In a blog post on August 2nd, 2016, the Lab introduced their new Gaming Islands: regions designed to help Second Life users – particularly (but not exclusively), I would assume, new users – understand Skill Games in the platform, how they can play them (and why they may not be able to play them), together with a means to find them.
I’m not sure when these regions – there appear to be two at present – opened, so whether the blog post has been timed to coincide with their launch or whether, like much that is in the blog post, they’ve been around a while but simply not promoted, is hard to tell. However, on reading about them, I jumped over to take a look – but before I get into the details, a quick bit of background.
Gambling laws in the USA and around the world can be complicated beasts. What some might consider to be gambling to others might be viewed a game of skill, and vice-versa. This makes determining what is and isn’t allowed and by whom a difficult practice, particularly where the Internet is concerned.
Because of all this complexity, the Lab banned gambling in Second Life, whilst allowing games of skill to remain. Then, in 2014, the Lab sought to further refine the kinds of skill games involving money and payouts which are permissible in SL through a complete overhaul of their Skill Gaming Policy, together with the introduction of new Skill Gaming regions where such games can be played.
The new Gaming Islands are designed to help SL residents understand what Skill Games are, where they can be played, the kinds of games they might encounter, how they can get to play them – and why, in some instances, they may not be allowed to access the regions where they can be played, and finally to offer a means to reach Skill Gaming regions.
To achieve this, the new Gaming Islands are split into four areas: the arrival point, a game play area; a Learn area which explains more about Skill Games in SL and how to access Skill Gaming Regions; and an Explore area which provides direct teleport portals to Skill Gaming regions provided by various in-world Skill Gaming Operators.
The game play area offers what appear to be “skill-based slot machine” games (yes, there are such beasts in the physical world) with L$ pay-outs – although I have to admit, even after reading the instructions, I was unable to determine where the “skill” factor came into effect over and above the “chance” element (the requirement for Skill Games in SL is that their outcome “is determined by skill and is not contingent, in whole or in material part, upon chance”).
This is not to say that I think the games are not skill-based, but simply that – as a non-gambler / player of skill games, I simply didn’t get where skill enters into them, even after reading the instruction tabs. Perhaps this might indicate more practical explanations are required, or maybe it just indicates I just don’t get Skill Games. I’m also a little mystified as to why, more than an hour after I left one of the islands, the GamingIsland Operator made a small payment to my account – but hey-ho (addendum: apparently pay-outs are made at regular periods after play).
The Learn area, designed to get people up-to-speed with Skill Gaming in SL, how they can ensure they are eligible to access Skill Gaming regions and why, even if they meet the SL criteria, they may still be unable to do so, is a little more straightforward.
To one side of the are a series of information boards designed to help people ensure they can access Skill Gaming region; on the other are explanations of what Lab’s define a Skill Game (lifted from the Second Life Skill Gaming FAQ), together with information on why, legally, some SL users may not be able to access Skill Gaming regions even if they meet the SL criteria for doing so. The split path perhaps isn’t the best approach here, given it might encourage some to simply go around one side and then up the stairs to the final section, but the use of teleport boards in the final section makes this a minor quibble.
This final section, entitled Explore, offers teleport portal directly to a number of Skill Gaming regions provided by different Skill Gaming Operators. Should anyone find they cannot use the teleport portal, boards between the portals will teleport them to the Learn section of the island where they can double-check they meet the SL / legal (in the case of US residents) requirements for accessing Skill Gaming regions.
Skill Gaming isn’t to everyone’s interest, to be sure. However, providing information on what it is and how to find it is, I would suggest, a good idea, as is joining the dots for new users to be able to find their way to such regions, which give the opportunity to play for Linden Dollars. As it is, Skill Gaming operators pay a premium for their regions, and so providing a means by which they can obtain traffic on the same footing as other types of activity in SL is only fair.
In terms of the Gaming Islands layout, and my own problems in “getting” the games aside, the design is straightforward and does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. Which is all one can ask, really.