Avatar of the Year, 2nd Place: The Unverified

by Pixeleen Mistral on 31/12/06 at 1:59 pm

Mark_of_the_unverifiedAs we ice the Veuve Clicquot in preparation for this evening’s revels – none of the Moet crap for us – the Herald Editorial board continued our deliberations about whether the Scottish smoked salmon should be placed in cat food bowls on the floor for the Neko or on plates on the table for the people – and what if the Goreans show up again? Denise Levertov – one of the interns – suggested we split the difference and serve champagne in bowls on the floor for everyone. Knowing how this crowd laps up the sauce that is probably the most sensible choice – and Gideon Television will certainly feel more comfortable on the floor once the new year’s gunfire starts. Gideon? Remember to wear your formal flack jacket outfit, OK?

After circumventing this culinary crisis, we returned to our word processors as the champagne chills, taking a few minutes from vital end-of-the-year preparations to to acknowledge the runner up in our avatar of the year competition.

Last year, Anshe Chung took second place in the highly regarded avatar of the year awards – setting the stage for her triumphant modeling career with appearances on the cover of noted fashion magazines such as Business Week. We understand Anshe also continued dabbling in virtual real estate between her modeling gigs. Still, the question remained – who had made the second most significant impact on our world this year? The choice was obvious to the judges, as we name the Unverified residents the winners of second place in the Avatar of the Year awards.

The Unverified saga started when Linden Lab changed its account creation policy on 06/06/06, dropping requirements that established a connection between a real world person and a Second Life account. Accounts without billing information on file – or unverified accounts – appear to have been a key to Second Life’s increased growth since June because these accounts required little commitment from metaverse tourists – an important feature for a game that has a steep learning curve and at best a 10% retention rate. However, many paying customers wondered why they ought to subsidize the tourists who have very limited ways to earn money – yet consume server and bandwidth resources all the same. With around 40,000 subscription-paying “premium” accounts at year end, class wars continue between the Unverified masses and the subscription fee paying elite.

Interclass strife is partly caused by suspicions that trouble makers are using throwaway accounts for griefing. These accounts became trivial to create in the unverified era. Still, the metaverse’s merchants smile as “new” alt accounts accessorizes avatars with appropriate arms – and repeats the cycle again after being abuse reported and banned from Second Life. An ugly meta-game for some residents is claiming to know the identity of unverified alternate accounts of other players – and using these claims to punish the alleged owners of the alt accounts based on evidence that consist of intuition or suggestions of secret evidence provided by Linden staffers. In many ways the free unverified accounts have taken the masquerade ball drama of Second Life to the next level as hearsay-based witch hunts move through communities under the guise of “punishing griefing”.

Beyond concerns about griefing, those who indulge in cybersex – particularly ageplay – experience an added frisson of excitement as they wonder if they might perhaps be dealing with the real thing – rather than an adult pretending to be a child. This issue led to demands for ways to differentiate between different classes of residents.

In response to citizen concerns, Linden Lab added several new features to the the world to make it easier to automatically script discrimination between avatars based on their billing status – but in spite of strong resident sentiment against continuing the Unverified “experiment”, Linden Lab seems happy with the course it has chosen – so resident quantity seems more important than quality.

Ironically, because of poor customer database design – with the help of some hackers – Linden Lab encouraged even more unverified account creation in early September when un-named hackers gained access to the customer database requiring all users to choose new passwords – and possibly threatening the security of the billing information on file for the verified accounts. This episode lowered confidence in the Lab’s security and was unlikely to inspire many to share their credit card with Linden Lab.

an Unverified ex-governor and ex-presidental candidate

Despite the PR handicaps they labor under – the Unverified residents have made many important positive contributions to society – as a source of low cost labor, camp chair sitters, and as a vehicle for politicians such as Governor Mark Warner to show themselves as the salt of the earth which he did when appearing in the metaverse running an unverified account. Perhaps most importantly, the Unverified distinguished themselves early on by serving as caddies at golf courses around SL, an indispensable service for duffers such as Philip Linden – though we hear Philip tips poorly.

So while they are sometimes greeted with scorn, tonight we at the Herald will raise a glass – or lower a cat food bowl to the ground – in celebration of the Unverified accounts. Now will someone get that Neko off the table and away from the salmon, please?

4 Responses to “Avatar of the Year, 2nd Place: The Unverified”

  1. Cocoanut Koala

    Dec 31st, 2006

    I’m in the wrong business then. I should be making guns instead of houses.


  2. Artemis Fate

    Dec 31st, 2006

    Hehe the title “The Unverified” reminded me of “The Many” from System Shock 2, except instead of a horde of people corrupted by cancerous tumor growths and giant claws, repeating over and over “Join us…” as creepy as possible. It’s a horde of people with no clothes and the miscolored, novelty-balloon shaped penis adorned newbies repeating over and over “sex plzz???” as poorly spelled as possible.

    Trying to think which one is scarier.

  3. Andrea Gilgol

    Jan 2nd, 2007

    I recently read the “The Value of One” article by Tateru Nino.
    The whole article is here:

    The article makes some interesting point, I will paste here an excerpt – I really agree with these ideas:

    “Being a paid account doesn’t make you a contributor. Your own behavior may render you a net-loss to Second Life. This time last year, people paid to grief. Griefers signed up with paid, verified accounts, and launched goo attacks, orbited people and used cage-guns with wholesale abandon. Most griefers don’t mind being banned, even if they paid for the account. If anything, it’s like a standing ovation”

  4. Seola Sassoon a.k.a Random Writer

    Jan 2nd, 2007

    And what Tateru fails to mention:

    Griefers that used paid accounts were more easily trackable. And in fact, verification wasn’t payment at all.

    But the same griefer couldn’t get 100 alts in less than a day, or an hour some some cases and repeatedly do the same thing either.

    As for being unverified, I’ve made this point in the forums:

    Just because you work and buy clothes as an unverified, or even rent, means nothing to LL. It’s a transfer of L from one to another. That boss would still have to pay someone regardless, and the person who makes those clothes still pays thier own bills. The person who rents, still has to pay tier whether they are there or not. It’s just shifting the money around.

    Getting verified for the LARGE majority, have at least bought some L in some form, or paid for a premium here and there to check it out.. etc.

    Even the great indelliable Prok… whether or not he gets rented from, he still pays tier on that land. All an unverified does is take money from an owner and give it to Prok, if nothing else, giving Prok a profit… not LL.

    This time last year, we didn’t have 70 sorority campers, and thousands upon thousands that were ONLY camping.

    This time last year, the game wasn’t crashing everyday.

    This time last year, you could move around in SL.

    This time last year, for the year, there was less real griefer attacks for the whole year, than there was in the month of June alone this year.

    This time last year, net loss for owners and sellers wasn’t as high because the game was up for people to shop at.

    This time last year, we didn’t have to wonder if the grid would stay up through the whole day everyday.

    This time last year, if the game was up, I could tp if I wanted to.

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