Maybe virtual world publishers do belong inside the magic circle after all.
On Sunday I wrote about an interesting situation that arose after the sad and tragic death of one-half of the Second Life fashion design team known to most as the avatar Ginny Talamasca.
In the wake of the designer's passing, Katt Kongo, the publisher of the Second Life newspaper, Metaverse Messenger, proposed having SL publisher Linden Lab designate April 17, 2008 "Ginny Talamasca Day."
But Kongo's proposal, which she made in an e-mail to a number of SL residents, including myself, was followed by responses from some who argued that the role of organizing such a commemorative day would likely fall on the virtual world's residents themselves and that Linden Lab would likely decline to be involved.
"Linden Lab's role has been one of a platform developer, not as a (massively multiplayer online game) provider," wrote Ron Blechner, chief technology officer of Involve, a third-party SL development company, at the time. "As such, they really aren't the ones in control of Second Life's culture; they aren't the game gods; they just design the architecture, really."
Blechner also said that he felt that, "if you feel strongly about getting this done, my recommendation would be to build up a grass-roots support, and eventually, with enough support and awareness, it will become a de facto event."
My feeling was that Blechner was probably right and that Linden Lab would likely choose not to get directly involved. And to me it raised the interesting question of the role of a publisher in such a dynamic.
But it turns out that the conventional wisdom was wrong.
On Friday, Robin Harper, Linden Lab vice president of marketing and community development, wrote back to everyone who had received Kongo's original e-mail.
"We think it's a wonderful idea to have an annual day of remembrance in Second Life, to honor everyone we may have lost through the year," Harper wrote. "We're happy to have that day be on April 17. In addition, we'd like to donate (two island sims) for the purpose of holding any memorial type events...It's our feeling that such a day will enrich Second Life, and the loss of Ginny is a reminder how important it is that we remember all our friends--hence the move to a broader recognition day."
Now, it's not exactly what Kongo asked for, but it's certainly in the right spirit.
And the quick and positive responses to Harper's e-mail that followed it show that the publisher of a virtual world can step inside the so-called magic circle and have it feel right. And it doesn't necessarily break the illusion of a place like Second Life being a fantasy environment. In fact, it may demonstrate that everyone involved, from user to developer to publisher, is part of the same community.