You know the old saying about things “staying in Vegas”? That may be true some places, but its most definitely not true of Second Life. Besides the Linden Lab web sites, there are blogs, feeds, Twitter and Plurk communities, and photo sharing sites such as Flickr and KOINUP. No one knows how many or who or what content, other than Second Life-related. You might say the Second Life outside Second Life is bigger in some ways.
One of the first, one of the biggest communities outside SL is SLUniverse, founded by Cristiano Midnight. Midnight says “SLU started out as just a small alternative forum to the main SL forums, but grew into a huge community site over the past 10 years – I think it is now the largest third-party SL-related site”
A few numbers from the SLU site: 1.9 million posts, 86,000 threads by 31,000 members. So when the 10 year anniversary was coming up, Midnight and others talked about what to do.
Midnight, “This event is actually a follow up to a prom event I had for Munchflower Zaius in 2011. We were talking about it the other day, and before I knew what happened, we had a 2 day SLU 10th Anniversary Prom event happening. It’s kind of overwhelming – so many people helped to put this together – the venue, the decorations, the music.”
With 10 years of history, many of the members are well known for what they have done and accomplished in SL. A theme emerged at the party, “return of the oldbie.” Many of the forum members connect with SL not by logging in, but by chatting, posting, commenting to long time friends using the SLU forums. The forums have become the medium to bind people into community, as SL once did.
Midnight remembers, “Well, I’ve been in SL since 2002, and from the very beginning, it had a very tight community of users. We initially pretty much all knew each other. It’s been flattering having a lot of long time users who never even sign into SL anymore come to the event tonight. SLU has certainly evolved – it went from a very small community to growing into something pretty special, I think.
The road to this solid community has not been easy or simple. “It hasn’t been easy – at times, it’s been incredibly difficult, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m proud of what it has become.” Midnight suggests.
Talking with the guests, about what they enjoy and how that has evolved, one thread seemed to recur. Teeny Leviathan says, “It is very different now. Sl was friendly. Now, you have to watch your back.”
She further remembers, “Back in 2003, SL was a niche thing. Creative people were attracted to it, and we had a very friendly, small town sort of community. People would show off their creations, and you could just go to any random green dot on the map and not get kicked out by a security orb.”
Asked how SL has changed and how that happened, she suggests, “I think the general feel of SL changed when Linden Dollars got real world value. Suddenly we had fortune hunters appear. Businesses in SL existed before I arrived. In those days, they were a hobby which traded in play money. Today, people have more skin in the game, so to speak. It isn’t just build a stand and sell stuff anymore. Successful SL brands today seem to require lots of time and RL money to succeed.”
Perhaps its not possible for anything, RL or SL to remain the same. That quiet street in a small town that you may remember growing up on — well it don’t exist. Life is change, that’s how it differs from the rocks.
“You and me, we had a culture. Maybe it was a good one, and maybe it wasn’t. But it’s gone now, for better or worse. By sheer numbers, these new women and men are Second Life. They outnumber us, and they will be the ones to make or break the world. They don’t know who Aimee Weber is, or Anshe Chung, or Starax Statosky or Prokofy Neva or Torley Linden.” Tateru Nino wrote that October 24, 2006. So much has changed since then.
Cristiano Midnight and SL Universe is all the more extraordinary for having thrived and grown to almost 2 million posts since it began. Perhaps SLU’s longevity is a function of what it is. “It’s actually something that transcends SL at this point – it is more about the community of people.” Midnight claims.
So whats in store for SLU in the future? One thing we can be sure of — change. Midnight, “Well, on the immediate horizon is revamping Snapzilla – that is something I’ve wanted to do for awhile. Beyond that, I’m not sure yet- but I want to keep SLU growing and expanding. As long as it is a place people want to keep coming to, I’m thrilled.”
Perhaps you don’t have to log into Second Life to find a virtual community.