June 23rd, 2013 by Marianne McCann
Second Life™, as of today, has officially marked its tenth year since leaving beta. That is very much a milestone, and one I am glad to be a part of. I have been a sim coordinator for this year’s event, as well as a builder of many pieces of infrastructure, an exhibitor, and someone who has been called on to perform all sorts of necessary acts to get SL10B together and running. It has been an honor.
As a child avatar — perhaps one of the better known child avatars, at that — I find myself reflecting about child avatar involvement at these events. It has been a long and sometimes tulmutous history.
To the best of anyone’s knowledge, the first child avatar was created by Washu Zebrastripe sometime during Second Life’s beta. Then again, the option has long been there for shrinking one’s avatar down to 0 on the height slider and doing what one can to give your avatar a child-like appearance.
Child avatars at Second Life’s first anniversary gala. Photo by Bacarra Rhodes.
At the Second Life First Year Anniversary Gala, in addition to a gala parade and time capsule event, Bacarra Rhodes organized the One Year Young festival. It was a one-day event on the 24th of June. Avatars were encouraged to be a kid for the day, and enjoy various carnival rides and refreshments. They even had contests for the best looking and wackiest kid avatar. Was all in great fun, and a product of what was, then, a very innocent and young world. What could possibly go wrong?
Fast forward five years. Second Life was booming. In the course of two years, they’d gained millions of account. Corporations were flocking to the virtual world as yet another means to sell their products.
Of course, with the greater visibility came greater scrutiny from a mainstream that was leery of the “wild west” ways of Second Life. One of the biggest scandals? Sexual ageplay. After Report Mainz uncovered a sexual ageplay and real-world child pornography ring operating in Second Life, Linden Lab clamped down on child avatars of all sorts. Many wished the lab went even further, barring child avatars altogether.
A year and change from the Report Mainz investigation came SL5B, the fifth anniversary. Linden Lab was gearing up for big change, with a fresh, new CEO incoming and high hopes to eventually take the company public. Second Life’s 5th birthday was seen as a big event to show a more professional side of Second Life, and help lure in some big names. But first, some clean up would need to happen. The Lindens involved with the event had to keep out the Goreans, the sexual content, and most of all — child avatars.
Meeting between Dusty Linden, Loki Eliot, and Marianne McCann in the lead up to SL5B
Loki Eliot and I were summoned to LindenWorld Lobby a few weeks before SL5B. We both had submitted applications to be a part of the event, as had a handful of other kids. We were eager to find out what part we may be playing in SL5B — and then Dusty Linden dropped a bombshell on us. Higher ups had decided that child avatars could not present at SL5B. We were “respectfully declined.”
Protests broke out. Resident volunteers resigned. People got angry. Kid avatars held their own event, Kids5B. Eventually the lab relented, first changing the stance to allow kid avatars, but barring any photos of child avatars in the same frame as adults, nor being pictured anywhere near a bed, no matter how innocent the photo. By the end of the event, even that had been softened — but the damage had been done.
Much changed after this, including that CEO. After a disastrous tenure that saw the launch of the much-maligned “Viewer 2.0,” Second Life went from wonderkind to has-been in the eyes of the media. A new CEO, Rod Humble, took the helm — and while SL is not what it was in the Golden Age of 2006-2008, its heart is still very much beating.
The SL10B history walk exhibit.
SL10B took place this year, and as I already said, I had no small part of it. I was one of two child avatars who served as sim coordinators. Though some happenstance, some of my work has ended up featured. So has the brilliant Behemoth build that Loki Eliot presented. There were eight builds that I know of that featured child avatar content, ranging all the way from the LAMP mesh child avatar project to an underwater presentation on mer-children. The kids of Escapades were interviewed at the SL10B auditorium. Gemini Enfield, one of the founders of Second Life Children, DJed at the lake stage. Kids were everywhere.
It’s been no small honor to be a part of the event, and to help make it possible. I could never have conceived that SL10B would be what is has been back in the days of being “respectfully declined” from SL5B, much like I doubt any of those early pioneers expected Second Life to even still be a thing ten years on.
Here’s to another successful decade, Second Life.