Sex, lies, and statistics

I have mentioned previously that there is almost no good cosplay in Second Life. This applies both to anime and to any other fan culture I have so far observed. Which still strikes me as patently odd, but I think I have a theory now.

As far as I can see, the distribution of products seen in themed markets devoted to these pursuits is 90% junk, 10% worthy things that “aren’t quite cosplay”, meaning that they are obviously inspired by the theme, but do not follow it directly or do not copy the original material faithfully. The distribution is far more polar than you could think — while in most other areas, the distribution is close to a rather even normal distribution curve, with the highest number of products being of medium quality, in fan cultures the median is quite far away from the mean. The amount of products that look like a child made them, but which make an attempt to faithfully copy the source material, far exceeds the amount of high quality products which make no attempt to follow any source closely at all.

Well, maybe it really is because a child made them.

It is no secret that while Teen Second Life exists, the barrier for a teenager to create an account on the main Second Life grid is essentially nonexistent. (Well, technically they’re the same grid artificially partitioned, but I digress.) It is not known just how many of them are actually out there, since residents on average are not inclined to pry, and the only way someone would suffer for beeing a teenager on the main grid is by them telling someone explicitly and that someone ARs them.

It is not known just how many of them are trying to create their own stuff in Second Life either. There are no released statistics describing the Second Life user age distribution that I could find, only rough estimates or data based on surveys, the validity of which I cannot assess.

My own rough estimates say that the majority of users that actually produce content are over 30, and this holds for all areas — except explicitly faithful fan media, where the majority of content producers would actually be teenagers.

Which makes sense, because hardcore fan behavior is relatively uncharacteristic for people over 30, who commonly have families and other long-term commitments, like careers, and even if they do have a subject of hardcore fandom, they are less likely to be active members of a fan community, which would put value on faithful reproduction. For teenagers, being members of a fan community and status in it would be directly connected to faithfullness of any content they produce, and they value such status much more.

Why do I think the others are teenagers though, and not within 20-30 age bracket? Beside the obvious lack of general skill, which is gained as time passes, and the increase in self-criticism, which progressively prevents older people from releasing something obviously inadequate, there is one a very interesting and common brain bug that can often be seen in many things made by people under 20. I have no idea if there is any research to support that, but apparently, at least part of the ability to correctly estimate the level of a 2-dimensional planar deformation of an image that repesents an object with known proportions only starts appearing in people after 20. It can often be seen in video, where a 16:9 image is stretched to fill a 4:3 space as if nothing out of the ordinary is going on, mixed with other footage which was 4:3 initially — not because the editor of the video doesn’t know about the proper editing tools to correct that, but because they aren’t aware it’s happening. It is also easily seen in images where the skull axis is sheared consistently to the right up to 45 degrees because of the way the drawing implement is held in a hand that rests upon the paper — when confronted about it, the artist says that nothing is wrong with shearing, even though editing the image later brings it much closer to a realistic proportion. The effect starts quickly disappearing in people older than 20.

Mind you, not everybody agrees with me that it even exists, but hey, my blog, I can theorise all I want.

That leads us to another interesting question. If the above theories are true, it appears that either users within the 20-30 age bracket themselves are underrepresented in Second Life, or that they create considerably less content than other age brackets both above and below them.