The Swarm Cometh

11 07 2007

So, I log into SL yesterday, pleased to not be swamped by IMs asking for arcade tech support. No real goals, just figured I’d check in. I peek over at the arcade next door just in time to see an adult and three kids teleport in.

Now, when I say “three kids” I’m talking about ageplayers — SLers who use avatars designed to look like kids. The media’s really been flogging SL as a haven for pedos and a perma parking spot for the 4chan Party Van, but if I had to pull a meaningless statistic out of my ass, 90% or more folks running around with kid avatars are just doing it to have fun, not to have sex. And 99.9% of the kids we get in the arcade are Just For Fun types, given the arcade is rated PG, advertised as family friendly, and is not exactly prime chat-up territory. We boot people who left their underwear at home out the door, kthx.

Anyway. I drop in, say hello. Turns out the “kids” are part of an RP community designed like a summer camp… that explains the matching blue t-shirts. Counselor / chaperone asks if she can bring more over, I say sure.

Within two minutes the arcade is flooded with 24+ tykes in blue shirts.

It was surreal. It was hilarious. It was terrifying.

It was also proof that the user interface on my games could be better. The players got the hang of things by the end of the hour they allocated to the trip, but things like DDR mystified them; I cleaned up the UI a bit for Freestylers:Groove, but that old DDR’s still there, along with the other free games. In fact, the whole Pay/No Pay and Tickets/No Tickets thing also confused. I’m not sure how I can better explain things than how I already am, via instructions which NOBODY was reading. I understand why, they were eager to have some fun and didn’t wanna sit down and peruse a few paragraphs (that’s all it is, a few short step by step bullet lists and paragraphs) but damn, yo. I’m concerned about overloading people with textures, but I think tonight I’ll put up signs. (“Free play, just left click! No tickets” and “$1 Play! Earn tickets after stage 3!” and so on, one sign per game.)

Starting with Fist of Discomfort (since the Freestylers games don’t actually have a ‘screen’ per se to put info on) I’ve got a quick single screen of instructions in the Attract Mode on the games. FoD’s is easy… shows a little graphic of the best way to kill ninja (a path through them) and the worst way (criss-crossing everywhere) and explains that in multiplayer, you’re competing for kills. Done. I’ll be doing similar for Zombie Meltdown and Phrase Invaders. And hopefully, that’ll be enough.

The kids had a ball, once they figured out how to play; Skeeball and Whackamole were the crowd favorites, of course. Everybody got prizes, and damned if they didn’t look adorable with googly glasses and arrow through head gags and gummy bracelets. I gave the counselor some free games (eh, why not? We had a good month in sales, and this is not my day job) and the kids were nicely polite and thanked “Mr. Seven” before they all went back to camp.

As always, SL never ceases to amuse / confuse / stupefy / delight.

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12 responses

11 07 2007
kublaikhan

That sounds absolutely surreal…but at least you didn’t have to smell the hamster-cage smell that always accompanies large groups of small children.
Nice that folks were having fun, though.

11 07 2007
ladybrick

As someone who never got to go to a real summer camp, that sort of thing on SL would actually appeal to me.

11 07 2007
jengagne

I agree, it was charmingly adorable and definitely surreal. :D
I also like the “summer camp activity bus” approach of the group. If I were going to really RP kidness on there, that’s much more appealing to me than the odd commitment factor of the “adoption” agencies.

11 07 2007
lirazel

What an awesome idea!
I mean, I spent nearly every summer camp experience hiding from my “peers” and crying (at least part of the time), but still…
Hey, I’ll bet if you had a cook-out space people could “rent” temporarily on the beach, with a place for a bon-fire and some kind of stick-marshmallow generation thing…

11 07 2007
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Actually, our beach is free-build. Objects get returned to their owners after 90 minutes, but that’s plenty of time for a party.
Of course, we don’t provide a fire and mallow-onna-stick thingy, but I’m pretty sure beach fires are discouraged on the east coast. At least, I’ve never seen one on my vacations. ?_?

11 07 2007
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Agreed. I know family is a big part of being a kid, but for “weekend warrior” ageplayers in SL it’d be better just to join a group that has kid-friendly events. Not EVERYBODY wants to be adopted and lurved (skeezy or otherwise), some just wanna go out and have a ball.

11 07 2007
lirazel

They are now… but they didn’t used to be! (And there’s still a few places, but you have to get a permit.)

11 07 2007
jengagne

Good distinction. For me, I see it like this… I still have the family part of being a kid, so I don’t miss that. :) But the running around with a gaggle of other kids doing kid-type stuff aspect? Wheee!
Plus the opportunity to lightly RP ought to make for some cute comedy. :D

11 07 2007
omahdon

The more I hear about SL the more I think I should be getting into this ‘ere thang. An MMO experience without the grinding required by the RPG side, hmmmm….

12 07 2007
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Well, keep in mind it’s not a “game”, per se. It’s a 3-D version of teh webs. Which means it has just as much suck AND just as much awesome as the web, and you have to put up with one to get to the other.
If you’re looking for a shared virtual space where you can build and socialize, it’ll work for ya.

12 07 2007
omahdon

I was thinking “holodeck” or the closest thing to that common conceit in sci-fi movies/shows where the interweb and its elements are represented as some kind of three dimensional space that the characters can port into and “wander” around in. That’s just neat.

12 07 2007
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

Now imagine a holodeck program designed by 11 year olds who don’t have the benefit of saying “Computer, make a house, please” and getting a baroque, finely designed house of polished woodwork and tinted glass without lifting a finger. Imagine a holodeck created in MS-Paint.
That said, the Caledon regions do an admirable job of making a Fair Haven style period setting, with really high quality work.

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