“When you mention Second Life to people,” Maylee Oh, the subject of segment #30 of The Drax Files World Makers says, “they picture the noob avatar from 2007. So what I do is, I show them what creative people can do today.”
There’s probably one pundit out there who may well view this as a “distorted” view of Second Life, as Maylee’s vision of creativity in the platform does not mention a certain three-letter word starting in “s” and ending in “x”. However, for the rest of us, Maylee’s words open the door to another fascinating 5-minute exploration of the creative richness Second Life offers anyone willing to set aside prejudices and simply watch.
Maylee is, without a doubt one of the more interesting success stories to come out of SL’s 12-year history. Indeed, she’s been a part of the platform’s unfolding story for eight of those 12 years, using the time to build up her brand Secret Store to become one of the leading creative lights in Second Life – and a business fully capable of supporting her in the physical world.
“I quit art school during the third year because I wanted to try something different, Maylee adds a little later in the video. “I still don’t regret [it], because Second Life is still my main income. To me, this is being successful.”
Given Maylee made this decision when just 20 years old, one cannot help but wonder how her parents reacted at the time; the idea that one’s son / daughter is pushing away a good college qualification to spend time making imaginary clothes for a “game” probably isn’t something that would have most parents jumping for joy.
In fairness to Maylee’s mother however, and as illustrated in wonderful series of hand-drawn images in the video, she is now clearly enthusiastic about her daughter’s choice and acts very much as Maylee’s physical world promoter – even if, again as shown in the drawings, explanations of Maylee’s chosen profession does generate sideways glances from those outside of the platform who are being told her story. Nor does the very important element of physical world support end there: Maylee has also had the firm encouragement of both her best friend and her boyfriend.
Another fascinating angle in this piece is the manner in which Maylee demonstrates another way in which the real and virtual can combine to present another fascinating potential – and one which Maylee has perhaps been one of the first to creatively explore. This is through her use of the platform, together with external tools to creating highly effective adverts which stand as much as a demonstration of the sheer versatility offered by Second Life for such work as they do as a vivid visual promotion of Maylee’s secret store.
The sheer creative power presented by Maylee’s ads speaks volumes; one wonders what might have been had those companies who flocked to Second Life had actually recognised the creative potential offered within the platform and leveraged it accordingly, rather than simply trying to translate their brand and goods into digital offerings. Outside of this question, Maylee’s work demonstrates how Second Life can be used to enormous effect within mixed media presentations that go well beyond “simple” advertising.
As is often the case in these segments, the show touches upon the collaborative nature of the platform, and its ability to cross social and geographic divides. In terms of collaboration, Maylee both demonstrates how she contributes to this as well as overcome much of the “secrecy” she encountered when starting-out as a content creator in SL, through the expedient of sharing her workflow on-line as well as more directly collaborating with others in her work,
“Second Life is full of creative minds and talents people,” Maylee also observes of SL’s cultural melting pot, although layer of the platform so often missed by commentators looking in from the sidelines. “Everyone has their own culture and we exchange a lot [of] feedback from all around the world.” This also links into matters of identity, which in turn loop back to people’s reaction to the idea of clothing a virtual character in a virtual world; as she points out, the clothes we choose and wear are as much a statement of our in-world identity as the avatar we use.
Identity is also far more the driving force behind Maylee’s creativity than physical world fashions – which might come as a surprise, given she lives in one of the great fashion centres of the world.
“What I enjoy about Paris is the diversity of people,” she notes. “I love to look at everyone, and everyone’s styles and identity; it keeps getting me inspired. Paris is somehow a bit like Second Life. because it’s a huge mess but it’s also full of amazing things.”
Once again Drax challenges perceptions of Second Life by presenting a story that is – as this continuing series of videos demonstrates – very much the “norm” for those of us engaged in the platform. Maylee is no basement dwelling individual without a “first life” as the media and SL’s critics seem to be ever-willing to believe. She is a young woman who has set-up a successful business which is generating an solid income for her and which is teaching her the fundamentals of good business practice: customer relationships, team management and so on.
Hopefully, in watching her story unfolding in these five short minutes, those from outside the platform will find Maylee’s story challenging their preconceptions on the value of virtual spaces like Second Life, and be more prepared to approach SL with a more open mind, rather than merely looking for the stereotypical memes, or those wishing to peddle them to whoever will listen.