Tuesday, July 7, 2009

On kid avatars and Zindra

To start, I'm a bit of a shape shifter. I don't like to admit to it, but, I have 3 primary shapes I use in SL. Only one of which I identify as a kid avatar yet not all the time. My shortest shape can be considered an imp or vampire depending on how I have it skinned and adorned. Regardless, there are times when I do say I am a kid avatar. =^-^=

As a kid avatar, I'm pretty wild. I spend time getting involved in as many inclusive groups and events as I can. I sling giant guns around. I wander around and visit Welcome Areas and Infohubs, sometimes offering a bit of Mentoring. And, sometimes, I simply scare the crud out of people by talking normally and getting along just fine in a crowd of giants. (^_^)

Kid avatars have had restrictions placed upon them after an event of bad press came up in a German tabloid program. The program in question staged an event where a reporter in a kid avatar got involved with a number of adult avatars who frequented a then-allowed (sexual)ageplay parcel. The reporter was making claims to these people about being an underage kid in real life and for the cusp of the expose' revealed that the adults depicted in the report were indeed pedophiles and seeking to victimize a child online. (T_T)

So... Linden Lab can't let something like that go astride, they had sent out a notecard to people involved in child avatars, concerned by child avatars, and directly involved in the (sexual)ageplay community. The note was created on 3/7/2007 by Chadrick Linden and stated that the content found on certain lands and businesses was " possibly not in
compliance with Second Life's Community Standards" and as a result "Advertisements, promotions, or descriptions of such activities must be removed to avoid account sanctions."...

Of course, the (sexual)ageplay community cried foul and got bold. Just like anyone told they can't do something anymore, they shouted about it on the hilltops and got far too much attention. (=_=)

So... Linden Lab followed up with this...

... And the witch hunt began. Everyone was suspect of being a TOS/CS violator. Kid avatars were being ARed for no reason. (Sexual)ageplayers made mad-dashes for private estate sims, closed in groups, or just plain left SL altogether. Among the madness was a lot of collateral damage. Innocent people were getting reported and banned. (>_<) So... Linden Lab followed up with this... https://blogs.secondlife.com/community/features/blog/2007/11/14/clarification-of-policy-disallowing-ageplay

... As if to say "Calm down, people!" And, things did calm down. It was right around the time I started my second account in SL, namely Imnotgoing Sideways, and went to see the goings on in the kid avatar community. It was actually pretty clean. Almost disgustingly so. And, what was left of the (sexual)ageplay community was pretty much mute, hidden, and paranoid.

Basically, (sexual)ageplay was, on the surface, gone. If you were going to publicly be a kid avatar, you'd be sure to disassociate yourself with the 'ageplay' crowd. If you were in the 'ageplay' crowd, you were pretty much a virtual shut-in.

Now, enough of that history lesson. I'm probably not getting all of it right, but, that's how I see it. Now, to the present.

Adult content has seemingly been both a blessing and a curse to the creators of Second Life. Linden Lab has accepted the terms of "Your world. Your imagination" to include that many peoples' imaginations become deeply ingrained in sex, violence, obscenity, and gore. The thing is, Linden Lab wants Second Life to grow beyond such narrow aspects. Sure, there is a lot of non adult content to be found, but, the lab is anticipating that one of the factors restricting growth is that people are refusing to get involved in SL because they're afraid of what they'll see the next time they teleport to a shopping mall, online office, virtual convention center, ... you name it. (^_^)

So, now it's time to have a "predictable experience" and offer up a Second Life that the boss over your shoulder wouldn't mind. Where you can walk, fly, and teleport around in without risking an 'accidental' landing in Primpecker Heaven. So, in comes Zindra, the continent of (Adult) mainland sims and the 1.23.xx Adult content settings. All driven by Account Verification (or Age verification, if you trust that method). Once you have your account verified, you have the option to open up access to the Adult world of SL from here on out. People providing Adult services, locations, and roleplay will have to comply with the updated Community Standards and relocate their land to (Adult) rated parcels so that search can properly filter them out. Not too bad. You can't be found by people who don't want to find you. People rallied (and still rally) against it. But, it just goes to show, you can't please everyone. (^_^)

But, what is adult content? Well... That's covered in the KB article:

Pretty much the same old same. Sex, violence, obscenity. Most of what you could do on (Mature) before and were restricted from on (PG) land. But, what's (Mature) land now? Well.. It's the same. You just can't advertise your content anymore. The moment you do, you have crossed the line into (Adult) content requirements. So, in spite of every one's paranoia, you can still have your sex bed in your own private house. You can still keep a dungeon under your castle. You just can't list the things in search. (^_^)

So, (PG) is PG, (Mature) is Mature - with search and apparent visibility limitations, and (Adult) is Mature - with no search or apparent visibility limitations. Now, I'm saying apparent because we were promised definitions on what was private and public content and never got it. The Community Standards say we need to check the Knowledge Base. The Knowledge Base says we need to check the FAQ. And, the FAQ says nothing on the subject. (=_=)

Now, where do kids come in? (O.o)

Simple: (^_^)


Item #9) Are child avatars allowed on Adult land?

Child avatars are allowed on adult land as long as they are account verified like any other Resident. Those choosing to represent themselves with a child avatar do not represent a minor as the account holder. Not all adult land is going to be hosting adult content either. There is plenty of protected land on Zindra that will technically be adult but safe in terms of content. This however does not change any prior policies regarding child avatars. Sexual ageplay is not allowed anywhere on the grid, regardless of rating.


This took some people by surprise. In addition, the celebratory events of the opening of the continent was attended to by a few child avatars. Since nothing was developed yet on the continent, no TOS/CS guidelines were being violated. And, in addition, the events were run on Linden owned "Protected" land, which is deemed safe in terms of content by Linden Lab.

During the party, someone decided to jokingly don a full body penis costume. It was good for a laugh, hardly sexual, and was skirting the guidelines on the parcel. At best it was an unimportant event that gave some people a good chuckle. Regardless, a select few went ape-s**t.

As a result, a blogger that's pretty much tolerated for comedic value alone decided to raise a fuss. A fuss over a celebration that involved safe content until one person decided to violate the terms and location by potentially sexualizing the event. Really, the event still wasn't sexualized. It really was pretty much a gag item from the start. And, the laughable blogger flipped out over it. The excited few, looking for something to lash out against found this blog and leveraged off of it to incite a virtual riot that basically fizzled out. There is no HUGE community uproar. There aren't throngs of bloggers, forum posters, news reports, or anything else supporting this anti-cause. It fizzled. Faded away. Accomplished nothing because nothing was it's goal.

So where are we now? There are people bitter over the Zindra Adult content move. Uprooted people who feel as though they've been treated as second-class citizens. Add to that, the rules say that child avatars are allowed and have already shown their little faces in the crowd.

Well... With angry people ready to jump to any conclusion, that's exactly what happened. A small number of outraged people extended their outrage to the kid AV community and advocated harassment, started a couple forum threads, and put on heated discussions against the more level heads of SL's common forum community. Both sides had valid points, but, in the 'grudge match' of personal attacks, it was difficult to find. So, what is it?

I agree with the lab's terms on the subject. To add my own detail, here are the conditions I see applied to kid avatars considering a visit to Zindra:
  1. Be sure the location you're visiting is safe ahead of time. Use the parcel description, landmark dialogue, owner history, items marked to be in search, and even the parcel picture as a guide to the content you're about to teleport into.
  2. If instead of teleporting you're just walking, running, or flying; stay on Linden roads and parcels until you've determined that the content in the private parcel you intend on entering is safe.
  3. Understand that protected land is protected land, but, it may be adjacent to a private parcel with exposed sexual content. While you are allowed on the protected land, bringing your avatar into visual proximity with the sexual content may put you at risk of an AR if it appears as though you're trying to sexualize your own avatar.
  4. Don't be an A-hole. If someone decides to harass you over your proximity to sexual content, back off and be civil. That same person will decide to screenshot and AR you for whatever story they decide to make up. A bad attitude on your part will only hammer more nails into your virtual coffin.
  5. When in doubt, don't. Just that. If you don't know where you're at and if you're among sexual content, leave. Linden Lab's rules are still firm about (sexual)ageplay and the depictions as they have placed in the Blog.
Conditions for dealing with kid avatars in Zindra:
  1. Don't assume the worst. Kid avatars are still adult users, they're not looking at anything they're not supposed to. The real life kids would sooner disguise themselves as adults anyway.
  2. Innocent until proven guilty. (Sexual)ageplayers are more likely to stay on closed in estate sims. They KNOW their activity is highly restricted by now and surely won't risk the banning by venturing out into mainland, regardless of the sim rating.
  3. Adult is not sex. There will be aspects of kid avatar role play that will be forced on to Adult land like everyone else. While kid avatars are restricted from sex, they're not restricted from any other adult aspect of Second Life.
  4. Protected land is protected land and deemed 'safe' by Linden Labs. If you bring sexual content on to protected land, you are at risk of an AR. Particularly if you're doing it on purpose in order to harass someone.
  5. When in doubt, IM the kid. Ask them if they know where they are and suggest they leave if they're in a sexually themed private parcel. A smart kid will admit they made a mistake and vanish in a *poof* of spinny little particles. No harm. No foul.
Does that work? I'm sure it's sensible. I know the desire to lash out is strong and people are looking for a scapegoat to their woes. There's no use running around hating everyone. Remember, for each kink in SL that gets restricted, there's another one down the line that will offend someone else. The more sex plays into battles and infighting between residents, the more likely sexual content will be a thorn in the side of Second Life's creators, Linden Lab. Please, do your part to ease the tension. Mellow out on accusing "those people" of being the ruin of Second Life. Live and let live. And, enjoy yourself. Life is too short to do any less. (^_^)y

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