In-world to Out: Finding Purpose in the Virtual World
FINDING PURPOSE IN THE VIRTUAL WORLD
(Please see the in-world release for more photographs and articles, also available on MARKETPLACE)
Entrepreneurs, artists, and craftsmen are attracted to virtual worlds as petri dishes to try ideas. Here is a safe environment to takes risks, try roads not traveled, and fulfill fantasies. Each resident logs in for different reasons. Of those who are serious about pursuing ideas, a sense of purpose always motivates, and choices take on patterns.
It is easy to understand the majority of residents in Second Life®—they are here to have fun, do what they want, and escape their real lives—like vacationers. But for those with a sense of purpose, whether cultural, educational, or financial, usually are motivated by one, or more, of five inspirations.
REASONS TO BE IN-WORLD
1 Self improvement. A virtual world is a perfect place to learn and to practice new skills. By applying real world wisdom to in-world activities, the knowledge gained also influences back out. Classes, businesses, show and tell, or the pursuit of opportunities is enriched by a dedication to advance knowledge into the real. Interactivity is directed by and tailored to each pursuer.
> Education. Though one of SL’s strengths, sadly, it is under-used. (Other vehicles such as Youtube seem to do a better job of instruction—but miss interactivity.) To attend a class within SL is a fantastic experience. The presentation, shared sense of audience, and ability to ask questions make this worth the learning curve and initiation. Looking around at who else attends is part of the fun. And if a friend is there, you can have private IMs to discuss the event while it occurs. In a real life class, whispering like that would be considered rude and distracting!
> Skills. Also for self-improvement, a virtual world is a place to develop and practice skills. The social aspect permits feedback from others as pursuits develop. As a business-incubator, testing ideas, trying new directions without risk (other than use of time), is seductive. If used wisely, the platform enhances real world activities. If used as a way to avoid real life activities, the escape is equally seductive. Residents need to know why they are there, because choices will get confusing!
“Education is in everyone’s best interest, otherwise there is a huge divide between those able to be competitive, and those marginalized because they become no longer relevant to an economic system that demands high-value workers. People learn by having an opportunity to make mistakes in a supportive environment. SL is a safe place where you are free to be yourself—or someone else—and be challenged. If you have never had a business, why not try one here first? The two key things SL is best for are role-play and simulation.” —Phelan Corrimal, Rockliffe University
“My focus is on using the virtual world for business education. Where else can a business be created from ground-zero and allow all aspects of marketing to fall into place? Education and commerce are intertwined. There cannot be one without the other.” —Rehula Rah, Yavapai College
> Creative. A huge cultural community is blossoming in the virtual world! Live music offers a direct audience and market to original singer-song writers that struggle for recognition in the real world. The visual arts proliferate so that anyone with the right tools and with some imagination can display images. However, standing out among such a proliferation of visual show and tells, takes great patience and sifting. Fortunately, there are some great gallery dealers in SL that do this editing first, thus making the presentations more worthwhile.
“By having a rentals business I get a lot more feedback from customers than if I would just build and sell my designs. Renters are less shy to comment than buyers. They’ll vote with their feet if they’re dissatisfied. Though attending to renters and keeping them happy does take a lot of time, the feedback helps to develop new ideas. My main inspiration when designing a home is to create a place that is actually inviting to live in—for myself as well as the intended customer. Too many homes in SL feel like cold grey boxes. The outside appearance shouldn’t ignore the ‘first impression.’ Then the internal layout needs to feel ‘balanced.’ Hopefully, after people see what I have to offer, they think: ‘I’m not going to bother with putting something together myself and end up with an inferior result anyway. This rental is attractive and much easier, so I will take this.’Why would you buy one of my houses when you’d pay more in tier to put it up than you’d spend just renting it from me?! My goals do not change. But the way to reach them might mean being opportunistic in the short term, i.e. adapting to market circumstances.” —Marishka Ixito
2 Prosperity. Although it is very challenging to make a real world living in the virtual one, many do make a part time income. Though working in-world only pays pennies on the dollar (U.S.), it is possible to have enough volume to do it. Proportionately, overhead is almost nonexistence. There is no commenting to work—geography only matters in terms of time zones. Only a small percentage of entrepreneurs make real livings in SL as a subculture. They all work very hard, long hours to cover time-zones. They are very focused, but usually have some time for fun and relationships (though little else), and are very dedicated to business. Buyers beware, however. There are a lot of undependable merchants, shady business practices, and mischievous people. Like a big city, self protection is needed to prosper. Entrepreneurs that wish to build virtual enterprises need to navigate wisely.
“AP is a long term investment and growing steadily. The main goal is to spread more and wider. With about 30 affiliate vendor locations, with over 1000 products on Marketplace, and with about 2000 followers and subscribers, I don’t think it will be hard to grow. It requires some time but it will have the desired result.” —Arkad Baxton, Arkad Products
“Property is the foundation of everything—all is built upon it. The most important thing in a virtual world, you can’t login if there is no land.” —Katya Dirval, WRE
“We live the dream of building a real life headquarters on Gran Canaria someday, a Spanish island with a lot of sun. *laughs* This is our motivation.” —Jan Maroon, Bletaverse
3 Experimenting. Many try a path in SL not taken in real life, fulfilling fantasies. These may include expanding artistically, trying other professions, roleplaying in other times, or living in dream houses. Anything is possible—limited only by imagination and time. Few residents duplicate their real worlds in the virtual. Here, where anything is possible, not taking advantage of unlimited choices makes the virtual just another medium. Taking advantage of its social nature—more international and expansive than any other—necessitates clear directions. Yet, SL has such a fast pace, it appeals to those with Attention Deficit Disorder! Most ideas are more like sparks than sustaining furnace. Those who earn good reputations make a difference because most people earn no reputation at all, or if a bad one, just escape by starting over with a new avatar.
To find a contrast with real life work, SL can give the imaginative a chance to try a different, and balancing, career that complements the real one. Most every real life professional has wondered about a path not taken. And, that path, pursued in SL, can build confidence and skills that can be used in the real world. The most successful seem to arrive in SL without having preconceived ideas of how to build a second profession. Discovering them is part of the journey.
“Some old friends were on SL through an educational program. I had moved to another city, so we planned to meet in SL, and hang out like we used to in real life. Next door to me was the first Bliss club, built by another player. It was basically a big box in the sky. And it was packed all the time. But, she got bored running the club after four months. Then I took it over, never planning to be in this business!” —Grizzly Mountain, Bukkake Bliss
“My goal is to promote myself, to get noticed by a SL group that needs a texturer. That way, I get the freedom of creating, and in the meantime, get paid.” —Ramirez Torrance
“When learning to trade stocks, things are usually confusing at first. I often take one or two hours to assist someone that is only going to spend 100L or 200L at times. But I enjoy helping them discover how a stock exchange works, and often small investors get comfortable enough to invest larger amounts over time. Many have told me they started trading real life stocks because they traded lindens first, learning the difference is between Market and Limit Orders, etc. and building skills.” —Skip Oceanlane, Capital Exchange
4 Helping others. In such an exciting international forum, discovering the concerns of other residents is illuminating to anyone in search of meaning. The quintessential entrepreneur has an instinct to perceive what is needed—finding a hole in the market—something not offered, but could be. More commercially minded than philanthropic, making a profit by selling what is needed also helps to develop more products or services. Businesses that have ongoing consumables can be the most profitable in-world, as they keep customers coming back for more. Secondly, those who can develop a loyal following, such as a large group of friends and fans, can survive on tips. Building a community also propels feedback. That interaction between those receiving and those providing can sustain a momentum. Gratified by helping others and seeing them prosper as a result, can be thanks enough for many people.
“When I first logged into SL, I could immediately see that avatars need money. It takes lindens to become physically presentable, to buy land, and to have social mobility. Any smart newbie determines this quickly and embarks on a quest to earn.” —Mystic Handrick, Virtual Employment Agency
“We realized there were very few ways for players to earn linden without using credit cards. Often, new players who seek jobs get sucked into the adult industry. It’s not that I have a problem with the adult industry, but it puts off many people who then leave. There had to be an alternative, and so Wili and I worked hard to provide it. Many customers who play would have quit SL long ago if it was not for our games.” —Amy Nevilly, 2nd Ads
“Our HUD systems help customers to streamline their activities. We present the items from stores to make purchases, teleport to a store for an item seen on the HUD. The ads we sell are an important supplemental income stream. This system is one of several interweaving interests i pursue. My major focus is on fulfilling what I have always wanted to do, and taking it beyond what I ever perceived as possible!” —Stevie Cooperstone, AAS and Galaxy
5 Filling own need first. One of the biggest reasons to pursue a business or artistic or educational initiative is to satisfy the individual journey. To find a need oneself, and then find a way to fill, can lead to sharing the solution with others. If a business, then marketing the pro-duct or service. The heart of the worker has to be engaged, just like in real life, to stay with it long enough to achieve results. Always searching for a better experience, many residents build houses or make tools or toys that are useful to other people—if truly innovative. The competition is as fierce as in real life, though it is international versus regional. Usually starting small, the inventor ignites a spark under others that grows into a bonfire by its own combustion. Word of mouth can quickly spread like a brush fire in the virtual world, thus propelling visibility and effectiveness. If, when searching and not finding, look for what is missing. It might be the right time to develop a solution.
“I started by designing business clothing because I couldn’t find any. But the market was not out there. So I went to the cute stuff that most customers want, which I find rather boring. But if you want to make Lindens, go with the trend. Still, no matter the style, I focus on good, tight products—to be what I want them to be—and to feel right about the results. My goals are to design what I wish, give investors a return, and to try new things.” —Kaddan Yue, OMG! Fashions
“My goal is to run this business as long as I can. While there are customers, I will be there to serve them. I don’t think it can be a full time income, though it is ok for now. It was a minus business in the beginning, when I worked to set it up. My overhead is low, and it is now profitable. To expand my business is not an option now. New product development needs time which I have to weigh against the market—and the SL market is not that big, at least not for large projects like what I can do in RL. Plus, I am really not skilled in creating textures or in scripting. I know what I do well and can offer as tools to the virtual working community.” —Kurz Socke, Mobile Grid Client
“I’ve always been driven by my customers. In fact, I originally developed CasperVend just for my own use! People started asking about it, so I repackaged it and started selling it to the public. Everything that we do been requested by users.” —Casper Warden, CasperTech Ltd.
“I couldn’t find what I wanted for a personal toy. So I set out to make one. After a number of frustrating experiences, it kept getting more and more involved. I could draw on some real life skills that helped with the creation of the item. Finally I made something that I was happy with. I wondered if anyone else might buy it. So I rented a spot at a role play sim for a week and put it up for sale. When one sold very quickly (same day), I rented another spot. When I had sold four, I figured I’d probably saturated the SL market, as it was somewhat niche (or so I thought). But I underestimated. Suddenly, my real life range of business skills translated to SL!” —Sassy Romano, “Sassy’s”
For the visionary, simply belonging to like minded communities of interest is not enough motivation to be in the virtual world. It can’t just be a vacation. Rather, it is a way to expand as a person. It is an opportunity to live in two places at once, with interweaving interests and activities. It is a place to build audiences and communities, to connect with others in revolutionary new ways. The virtual world is the most logical extension of the internet, carrying it into unprecedented new experiences. An international cohesion can be based around shared interests. Though the environment may have a comic like crudeness and many technical limitations, as it progresses and becomes more natural, transparent, and easier to learn, it will become part of the mainstream. The purpose for using this tool will permeate ever further.
(Note: please see the in-world magazine or download Sim Street Journal June 2013 for more photographs.)
Follow future themes that conclude what is most relevant from SL to real life. A growing collection of profiles will present every sector of commercial and artistic pursuit.
If there are outstanding entrepreneurs or creators that have wisdom to share, please recommend or even contribute to upcoming issues. Those who augment real lives with virtual ones are pioneers, using new tools to bring together aspects of career and curiosity—finding ways to enhance the best of what both worlds have to offer.
Contributions are encouraged if they cover topics relevant to the real world readers.
Comments and opinions are also encouraged.
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Sim Street Journal explores the relevance of virtual to real commerce and culture.
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© 2014 by Eleanor Medier, Sim Street Journal. Articles cannot be reprinted without permission.