SL’s Second-Class Citizens Lead a CaddyShack Second Life

by Alphaville Herald on 09/07/06 at 5:47 pm

by Pixeleen Mistral, Herald sports desk

Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a miracle — It’s in the hole! It’s in the hole! It’s in the hole!–Caddyshack (1980)

Philip Linden takes advantage of unverified labor during the Holly Kai Ocean Nine’s opening day

In the wake of recent changes made by Linden Lab, which no longer requires payment information to be collected from new members on free, or “unverified,” accounts, a split has developed between residents who think the changes are all for the good, and those who fear they can only mean an influx of unaccountable griefers to the virtual world. But how do the unverified themselves feel about being looked on by some as second-class citiazens within Second Life? Herald sports reporter Pixeleen Mistral visited the Holly Kai Ocean Nine golf course recently to find out. Here is her report:

The Unverified Unverifieds
Even if you’ve been locked in a decompression chamber for the last week and a half, you know that golf is the hottest new SL sport. But if sport is a microcosm of society, what larger meaning can be found in the duffers that are now flocking to Second Life? Is the the Holly Kai Ocean Nine to be the set for a Bill Murray movie in SL? And why are all the caddies named Unverified?

To answer these questions, work on my handicap, and entice the Herald to cover my expenses, I made several visits to the Hollywood sim and sampled the Holly Kai course’s delights. I found an almost too-pristine build, saved from its own self-importance by the presence of gritty freelance caddies with an almost feral air of desperation — this desperation apparently being the result of the caddies’ unverified SL accounts. Without payment information on file, these scrappy citizens of the metaverse have to scramble to make their L$, and are SL’s true undocumented aliens. The caddies I met claimed to live entirely off tips from the club’s more wealthy patrons. I tipped heavily in the interests of getting some good club selection hints — as well as a story — and, of course, in the great Herald tradition of padding my expense account.

Of course, there’s no way to completely verify the accounts given by either of the unverified caddies I spoke with (Unverified Quackenbush and Unverified Tao), but interviewing each independently revealed several common themes. Both are trying to avoid a life of TOS violations and petty SL crime, punctuated by trips to the cornfield. They are hopeful that their tenuous positions may endure, at least long enough to buy better skins and clothes. They both hope one day to rent homes in SL, but such a prospect is difficult to imagine in an environment in which many SL landowners are reluctant to rent space to the underclass. Another problem the unverified face is proving their age, making even the cybersex industry in Second Life reluctant to hire them. Caddying is the best job they can find.

I think Unverified was my caddy for the first couple holes when I went to the opening last weekend.–Philip Linden, Town Hall, July 7, 2006

Both of the unverified Unverifieds said they dream of a day when the service workers in SL might join together to improve their lot in life. In the meantime, they work on their golf games, and worry about greens fees and club rentals they cannot afford for a promised golf caddy tournament. Such a tournament presents other practical difficulties, since golf balls are only labeled with the first name of avatar, and caddies all have the same first name — Unverified. This sort of low-level discrimination is quietly shrugged off by the caddies, as “just the way the world was made”. The unverified are a remarkably stoic people.

A Plague of Gophers
Both U. Tao and U. Quackenbush were very helpful, though I did have to cover texture upload fees for the images I bought from them. Tao is particularly proud of a picture from the opening of the Holly Kai Ocean Nine, where she persuaded Philip Linden to hire her as a caddy. When I asked how well Philip tipped, Tao said he was adequate, but she has seen better, particularly Tony Beckett and Cristano Midnight. (Why can’t the Lindens afford the sorts of tips that SL entrepreneurs can? Does this say something about the viability of Linden Lab?) Quackenbush and Tao were both deeply concerned about a suggestion the Holly Kai club management made about splitting tips, but I assured them that this was not the sort of thing that happens in classy SL establishments.

Although Holly Kai did not originally plan for golf caddies, it is to MarkTwain White’s credit that he has erected a shack for the caddies to take breaks in. Tao and Quackenbush are doing well enough that they could afford to buy their own steel door for the hut. They are both concerned that someone might steal their golf bags, and feel the door was a wise investment.

After my first visit to the golf course, I was warned not to drop too many balls at the same time, apparently because the caddies cannot pick them up. This reduces club owner MarkTwain White to doing groundskeeper duties, which he does not seem to enjoy. Perhaps when Holly Kai is on firmer financial footing, it can hire a real groundskeeper to respond to those who might inflict a plague of gophers on the course. What may be protecting the course from this sort of griefing is a sort of honor-among-thieves ethic that seems to have sprung up in the unverified community. MarkTwain is quite a sly fox to keep unverified workers on site, since they have an interest in minimizing the griefing, and speak the language of the underclass.

Golfing in Absentia
Despite the fact that he’s been wistfully pining for a golf game in Second Life for more than a year now, it seems SL head honcho Philip Linden was forced to multi-task his appearance at the course’s opening. “I was actually in the passenger seat of a car, [connecting to SL] over EVDO, driving 10 miles in real life while cutting the ribbon on the golf course in the SL,” he said during last week’s town hall meeting.

There actually isn’t anything remarkable about the CEO of Linden Lab attending a virtual ribbon-cutting ceremony while being driven to his next appointment in RL. But the ease of connectivity points up concerns both caddies had about their jobs being outsourced to even less fortunate Unverifieds than themselves. Will the future of SL consist of low-cost workers from less-developed countries telecommuting in to provide caddying and other services to the wealthy of SL? Would that be such a bad thing, or is it only a leveling of the virtual playing field?

After playing golf a few times with Quackenbush as my caddy, and interviewing Tao, I’m convinced there’s a place for the unverified in sport. The two avies I spoke with are doing their best to rise above the circumstances they find themselves in. (If only they had credit cards, imagine what they could do!) Caddying for SL moguls, after all, may well be better than farming gold in World of Warcraft for 12 hours a day.

So the next time you hit the Holly Kai Ocean Nine or encounter an avi with no payment information on file anywhere else in the virtual world, for that matter, keep in mind that the unverified can also be productive members of our virtual society. Sport, after all, has often been a stepping stone to higher socio-economic strata for those struggling to keep their place in society at all. If you need that extra help getting through the eighth hole, or just want someone to fetch you a drink at the tee, remember who’s at your side, looking the other way as you hit out of the rough, and be generous with your tips and stingy with your judgments. After all, the Unverifieds of today may just be the Anshes of tomorrow. You’ve been warned.

4 Responses to “SL’s Second-Class Citizens Lead a CaddyShack Second Life”

  1. markEmark & the too toothers

    Jul 10th, 2006

    great story :D

  2. TF

    Jul 12th, 2006

    very interesting and nicely done story

  3. Soleil M

    Jul 13th, 2006

    I <3 Quackers

  4. moo Money

    Jul 13th, 2006

    I was at the golf game between Cristiano and Tony. The Unverifieds were very pleasant company. They are actually a big part of the reason my wife and I go back to golf there.

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