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Moriash Moreau: My Second Life
Monday, May 16, 2005
Futile Rant #3: The FIC
Okay, boys and girls, settle down while Mori gives you the benefit of his dubious wisdom. Every so often, I hear people spouting off about the so called "Feted Inner Core." The FIC. The secret cabal of longtime players that has the ear of the Lindens, and secretly dictates policy to oppress the hapless newbies. Naturally, the Lindens deny the existence of such a group, or at least denies their influence in policy and development. Bladdy bladdy bladdy.

Well, I've got news for you. There is an FIC. Every MMORPG has one. (Although SL is the first one I've seen populated with members that know what "feted" means.) I've seen them in early MUDs, I've seen them in Everquest, and I've seen them here. But, like any conspiracy theory, there's a tiny kernel of truth wrapped in about 37.496 Imperial Tons of paranoid speculation.

The influential minority in any online game is naturally going to be composed of the most sophisticated and experienced players. In other words, the early adopters and the 16-hour-a-day psychos. In Everquest, these people would naturally gravitate to the power guilds. Known as the Uber Guilds (or sometimes the Ubar, to give it the proper Schwarzenegger-esque accent), they were the ones that routinely raided the highest level, most difficult zones. And they were the ones that, naturally, ended up effectively playtesting the self-same zones. They were the first ones to get the newest gear, the latest spells, the most advanced disciplines. So, strangely enough, their opinions mattered on these issues. Who was the programming team supposed to listen to regarding these issues? EQ became far, far too complex for one small programming team to plumb all the depths and nuances. The developers would be fools to pass up on input from the power guilds that spent day after day grinding through every square meter of the new content. Theirs are the most knowledgeable opinions in the game.

Now let's map this over to Second Life. There are no levels. There is no uber phat loots. (Yes, "phat loots" is singular. Strange, and sad, but true.) But there are still the old timers and the experienced power elite. These are the ones that have been around since the beginning, that have plumbed the depths of multiple aspects of the game (be they technical or social) time and again. Who exactly should the Lindens listen to? Someone who's seen it all from the beginning? Or some schmoe (like me) who wasn't even around for the prim tax or the last stipend cut? And, frankly, who deserves a little extra recognition from the Powers That Be? The ones that showed up this year, or the ones who have supported the game and helped it prosper since v1.1?

It's a given that, based on their relative experience, some players' opinions are more useful than others. And, of course, there are some players whose opinions will never be respected, even if they stick around until we're all playing via Holodeck in a Lunar old folks home. But, by and large, the community and the Lindens both place more import on the opinions of the old timers and the power players. This is as it should be.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the extent of the ominous powers of the so called FIC. People listen to them, because they actually know what they're talking about. (And some of them are conceited little assjacks that will take great pains to remind you of their status and importance every 30 seconds, as if they were set on their own personal self-aggrandizement llSetTimerEvent. But that's a completely different issue.) It's a simple matter of veneration and service. Nothing more sinister than that. They stuck around through the rough years, they had faith in the game, they used the tools of the system to the utmost. And, as a byproduct, they bought a little extra esteem in the game world.

Don't like it? Feel downtrodden and second class? Then try contributing something besides vitriol. Get in the game and earn your own measure of respect. Or just wait it out. The FIC isn't forever. As the game gets bigger, the opinion and influence of any one player matters less. Any mark you make on the grid is merely scribbling on shifting sand. People leave. Names are forgotten, especially on the net. How many people still know who Kibo is? And his net-audience was many times larger than Second Life will likely ever be. Fame, especially internet-based fame, is ephemeral. Most SL denizens, including the much hyped and disputed membership of the Feted Inner Core, will be forgotten five minutes after they stop paying their tier fees and log out for the last time.

Above all, remember it's just a game! SL is just not that important in the scheme of things. (At least, not unless you're a Linden. But that's another story altogether.) Your status in a venue that 99.44% of the world doesn't even know exists just doesn't buy you much. (And trust me, nothing is more pitiful than someone who goes around saying "I'm really big in [Obscure Online Community], honest!") The odds are overwhelmingly against SL ever being more than a social circle and entertaining diversion for a handful of social maladroits, stressed-out college students, and middle-class nobodies spread thinly around the globe.

Face that, and get on with the game.
Lordfly Digeridoo said most of this first, and more concisely... After downing 5 or 6 beers.

Dammit. I'm going back to posting screenshots.
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