Monday, April 12, 2010

Linden Lab and selling the fantasy


Iggy O has posted on the “In a Strange Land” blog regarding a recent Linden Lab marketing piece that evidently appeared on the SL web site. I’m unclear if it has shown up in other contexts as well. But it certainly is “interesting” for a number of reasons. I don’t know if it will beget a reaction from potential new customers...but it certainly got a reaction from many existing ones.

Iggy’s reaction was, I think, representative of what many thought:

“So this vision is the best that Linden Lab can do for us today? This is pretty far from what creative residents have built on Linden Lab's infrastructure. The Lab currently seems to be casting about, wildly, for customers. The campaigns flail back and forth, from the far slicker and interesting 'put some steam in your punk' images that ran a couple of weeks back to...this.

It's The Sims....”

My own initial response, which I posted on the “Strange Land” blog was an extension of this:

“ is rather suggestive of something I have always suspected about the Lindens--even back in the "Philip" era.

The people at the company simply don't "get" the majority of us. It is not just that they don't understand or appreciate the diverse majority of their customer base--they seem to be downright embarrassed by us. They may even be a little bit afraid of us. Otherwise, I believe they would have followed a strategy encouraging their staff to more aggressively engage with the residents on their own turf rather than from the safety of "office" hours.

Yes, back in Rosedale days, someone at the lab had a more sincere appreciation for a certain element of the artsy-freaksy cool creator class people, but they still seemed confused, unsettled and uncertain with regards to the rest of us loonies, especially in the historical/literary/rp based communities. They weren't terribly supportive of us, and certainly never acknowledged us.

So is this new focus on marketing to "norms" all that different from the days when they focused on celebrating and recognizing (they really didn't do marketing in those days) a different particular limited class of people?

I think I feel a Dio Rant coming on.”

Basically, I think that reactions of people like me and Iggy come from a sense that what happens in SL--and the majority of the people you will encounter on the grid--are not represented in that advertisement. I have spent a lot of years in this goddam pixelated vale o’ tears and covered a shitload o’ territory in my time, but by Gawd, I don’t think I have ever seen a happy white suburban family quite like those photoshopped folks in the picture...not even as a parody, or in some kind of bizarre John Cheever-esque vision of suburban hell.

That just isn’t us. Those people are not in SL, at least not in the places I’ve explored.

So I was ready to let go with both barrels and have some fun with it. But then...instead of spewing the usual verbal pyrotechnics framed within the context of my SOP of “shoot first and then maybe think about it a decade or so later,” I thought, "well, maybe there’s some rational reason for this." I tried to think about it as if I was a marketing person, and look at the situation through the filter of that peculiar world view. And yeah, I could see how you would design marketing pieces that feature what isn’t on the grid as an element of your efforts to broaden your customer base. You don’t market to the people who are already here, you market to the folks who ain’t.

Now just to be sure, I thought it would be nice if I could get someone from the Lab to confirm my suspicions on this. So I wrote to T Linden the following:

“Hi Tom,

I would very much like to have a comment from a Linden about the recent trend in LL marketing that seems to de-emphasize the creative aspects of life on the platform, and instead pursues a market segment that appears to be more "The Sims" type of audience, as is suggested by the recent marketing piece showing a happy nuclear family in front of a boxy suburban house.

I would assume that part of the strategy here is to try to go after a market segment that you have not already significantly engaged--as you currently have with the existing "creative" type resident population. I could argue that it makes sense for you to put your marketing emphasis into going after people who aren't already in the fold. But it would be nice to have someone from the company to actually state that...or whatever the strategy might actually be.”

And bless his heart he wrote right back to me:

“Our marketing strategy contemplates *both* creatives (with the value
propositions of "create your world" and "make money from your
creations") and to consumers (what you might call the "sims"
demographic) who need to buy/consume the experiences and products that creatives create.

One dynamic here is that b/c the ratio of consumers to content
creators in SL today is something like 20:1, and in the broader world
is probably something like 100:1, we have to spend disproportionately
to acquire consumers. As a result, that marketing and message is much
more visible, so I can understand where you are getting the impression
that is our focus.

Later this year, when we ship Mesh import (enabling a whole new set of
content creators, content, effects, and experiences) I expect we'll
lean our marketing mix towards acquiring new creatives - as there are
100s of thousands of users of 3D studio and Maya for whom SL is a bit
of a black box today, with unfamiliar tools, characteristics, etc.”

So yeah, it was about what I figured.

But I also found T’s reply interesting with his distinction between “consumers” and “creatives”--especially as I consider myself a mixture of both: one of those people who is a probably considered a “creative” in terms of social/educational situations and interaction (rather than much actual stuff-type content), but who relies on other content creators for most of the virtual buildings and artifacts I use to enhance and augment the situations and interactions I help organize. At the same time, even with my limited building skills, I do enjoy sometimes making stuff if no one else is making something I want or need. So it’s not always clear who is a creative versus a consumer.

And just a thought...if the lab is going to try attracting more of the “consumer” market segment, are they perhaps selling those folks short by offering things like a jolly, idealized, whitebread suburban lifestyle as the product to be consumed? Yes I know, that old white picket fence ideal is a powerful mythology these days, as economic, socio-political and environmental considerations make that lifestyle even less of an attainable reality than it was in the post-WWII “good ol’ daze.” For many people it is as much of a far-off fantasy as Battlestar Galactica, Hogwarts, or 1870s Deadwood.

Nonetheless, I would hope that as the Lab seeks to engage these “consumers” who are needed to grow the population in-world, they balance this one sort of fantasy with the others that can be attained on the platform. Even the “consumers” have the potential to be “creatives,” not only of stuff, but even more so, of shared narrative. Don’t just assume they’re all boobis americanis, longing to settle in a virtual Levitttown and crank out 2.5 prim babies.

Don’t sell them short. Show them more of the different “lifestyles” that people in world have evolved--historical and futuristic, literary and arts-themed, mechanoid and fur-covered.

Oh, and one other thing, before we wander off onto other subjects: while I get the whole idea about marketing to the people who aren’t your customers yet, there still is the need to keep the existing customer base happy.

In other words: you provide exciting, engaging marketing materials to hook the people you don’t have in the fold yet...

...and you provide good responsive customer service to hold the people who are already in your camp.

Please remember LL, that you need both new and existing customers. Don’t hide in those offices--there’s a world out there that isn’t as scary as it seems. And you really don't have to be embarrassed by us.


  1. Speaking as someone who is entirely a "consumer" when it comes to (not) making things (though, as you point out, Dio, all of us who participate in enriching our little corner of the world are "creators" in some sense), I think Mr. Linden has it backward: SL doesn't need more consumers, it needs more creators. I see the same few warehouses, castles, dreary jeans, scripted private parts, etc., etc. I see a few efforts at themed areas that are genuinely different, and a lot of "me too" creations.

    All of that leads to folks just hanging about, looking for something to do beyond bopping on danceballs and listening to someone else's record collection. (N.B. Some people have very fine record collections indeed, and I don't mean to put them down. It's a matter of variety. So no hate mail, at least from that line.)

    As far as attracting consumer types with a 1950s-era nuclear family...let me say I also have some experience there. For better or worse, I'm white, had two parents around growing up, plus a sibling, and a nice suburban house. I don't need a virtual world to have that experience. Been there, done that, am quite grateful. Is that image supposed to attract people who didn't have that kind of upbringing? If so, I'm not sure how successful it'll be, because the suburban nuclear family thing is quite boring. Out in the real world, boring is good. It's safe and predictable, which is what parents want for their children, and what children often want (even if they don't realize it at the time). But boring.

  2. Hey Rhia,

    I understand what you're saying, but in my experience, that whole post-war suburban nirvana, while boring, was never as safe or wholesome as our parents liked to think it was.

    It was in fact like the rest of society, a dangerous and uncertain place where really bad shit happened to a lot of us as kids on a regualr basis. So yeah, from my personal perspective suburban life was just as nasty and brutish as life anywhere else, except it also was pretty fucking dull in between the bullying, hypocrisy, abuse and other crap.

    Consequently, I'm pretty much immune to this particular kind of advertising--it just doesn't do anything for me except make me cringe.

    But it does make me a little curious: who is the real target here do you think? Who is the focal point of the avatars being represented? The pretty pretty adults or the happy child? Who is the sales pitch really aimed at?

    If it's actually aimed at those who are trying to play out having a happy childhood, then I'm REALLY not the demographic for this. I gave up many years ago worrying about how much my childhood in the suburbs actually sucked. I've tried to move on to having a happy--and interesting--adulthood.

    I suppose if I wanted to try to make the above scene more appealing, I could imagine that the three individuals in the ad are actually a team of psychotic ninja pranksters, (the child is in fact a midget, the woman is a fembot and the guy is a gay Republican seeking revenge on the people who rejected him). They are all happy because they just surreptitiously jacked up a section of Karl Rove's house (you can see how it seems to be floating in the air), and when Rove gets out of bed in the morning, he will fall off the elevated section of flooring and hopefully hurt himself.

    There...that seems much more interesting.

    Now when I think of it like becomes an effective piece of marketing.

    But seriously Rhia, if you were going to show a potential new customer something that you think would make them really really really freakin' want to come play in SL, what would you show them?

  3. Most excellent post. The Linden reply was quite insightful as well.

  4. First thing I'd do is dock the pay of the twerp who cobbled that graphic together on short notice, and his/her supervisor, who were blind to its screamingly obvious production flaws.

    Then... well, it's impossible to portray SL with one image! Just now, the idea that pops into my head is a shot of the World Map, zoomed out to show all of the major continents, and a tagline something like, "Every one of those squares is a sim, and no two are alike -- come see it!" (I'd leave Nascera, the Linden Home continent, out of the image).

  5. I'm not suggesting that every suburban kid had a happy or safe childhood, though I'm willing to bet that the odds were better than, say, in a ghetto or a war zone. Your mileage may vary, but, to mix cliches, you play the odds. (And, as an aside, even though I had a fine and dull childhood, I'm not looking to relive those years.)

    But yeah, it's hard to tell what kind of potential user would be turned on by the image. We both know people who play children in SL, but not the "Leave it to Beaver" type of children. Similarly, I don't see the point of a SL where the Dad comes home from a hard day's work in some unseen office and has a martini with his Dear Wife before she cooks a pot roast and they watch what that wacky Archie Bunker is up to. Even hanging out in a club listening to heavy metal is more interesting than that.

    After giving it some thought, it has to be that the image is meant to draw in people who see themselves in the picture. (Presumably not the kid, as she doesn't look anywhere close to 18.) Mom (or Dad) might be thinking that SL is for weirdos who like to pretend they're in the 19th century (*cough*), but, hey, those people look just like my ex-wife/husband and me! Maybe I could hang out with other middle-aged people and meet someone!

    Setting aside the question of how successful that strategy is likely to be, as I'm no marketing genius, I can see LL's point that to expand their user base significantly they need to do more than convince other weirdos who like to pretend they're in the 19th century to give SL a whirl. They need the mainstream. My guess is that the mainstream doesn't need SL, but we'll see.

    By the way, I liked both of Mr. Telling's suggestions.

  6. Hey Lalo and Rhia,

    Yeah, I think pretty much we're all on the same page. And yes Rhia, your point about the odds being better for a child in the suburbs than in a war zone or a ghetto is well taken. But my point was that while things may be relatively better in a nice lilly white suburb, they weren't nearly as goddammed safe as parents in the 50s and 60s seem to think they were. Now, parents are much more cognizant of the fact that life is an uncertain and dangerous thing wherever you are and people need to be careful. I was simply saying that in my own experience suburbs are sinkholes of nasty stuff, so to me, this ad isn't even close to effective.

    And I agree with our good friend Lalo that it's an inferior piece of work on a lot of levels. It does look like it was rushed, and whatever the fuck is going on with the elevated section--whether it was a feeble attempt at creating perspective (like the 'shopping in of the giant family) or an effort to create the impression that this style of Linden home is more interesting than it really is--just plain didn't work.

    And if that is the reason for the manipulation of the structure--to try to make it more visually interesting--is that implicitly suggesting that the Lindens themselves think that those vaunted Linden homes as they really stand are nothing more than half-assed mediocrities?

    Yes I think we all agree that the Lab is following an intelligent strategy in trying to attract market segments that are underrepresented on the grid, PROVIDED that it is married to a complimentary strategy of retaining existing customers with good service and communication (and no, occasional spurts of drivel from that witless, self-serving clodpoll Wally do NOT qualify as effective communication).

    I think Lalo is on the right track with emphasizing the idea of every point on the map is a unique narrative in the making...the world is a mosaic of thousands of different and distinct experiences and environments.

    So yeah, they aren't going in a bad direction with ads like this...they just need to put more thought into images and impression they are trying to make.

    The next question we can kick around is just what constitutes the "mainstream" or if there really is such a thing.

  7. Well, "mainstream" has to be relative to the potential user base. It takes a lot of computing power to get in-world and have a decent user experience. Second, it takes a decent time commitment to get good at anything in-world. The demographics of that set of people - top-end hardware and willing to commit gobs of time - doesn't look like the demographics of the country (or world) as a whole.

    The thing about Facebook or, better yet, Twitter, is that it doesn't take much to use it. (What one gets out of it is a subject best left for another day.) That means everyone - kids on cell phones, people with netbooks, ancient Granny who isn't comfortable with computers, busy executives - can use Twitter, should they so desire. That gives Twitter a much bigger and different-looking "mainstream" than SL.

  8. Really good point there Rhia, the gorilla in the canoe is the technical and temporal demands of the platform. They could make the viewer so simple that even Glen Beck could use it, fix the orientation process so that it not only explained everything it gave you a hot fudge sundae, and offer everyone a free robo-lackey to look after their Linden home...but it still wouldn't mean doodleshit to the market segment that just doesn't have the resources to use the frakkin' platform.

    I also think that there is a tendency to underestimate the potential new audience when we call them "mainstream." The potential audience is not really one big smeggin' mega audience, it's a whole screaming plethora of micro audiences...and that range of audiences cannot be pigeon holed.

    I would argue there is no "mainstream" anymore. I think one thing the internet has done is enable us to be engaged as a series of intersecting
    rivulets--some bigger than others of course.

    When I was growing up, there was a mainstream of focused attention--almost EVERYBODY in America watching Ed Sullivan or Bonanza or Walter Cronkite.Now the only mega audience event would probably be something like the Super Bowl (I love to go shopping on Super Bowl Sunday because the stores are all empty). But even then it's actually multiple audiences drawn to the same venue by different interests. Some want to watch the aging pop star who perform at half time, others like ogle the jiggly cheerleader factions, others just want to see the damn commercials. A few even watch it for the joy of viewing overpaid mesomorphs attmept to dislocate each other's spinal columns.

    Which brings us back to Lalo's idea of emphasizing the "no two sims are alike" nature of the grid.

    I think it's great that the Lab is trying to market the platform and draw in new blood. It's just that there is no simple way to approach it. And maybe that's where this conversation has to end--perhaps it is simply impossible to do SL justice within the paramters that are necessitated by issues of budget and staff limitations.

  9. Hi guys - late to this one, but RL's been busy :)

    Good post and great discussion - for my part I can see the reasons for wanting more consumers, after all M Linden is all about the greenbacks and people making stuff don't give him as much loot as people buying stuff. I don't agree with this stance & direction, but it's pointless to ignore it. SL won't become closed to builders (unless they remove the build tools I suppose) but less and less noobs will feel encouraged, enthused or able to build. Let's face it, just like that picture, SL is mirroring RL where advertisers, media & politicians have convinced us we can do anything with out whatever it is they are pushing. We've let them do it to us, but the effect is the same. Most people will come to SL to chat, look beautiful, make friends, have sex, etc. et al. because that is easy, and we do easy very well indeed.

    But... and like Opera, there's no disgusing ait's a big but... some of those people will want more and if there are statistically more people, there will be more wanting to expand and make stuff. I see a bright future for building and selling with loads of lovely consumers wanting to buy and stuff dosh in M's bottomless pockets. What I don't see a bright future for is the "open source" kind of building that has so far defined SL, but that could just be me being a downer :)

    Frankly I don't care if every bugger on God's green earth joins SL, what I do care about is that it is quite obvious that the technology that underpins it hasn't changed much since its inception. We can still only have 40 avs, we still have no group chat, we still crash, the whole fucking thing feels like running in beta to me and adding a shitload of new people (all using the criminally beta V2.0) will just make shit break all over the place.

    But as long as they get enough noobs in spending enough money, M should give a shit about us playing our little games and writing our cutesy stories on our ever-so ignorable blogs.

    Bottom line, whilst I know not Mark Kingdom/M Linden, I think his capatalist greedy business model is fucking evil.

  10. p.s. sorry for any speeeling errors, I banged it out in a hurry and forget to check it.

  11. Hi HB,

    it's good to see you back bubba! We missed you!

    Well, I did, anyhow. It's great having someone around whos spelling is as baaad as mine, and who has a similar penchant for nastily colorful vocabulary.

    Anyhow, yeah, I agree with you pretty much, other than I wouldn't go so far as to say that M and his drive to make the platform as profitable as possible is necessarily fuckin' evil.

    That's his job as a bizness dude, to make his company profitiable. I'm ok with that, as long as the tools remain in SL that allow the "creatives" (or people like you and me who are more creative/consumer hybrids) to keep doing what they want to do. And there is no reason why they shouldn't leave those tools in place, because if you are going to maximize the profit potential of SL, then you NEED the creatives and creative/consumers to be happy and productive and making the stuff and the experiences that feed the pure consumer element's lust for whatever they're lusting for.

    Remember my parody post about the Linden economic model being based on ancient Easter Island? There is a certain degree of truth in the joke, because the Easter Islanders' construction projects required the participation of the residents--it wasn't just a few craftsmen banging out the big statues, its everybody whacking rocks and tugging them around the island.

    In the same way, the Lindens need us for their economic model to work.

    Hence, as I said, their strategy has to include both marketing to new folks, AND providing good service and communication to keep the existing residents, especially the 'creatives" and creative/consumers.

    But you also have another very good point -- the one about how "we do easy very well." The plain fact is, even with new improved greeter and orientation areas, and the allegedly more user-friendly viewer, SL will never be as easy to use as farmville or twitter, or the old Sims Online. It's just not that simple, period. AND it requires a better than average machine and connection in order to be anything other than a frustrating mess for the greenhorns.

    So I tend to wonder if the drive to make SL appealing to a massive audience that reaches far beyond the current niche audiences it has engaged is doomed by the nature of the product.

  12. Thanks for the thoughtful post.

    Although this kind of suburban image seems dated and uninteresting to me personally, I do appreciate that it probably appeals to a large part of the Second Life population as evidenced by a visit to most any residential estate. Many of these estate homes are no more interesting or creative than the official Linden starter homes. Even the art they put on their walls is Thomas Kinkade. Or porn.

    The percentage of truly creative "content creators" relative to "consumers" is so minuscule it seems inaccurate to say that LL is marketing to anything other than the majority and it's ilk. Although IMO it would be more enriching to the world for LL to make greater effort to bring in creative types, that would be economic suicide. It makes advertising sense to market to the majority.

    Let's face it, most people in SL log in and then hang out with friends and chat, maybe fly around exploring shops a bit, then chat some more. That's it. They don't create beautiful things. They don't script. Maybe a few make knockoff jeans. This is the vast majority of the current and future population. It's a 3D chat environment, not a creative playground, to most SL residents.

    Thank god there is, as in life, a rich and vibrant subculture beneath the surface!

  13. Interesting post, thanks for putting this question to a Linden and sharing the response.

    For reference, there are literal 'Leave It To Beaver' roleplay sims in Second Life where child and adult avatars roleplay 1950's American nuclear families. Old Willowdale is one such example. They desire to live in a friendly close knit community.

    So there is space for this sort of roleplay. I'm not sure the Linden Homes meet that requirement though - Old Willowdale has all the trappings and facilities of a small town, a theme and a set of roleplay rules that new residents have to agree to.

  14. Excellent post, Dio, and thanks for the generous plugs for my mess :)

    I'd like to reply to two issues raised here. First, you peg something well when you write:

    "Even the “consumers” have the potential to be “creatives,” not only of stuff, but even more so, of shared narrative."

    Sometimes it seems that SLers assume "creators" to be those who not only can link a few prims and texture them but ones who can script. That would exclude me (having never done better than a C+ in any CS course I took), though I consider myself a maker of narratives and structures.

    Yet creators spend Linden Dollars beyond uploads. I dropped a good bit of cash in-world to merchants who make Victorian accessories used in our House of Usher Build. Some of it I *could* have made, but time is a tyrant. Other content, beyond my ability, also just deserved to be paid for to support the makers.

    There's no easy binary here between builders and creators; I think my own rant may have fallen into that trap.

    Second issue: the Linden image still rankles me because it's not an isolated case but a clear part of a strategy. Other than the "Avatar" links and the "Put some steam in your punk," consider the rhetorical implications of the LL ads these days--dream-homes with (mostly) white folks socializing and shopping. Then look at the video they run. Only at the end do we glimpse a tiny, a robot, and a few more non-humans. Finally, the default avatars are all human in SL 2.

    I've not been able to trust LL for a while, so why should I believe that T's opinion, even if sincere, reflects the entire management plan? It still seems that the predominant message is "come here to socialize and shop and hold meetings" with a teaser about "love" that makes my students cackle because they know cyber when they see it, even as a hint.

    If a group of folks wish to build cyber-burbs and live there in SL, that's fine. I must, however, concur with Rhianon. Creatives in an community make it vital and not look alike everywhere. You can have active citizenry doing wonderful things in the blandest of 'burbs. But citizenship alone does not make a place that writers and artists and designers congregate.

    Finally, Dio, there's still a suburban US mainstream--just visit Richmond and see the lines of beige GMC Suburbans, Chevy Yukons, and nearly identical homes. Perhaps, to quote the Roxy Music tune there may be "in every dream home, a heartache," but conformity to the outer world seems obligatory...hence fascist "covenant" developments.

    So, who IS the audience for this and similar ads?

    My guess: Lower-middle class stiffs with jobs and good computers wanting to be glamorous upper management in a way denied to them IRL because of the downturn. Because what I'm seeing in the ads is a fantasy of, say, 2006 suburbia IRL.

  15. OK, evil is a bit harsh (I was pissed off at the time) but I do see the relentless drive for profit at a time when the only develoments are designed to get more people on a leaky ship instead of making the ship water-tight as plain wrong.

  16. HeadBurro, I recognize a fellow hot-head when I meet one on the interwebs net-thing.

    Sure, the term "evil" as you used it was hyperbolic. No one imagines Kingdon rubbing his hands together in some corner office and saying "I'll show those hippies! I'll close their coffee shops! Muahaha!"

    But if the corporate, mass-market direction that LL pursues now runs off SL's cultural creatives, as it's already doing with developers of third-party viewers, that would be an evil thing...collateral damage if you would of the drive to make more money. Sure, they have to make enough cash to keep the Grid going, but...

    Without the creatives we'd have all lost something vital: the promise of the Grid as Philip Rosedale envisioned it, a place out of the brighter side of the cyberpunks' vision for the future.

    me<--Hyperbolic utopian egghead.

  17. Iggy... what you said, fella. That's exactly what I meant :)

  18. howdy boys, thanks for adding to the discussion.

    I like that term Iggy, "Hyperbolic utopian egghead." I get a kick out of what both you and HB have to say and how you say it. I guess I am just trying to bend the other way at the moment, being--as you all know--occasionally inclined to turn into a vitriol-spewing sack o' fermented buzzard guts with vocabulary that will peel the paint off the goddam outhouse door.

    And yes, Iggy I agree--I find a disturbing trend reflected not just in marketing pieces like odd little snippet, but in that whole promotional video featuring lots and lots of pretty pretty young people, and bizarre "breifcase guy" whom everyone agreed looked like he desperately needed to get laid. But there is hardly anything portrayed of the numerous "rich and vibrant" subcultures, which--as Jinx points out--are an important aspect of life on the grid, as much as they are irl.

    And thanks to "36" for telling us about Willowdale. Bugger me with a snow shovel and call me John Birch, that actually sounds interesting, if it's done well! If I thought that vapid ad was addressing that kind of fantasy audience, I wouldn't be bothered by it. Hey, if it showed a true 50's burb with poodle skirts and cars with big fins, a chicken in every pot and a TV antenna on every roof...hell's britches, I'd go check it out, though of course, I'd probably pretend to be someone's embarrassing beatnik aunt visiting from the West Village.

    I would find a 1950s world intriguing!

    But sadly Iggy, I think you were also right with your characterization of those who would find this ad appealing to be people who are being frustrated in their aspirations. The actual mainstream who have made it to suburban bliss, if they are coming into SL, my guess is they aren't going to want to replicate what they have in the real world. They're going to be using the platform as a means of accessing escape from that grim reality.

    No, I really think Lalo was on the right trail with the idea that the lab should be presenting the wide range of lifestyle options--the great diversity of fantasies--as the folks in those beige SUV's and identical McMansions with restrictive covenants are the very folks who might be interested in trying out being a steampunk air pirate, a dragon, a student at Hogwarts, a Gorean warrior, a furry DJ, a Deadwood whore, an evil tiny kitty mad scientist, a fin de siecle courtesan, a mechanoid explorer and so on and so on...

    I think we're all really saying the same thing here...

    ....where's the imagination?