First Life, Second Life, Third Life, more

Elron-SL-poster-02By Lyle Bateman
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

My comedy and geek sides have been meshing a bit more lately. About a month ago, I popped into Second Life again, after trying it a couple of times a year or so ago and giving up on it. At the time I first signed up, the interface was very primitive, and truth be told, I was never able to quite “see the point” of the game. However, as my comedy career has unfolded over the past year, I’ve been thinking more and more of trying to find a venue online where I can showcase some of my work. YouTube and MySpace are fine for videos, but there aren’t a whole lot of places where you can easily do a “live show” online as well as easily generate an audience for it.

Re-enter Second Life. I popped back into SL with the express purpose of checking out the live comedy scene. I’d heard that the live music scene in SL was very strong, and it occurred to me that live comedy isn’t far off that. Yet, I was surprised to find very little comedy happening in SL. I managed to find a few clubs that were semi-active, and a few comedians doing regular work, but overall there seemed to be a serious lack of comedy.

The first club I got involved with was the Last Laugh Comedy Club, in SL’s Eson district. Club owner Allura Slade runs a great little establishment where the comics are very well paid, and very well treated. After opening an show for the first comic I’d met on SL, Salamander Maroon, Allura asked me to start doing a regular show at Last Laugh. After overcoming my initial worries about trying to fill an hour a week, we decided on a Saturday night showtime and I haven’t looked back since. Since I joined up, Last Laugh has gone from one regular show a week by Salamander Maroon, to live comedy every night from Wednesday through Sunday, and it looks like even more comics are setting up their shows at Last Laugh now. Within a few short weeks, I am certain that Last Laugh will be running shows every night of the week.

The second regular club I found was Laugh Lines, in the FreePort district of Second Life. Run by Crusador Arado, Laugh Lines is a bigger club than Last Laugh, and rather than focusing on shows by individual comedians, as Allura does at Last Laugh, Crusador tends to put together more “traditional” comedy shows with several different acts. Wednesday and Friday nights are regular show nights down at Laugh Lines, and while I don’t do ALL of their shows, I end up there for most of them. Further, I’ll now be doing talent booking and show organization for Laugh Lines over the coming weeks, meaning even more shows at different times, and hopefully some fresh comedic faces as well.

Outside the two main clubs, lots of bars and pubs in Second Life seem to be setting up comedy nights as well. Hickey’s Irish Pub is running a regular Wednesday show with several comedians, and Salamander Maroon’s own club, The Jester Strayling does bi-weekly gala shows called “Pre-Minstrel Tension.” As Sal herself joked, the twice monthly schedule is a bit weird, given the name, but the show is damn funny. I had the pleasure of being part of the second edition of Pre-Minstrel Tension this past Sunday afternoon, and both the club and the crowd was fantastic.

Overall, I’ve been very happy, so far, with my experiences in Second Life. Technically speaking, it’s still not the greatest software in the world. The client crashes on a fairly regular basis, and lag issues in crowded regions can certainly be a problem. But once you step back a bit, and look at the system as whole, it becomes pretty clear that given the immense scope and complexity of the system, the fact that it works at all is a bit of a surprise in many ways. More than an RPG, Second Life is a fully interactive virtual world where characters have complete control over where they go and what they do. Second Life contains a number of RPG’s within it, as well as combat zones, shopping zones, building zones and many other areas for different activities. It’s true that the client has some technical issues, but in big picture, it all fits together very seamlessly and works extremely well.

But SL is more than a game as well. If SL were only a virtual online world that let characters interact in a variety of ways, I might not be as interested in it as I am, but SL takes things one step further. Characters use in game money called “Lindens” to buy virtual items and tip performers, and players can convert real money into Lindens as they wish. The truly innovative part of the game, however, is that Lindens are essentially just another form of real life currency … you can exchange your Lindens back for dollars whenever you like, using a currency exchange system very much like you’d use to exchange the Pesos you brought back from Mexico on your last trip. This means that SL is more than just a place for me to do shows… it’s actually another place where I can make money as a comic.

Obviously, with the exchange rates currently in place, comedy in the real world pays better in raw dollars. But the fact remains that at this point in my career, with the amount of driving, and number of free shows I do, I am far from making a profit in my real world shows. In Second Life, I started turning a profit on comedy after my second show, and haven’t looked back since. The numbers are still small, but even a small profit is better than a loss, and from everything I’ve seen, the SL shows are just going to keep growing. In addition to the comedy, I’ve also opened a small store, ostensibly to sell virtual T-shirts, but also as an advertising space. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to live on SL income alone, but I have no doubt in my mind that the possibility is there to substantially supplement my current income.

Not too bad, for a game, I’d have to say. I think there are opportunities beyond the comedy as well. The live music scene is what got me interested in the first place, so that’s clearly a viable opportunity for folks with a musical bent. Much of the interactivity of Second Life comes from scripts written in the game’s native scripting language, LSL, and geek-oriented people can make some in-game money selling a variety of scripts for a variety of tasks. It’s easy enough to find and buy land, leading to opportunities in both rental property and real estate sales. The only things that can limit you in SL is your imagination, your drive, and your skills in whatever you choose to do … if you have a dream, you can build it, and if there’s something I’ve discovered over the past few weeks, is that if you build it, they will come.

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