll presume that they value the raw number of user accounts (many of which are alts, but account inflation numbers is an altogether different story) over user experience.

Deltango Vale offers a remarkably strong Op/Ed, “SL- What Went Wrong & How Do We Fix It?,” at Second Life Herald. It begins with:

The establishment of anonymous accounts in June 2006 opened the doors to underage players.

It then lists a host of OTHER problems, never once mentioning griefers. So it’s fair to say that the issue of anonymous accounts is a reasonably broad-based one.

We who genuinely care about the quality of the Second Life experience simply want to see the balance of power on the grid reflect the investment that we have made in the Metaverse. Those who look at the grid as a nerf ball to be smacked around just don’t deserve the same.

When will Linden Lab agree with this basic assertion? Don’t they care about their product?

One Response

  1. This is a well-written and thoughtful article that I generally support. I have one cautionary comment: I would not want to see someone denied access to the incredible creative tools and resources that Second Life has to offer simply because they cannot afford or choose not to pay a membership fee. Although they may be the exception rather than the rule, there are folks out there who have earned every Linden they own (and spend) through hard work and dedication to the betterment of the metaverse and I’d hate to see them punished because of a few bad apples. I agree that griefers need to be held strictly accountable for their actions, but from an equity perspective I’d not want potential new residents-extraordinaire turned away at the door because of an imposing entrance fee.

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