Over at New World Notes Hamlet Au has decided to tackle the thorny subject of adult content in virtual worlds. In a blog post entitled : Half of Second Life’s 50 Most Popular Sims Now Adult-Rated: A Lesson for Second Life 2 Hamlet says :
As Linden Lab develops Second Life 2, there’s an important lesson to be learned here:
Forbid pornography and extremely violent content, at least in the first few years of launch before SL 2 achieves mass growth (assuming it does). It’s inevitable that Oculus Rift and other VR platforms will inspire pornographic content, and many of the games set for deployment in VR are already violent, and that’s fine for adults who want to immerse themselves in that kind of content. But virtual porn in particular has always been an impediment to Second Life going mainstream, hurting its brand, scaring away mainstream institutions, and just generally causing it to be a laughingstock for anyone who wasn’t familiar with how much more non-porn content the world contained. (That is to say, just about everybody.) The alternative facing Second Life 2 is what we see now: A niche MMO where roughly half the active users are mainly getting on to get off.
Now whether you agree with Hamlet or not you have to give him credit for having the balls (for want of a better phrase) to raise this subject. I disagree with him and I disagree with him because adult content is already very much a part of mainstream culture. Now before we take one step forward, let’s take a couple of steps back. Back in July Mona Eberhardt posted a blog post entitled : Time to stop bashing Second Life for its sexual side. Mona opens that post with a rather challenging gauntlet to bloggers :
I guess you haven’t really arrived as a Second Life blogger or commentator unless you’ve reached the point where you frown upon “pixel sex”, openly sexualised avatars, or the “skanky” nature of female avatars’ attire in SL. It seems to me that coming to view your in-world romantic and sexual escapades (if any) with feelings of shame actually gives you bonus points. And the sooner you’ve denounced your desire to explore your sexuality in-world, the more respect you’re going to garner. Apparently, your opinions can’t be taken seriously if you’re viewed by others as a sexual person.
The article is a good read and whether you agree with Mona or not, she deserves credit for tackling this subject. Now it’s clear that Hamlet and Mona are coming to this subject from different sides of the fence but it’s also important to remember that both Hamlet and Mona believe passionately in the concept of virtual worlds.
Now to me, banning adult content in Linden Lab’s brave new world is going to be a bad strategy. On the other hand I also think that promoting adult content in the brave new world is a bad strategy. The answer to me is all about sitting on the fence and ensuring that safeguards are in place to avoid some of the situations we have seen during the evolution of Second Life.