Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Adding our voice to the conversation...

As I prepare to travel back to the UK following last friday's Die Hard launch in Second Life, I though I'd post a round-up of some coverage the event has already received, along with a couple of observations of my own.

I have to start with a news item which ran on Danish national television on Saturday evening, if only because it sees Bruce giving all of Denmark its very own 'Yippie Kay Ay' (Scroll down to the link reading Bruce Willis giver pressekonference i cyberspace to launch the archived clip).

This is very much a Second Life novelty piece, the kind of high-value free media coverage a lot of brands and corporations are targeting by moving into the virtual space. Even though this kind of exposure is getting harder to come by, I do think that the 3D web is a vibrant and versatile enough medium to go on making headlines in the way that Web v1 and Web 2.0 have, and I expect there to be a continuing, mainstream interest in new developments and high-profile events in each of these realms.

Likewise, 20 Minutes, France's free daily newspaper, has run a fairly light-hearted story both in its printed version and here, on the website.

The piece is positive overall, although they seem to suggest that Willis's avatar was a poor likeness, and too inanimate. The (virtual) reality is that this one of the best likenesses I've seen created in Second Life (put together by our resident avatar designers Sachi Vixen and Damen Gorilla) and that it featured five custom-created looping avatar animations. That said, to the uninitiated I can imagine that it looks quite rudimentary, especially when you consider how somebody like Bruce would be rendered for something like the Xbox, or PS3.

Image reproduced from article on dead pixel life

What you have to keep in mind when assessing anything created in SL is that almost everything you find there is user-generated, and that the design tools built into the SL viewer tend to sacrifice visual sophistication in exchange for accessibility and performance. I've found myself suggesting more than once over the last few days that the current aesthetics of Second Life will one day come to be regarded in much the same way that we look back at something like Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds. This feels like a promising analogy, since however dated and rudimentary it appears, Thunderbirds is also the irrefutable foundation-stone of so much of what you find in cinemas today, albeit that deluxe CGI has replaced tottering marionettes.

I can't tell you what the article on Mexico's Supermorelia!com says - my Spanish isn't good enough, nor, as regards the printed version, is my eyesight.

Another great piece of coverage I want to pick up on, with a very different emphasis, is Mitch Wagner's write-up on the Information Week blog. With more of tech focus, Mitch examines the rationale for the Die Hard activity; that of reaching an influential few rather than the cinema-going many.

Personally I'm amazed how often I find people decrying SL as a marketing medium on account if the fact that it only has about 500,000 genuinely active residents. If Web 2.0 has taught us anything it surely is that all 'hits' are not equal, and that marketing is no longer a straight numbers game, but a challenge to communicate with the right audience in the right way, be it five people or five million.

Next up is UK-based blogger Neville Hobson, with whom we worked on the "300" activity. He made it along to this event notwithstanding the fact that it was around 2am local time by the time it got fully underway. Neville has posted a typically exuberant and insightful write-up, as well as twittering some of the Q&A content and posting a selection of images on Flickr. If that isn't 'superwired' I don't know what is.

Reproduced from a post on NevilleHobson.com

In terms of the SL press, first out is a write-up on Second Life News Network, who are always quick to turn copy around. Contrary to what they report in the opening paragraph Bruce had seen his avatar, and had declared himself very happy with the likeness. I can go on the record that he didn't operate it himself, and that the interview was conducted over the phone. This was not how the event was initially planned, but it's what needed to happen for it to go ahead, and our own position is that if we can engender real-time interaction between film-makers or talent and a Second Life audience, we can be said to have brought them 'into' the medium in a meaningful sense of the word.

See also a mixed bag of other write-ups, including Wired Blogs, apt blog, VintFalken.com, Appearance Mode, Guillaume in Zevillage, Pro Game News, Zabatika, Dead Pixel Life, AP LINK, MindBlizzard and The Flack. These typify the many different points of view that tend to spring up around activity like this, and in the end it's this diversity of tone and opinion which makes the conversation so compelling (not to mention the various viral machinima flotsam and jetsam appearing to complement it).

Just to add my own 'tuppence worth', for me one of the most interesting aspects of Friday's event was the presence of fans in our invite-only audience, winners of a hugely-subscribed competition which itself increased the traction and 'digital footprint' of this strand of activity. It was great fun to witness the extent to which their questions - and their unrelenting enthusiasm for Bruce and the Die Hard movies - unlocked a side of 'Bee Dub' we wouldn't necessarily see at a normal press conference.

I also found it significant that we were able to broadcast the event live on the web and within SL itself (with the help of the Second Life Cable Network), in terms of how this can be used to increase the accessibility of this kind of event, as well as the value. We've posted a video podcast of this on the Silverscreen blog, which will aso be playing in-world around the Die Hard expo for its six-week duration.

That's all for now. See you on the other side.

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