No, this article is not the ardent confession of a 12-stepper. I proudly claim the mantle of pervert, as few are aware of the Latin derivation of the word: pervertere: to overturn, corrupt, pervert, from per thoroughly + vertere to turn: "to cause to turn aside or away from what is generally done or accepted."
I have spent 15 years as an active participant in virtual worlds, mainly in adult content. I watched the migration from There.com, Sims Online, moove.com and a multitude of obscure chat rooms to Second Life. I recognize the technological constraints and developmental limitations of appealing to a broad customer base, particularly one so passionate about so many niches: Furry, Gorean, GBLT, Goth, Drows, BDSM, Steampunk, and many more. Meanwhile, international laws, 18 USC 2257, age verification and child pornography have been the bane of adult content providers, and virtual worlds are no different.
The realm of fantasy drives the success of virtual worlds. I have friends who haven't turned on their televisions in months. (Can I get a double espresso with that escapism, please?) The content demands of today's adult enthusiast are measured in nanoseconds and petabytes. The first expansion pack for Blizzard's Worlds of Warcraft, released January 2007, sold 3.5 million copies the first month at an average retail of $30, according to Blizzard's own website. We want what we want, when we want it — yesterday!
Sadly, to date, there is no platform that specifically capitalizes on the true potential of adult content in these social spaces, and not one that incorporates all the available resources, media and revenue streams with an emphasis on the dynamic of the individual.
In my search for the perfect adult world, I was initially very excited about the appearance of Red Light Center onto the scene. I have had the opportunity to talk in depth on several occasions to the original developers, who proved to be very innovative in their marketing approach. Sponsorships, streaming media and web-links are all integral components of their product. There are a few missing elements however, including user-created content and a viable economy.
Static worlds are dependant on churn. Once you have had sex in every position, collected all the paraphernalia, where is the incentive to remain a member? To do what — talk about sex? Have a hit on a hookah? Under these circumstances, one cannot help but question the ability of Utherverse to sustain a dedicated user-base. I want to know, where is the Red Light Center expansion pack? If nothing changes ... nothing changes.
Second Life also has its share of shortcomings. Linden Lab continually struggles with child pornography, scalability and governance, issues that can all be attributed to a lack of age verification and free accounts. Admittedly, I was enamored with its potential at first. For the first three years I was a resident there, a tangible camaraderie existed amongst the content creators. Unfortunately, that enthusiasm has since been replaced with dissention and ambivalence. Adult content will never reach its true potential in SL due to lackadaisical enforcement of IP Rights and the abundance of juvenile miscreants. I personally had to file a federal lawsuit to protect my content. Who among us is willing to subject their enterprise and inventory to the potential liabilities of litigation or theft due to the apathetic policies of an ISP? Second Life is a prime example of great concept, poor management.
On the bright side, I foresee what I fondly refer to as "Strokerz World," a network for virtual environments being capitalized on by adult content providers.
Strokerz World will incorporate graphics comparable to that of Worlds of Warcraft and Halo 3, such as the avatars of Poser and Maya, the rich user-created content of Second Life and Renderotica and the interpersonal profile connectivity of eHarmony and Adult Friend Finder — all combined together in a steamy cauldron with heaping portions of Hustler, Bang Brothers and the LightSpeed Girls (to name a few). It will also have an in-world currency that supports a thriving economy. There will be an objective to this "game" and a beginning, middle and eventual end. There will be no floundering in Strokerz World — no sir! Everyone will be given the tools to participate and progress.
This is no pipe-dream, and its genesis is on the horizon. Second Life may have inadvertently penetrated Pandora's Box, but ingenious engineers like Bob Flesch of Prototerra and Brad Abram of ThriXXX are hell-bent on ushering in the new era. Randall Crockett of MountainMeister Media and Jay Grdina of Club Jenna also "get it." The progress they have all shared with me assures a creative spark of nuclear proportions that will be the big bang heard around the metaverse.
I am often amused when I am offered the opportunity to display some of the inroads we have made in virtual worlds. Usually, these demos are done in a smoky hotel room during a conference. As we huddle around a laptop, I invite one of our virtual escorts to participate in an animated session of debauchery. I don my headset and encourage her to express herself vocally. The reactions have always been the same: "That's a LIVE person behind the avatar?" To which I typically respond, "Would you like me to have her turn her cam on to prove it? By the way, she takes all the major credit cards…."
If you are not currently a resident in one of these communities, you may be unaware that they support streaming media formats such as MP3, J2K, 3GP and HD Video. Crowds are drawn to mixed media events hosted by live DJs who support themselves through tips and sponsorships. Customized ad spots are incorporated into programs. A continual ebb and flow of attendees share web-links, video-clips and photos with tens of thousands in a matter of days. Evangelism is paramount. This is the evolution of social networks. Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Facebook and LinkedIn are merely fertilizing the seeds that bear the fruit of content.
The very essence of social networks hinges on creative expression. Every time you compose an email, share a weblink or upload a video, you are making a personal statement. Understanding people's motivations is the key that unlocks the door to profitability. As adults in today's Google society, we have been exposed to every imaginable type of content, from Brazilian beastiality to Scandinavian dominatrixes. We've been there and done that. We have 60 gigs of it in our pornofolios, downloaded from the flavor of the month club.
I will drive 15 miles to purchase my wife's favorite perfume, however, because there is only one place I can get it. So, can user-created content, particularly digital content, coexist with commercial enterprise? Absolutely. Imagine this scenario: your avatar is seductively entangled with another in a series of motion-capture animations generously provided by their Jenna Jameson sex bed. Your partner reaches into the nightstand and produces a gleaming Njoy toy to beguile you with. The latest streaming pay-per-view offering from Digital Playground is playing on the virtual 60" plasma. Of course, each item is appropriately linked to their respective websites.
Or how about this chimera: the flickering candlelight barely illuminates the dank, musky dungeon that you find your naked avatar confined within. You struggle against Stockroom restraints, to no avail. The searing sting of your Mistress's DeTails flogger ripples across your back with a resounding crack as you both meticulously reenact a scene from Kink.com's "The Training of O," which is playing in HD on the wall. Her thick-accented voice in your headset compels you to obey her every whim.
Obviously, branding is the simplest way to penetrate these markets. Consider a live PPV event of your favorite adult film star in action being simultaneously streamed into 2,000 virtual bedrooms. Or perhaps a digitized avatar of the lead in your latest real-life production that residents can act out their own fantasies with? Would these residents pay for such a privilege? I certainly would. Indeed, we have yet to even scratch the itching demand for true interactivity.
Last year I had the pleasure of meeting Eric White of Virtual Reality Innovations at a conference. We are currently collaborating on a process to combine his Virtual Sex Machine with our motion capture animation in Second Life. Regina Lynn of Wired.com fame is another oracle with her finger on the pulse of SexTech. Her book, "The Sexual Revolution 2.0," has been an inspiration to many of us on the bleeding edge.
The lines delineating virtual and reality are quickly being blurred. "Teledildonics" is no longer a buzzword. At a recent Game Developers conference in San Francisco, Emotiv Systems announced a headset interface that utilizes brain neurons to manipulate a digital character. They are looking into building realistic virtual worlds that are totally lifelike. It is expected to be on the shelves by March of this year. Jack me in, Neo!
As the son of a Hallmark executive, I cut my teeth in retail. One of the paradigms ingrained upon me at an early age was, "If you listen to your customers, they will tell you what they are willing to buy." The great thing about virtual worlds is that they are unique domains inasmuch as you can acquire instantaneous feedback from your online customers and then tailor your wares accordingly. Websites cannot offer this capability. One could argue that forums, polls and blogs can provide this information, but I submit, who has the time to fill out online surveys or leave a comment in a blog? Niche markets thrive under these circumstances. Opinions, tastes and aversions are expressed honestly and immediately. We live in the moment.
E-commerce will be the foundation that recruits and propagates the population of Strokerz World. Game currency micropayments will be aggregated and actively traded on an exchange in multiple international currencies. Real money trade will lure the Photoshop and 3dsMax aficionados to the Promised Land. Secured content will flow in torrential terabytes from hosted servers. Affiliates will revenue share in exchange for traffic to virtual showrooms, theatres and events. Profitable synergies will emerge between single moms and streaming media magnates. Governance will be swift and equitable in this new world, with an emphasis on compliance to applicable regulations.