Gaming the Rank Controller

Gaming the Rank Controller

Counting Calories & Counting Spirit Points

We avatars are made of polygons & pixels. Even so, we share with our fleshvatar typists a DNA imperative to be stingy with calories. To chase, to run, to trash talk, to cheat, to get ahead, to bully. To do anything we must to be sure we don’t burn more calories than we can find to eat.

This survival instinct served our ancestors well on the African Savanna. It’s the reason we’re here at all.

Being stingy with calories, cheating, finding shortcuts, and gaming the system don’t serve us so well when we’re trying to build vibrant, healthy communities in the Physical World (PW). And they don’t serve us so well in a Virtual World (VW) like Second Life (SL) or a sororal group like the Second Life Cheerleading Squad (SLCS).

The Tax Code?

Sayrah Parx, Gwynevery Golightly (gwynevery), and I have been discussing reformulating how the SLCS Rank Controller distributes points. More points for this sort of activity, less points for that sort, and so on. It’s a bit like trying to reform the tax code! One issue we’ve discussed is time to Level Up.

As points are currently configured, a cheerleader can Level Up quickly by doing 10,000 or so vaults in the stadium. There was some merit to this when Abbie & I trained in February 2011 since back then we used to vault onto the stage and do dance routines. Precision vaulting was necessary. By contrast, when Jenna & Plague trained in February 2023 vaulting wasn’t necessary for squad activities. Far more emphasis has been placed on the Cheermaster HUD and Driving. Continuing to award points, potentially lots of them, for doing thousands of vaults doesn’t appear to serve a squad purpose any longer.

Some cheerleaders, including a former cheerleader I was close to, have gone from Trainee to Sr. Co-Captain in a single week. It’s an impressive accomplishment. I can only applaud their dedication in doing so many vaults as well as their intelligence in reverse engineering the Rank Controller and figuring out how to accrue points at an astronomical rate.

While I do respect the ambition, drive, and accomplishments of these “instant captains”, I worry that it devalues the SLCS experience. To be sure, everyone who’s done this is more dedicated than me! I’m humbled by their drive and commitment. I’m not critiquing them at all. But I do think we need to rethink the Rank Controller algorithm.

Aero Bigboots and Gwynevery Golightly discussing the SLCS Rank Controller in the Spitfire Grill at Srooc Skytower Memorial Stadium in the Cheertopia region of the real metaverse, Second Life.

Cheating in School

In the for-profit world of business we often look the other way if “cheating” produces revenue. Since universities (in theory) make no profit, we have only academic integrity. When a student cheats, faculty like me often say things like “you’re cheating yourself”. You are depriving yourself of the knowledge and learning experiences you theoretically came here for.

More than cheating yourself, you also devalue every degree that the university grants to every other student. You can mathematically earn the necessary points, grades, and units for a degree without fully experiencing the learning journey. You can, but that degree means less. You know it means less. And others know it means less. People you work with will mentally rank your university by your excellence. Or lack thereof.

The reality is that students cheat a lot.


That’s a complicated question. Part of the answer is: it’s efficient.

Springbok Stotting. Image: Charles Jorg/

Trash Talk is Calorie Efficient!

The 3 fastest land animals are:
1. Cheetah
2. Pronghorn (American Antelope)
3. Springbok (African Antelope)

The Cheetah is the fastest at 60 mph, but it can only run that fast for short times. The Springbok can hit 55 mph and can run at high speeds for longer.

Life on earth is a lot about calories. If you burn more than you consume, your days are numbered. Finding, and conserving calories is survival imperative #1.

When an animal slower than a Springbok sees a Cheetah approaching, it has no choice but to run as quick and fast as it can.

Because of its remarkable speed, the Springbok has more options. When Springbok see Cheetah approaching, they often practice a behavior known as “Stotting.” Stotting is hopping. Stotting is kind of the animal kingdom’s equivalent of the “Trash Talk” a basketball player might engage in on the court.

Catch me if you can, but you can’t, stupid Cheetah!

The Springbok
Springbok Pronking (Stotting)

Math in the Animal Kingdom

An animal slower than the Springbok could trash talk. But when the cheetah got closer it’d be out of options. It can’t run fast enough to avoid becoming the cheetah’s lunch.

The Springbok can trash talk because it also has the speed to back up its bravado. The Cheetah knows from experience that the Springbok’s trash talk is legit.

Both the Springbok and the Cheetah have done some math and made a calorie efficient choice. The Springbok, that has the ability to evade the Cheetah if it has to, knows that stotting burns a lot less calories than running. Why burn so many precious calories running when you can trash talk the Cheetah out of chasing you?

The Cheetah knows that burning a lot of calories in a high-speed chase of a Springbok that ends up evading you is a fool’s errand. So many calories burned and none gained. So the Cheetah flips off the Springbok and moves along to look for a different lunch.

Everybody made a calorie efficient choice.

Cheating is Calorie Efficient

Most of the various forms of cheating in school also require fewer calories than doing the work yourself. But, something’s changed!!! By the time we leave the African Savanna and come to the University we’re no longer fighting for calories and survival in the natural world (hopefully). Now we’re in the developed world where our goal isn’t minimizing calories, instead it’s developing our talent and abilities. Our biologically-wired survival mechanisms for the natural world can hinder us from becoming the person we want to be in the developed world.

If school has no value, then cheating is smart. Of course, attending school that has no value isn’t so smart. If school does have value, then cheating, stotting, and other calorie efficient strategies are not helpful because you didn’t come to school to burn as few calories as possible, you came to school to develop yourself, your abilities, and your career. (or, if you’re an idealist, you might have come to school with the intention to become a more complete human being)

image: Mike Reinhart/Quisitive/LinkedIn

Gaming the Rank Controller

The 6 Levels and 36 Degrees of Cheerleader in the SLCS Rank Controller are similar. They are achievements to be earned. Levels to be experienced. Roads you can’t walk twice.

Last time I looked, Kylie Solus’ current level was “Sr. Co-Captain ****”. I’ve heard her comment that she doesn’t want to earn that “final star” that final, 36th Degree of Cheerleaderfulness, too soon since it’s the last time in her SLCS career that she can experience “bells”.

That’s the spirit!

IDK if we need to go as far as taking our Rank Controllers off to slow down our Leveling Up process. But I love the spirit of Kylie’s sentiment that each of those 35 Leveling Up bells are achievements to be savored.

It’s great to achieve mastery of something. The impulse to go from Trainee to Sr. Co-Captain in a week or a few weeks is understandable and shows dedication.

Would Physical World (PW) mountain climbers teleport to the top of the mountain if they could? Is it about being on top and enjoying the view? Or is every step of the climbing journey a fundamental part of the experience? If you Level Up too fast are you depriving yourself of something?

Aero Bigboots and Sayrah Parx hanging out at midfield.

It’s about The Journey

The new SLCS Rank Controller vision that Gwynevery, Sayrah, and I have been discussing focuses more on the journey. I hope it de-emphasizes rank for rank’s sake.

The July Trainee I was close to Leveled Up to Sr. Co-Captain in early August. And after having proved that, she left SLCS. I haven’t seen her in over half a year now. It makes me sad. There are also plenty of cheerleaders who Leveled Up very fast and continue to be active month after month. Year after year. Leveling Up fast doesn’t necessarily mean burning out fast or moving on to other conquests.

Still, I worry that Leveling Up too fast isn’t a helpful way to think of SLCS. It should be more about the people and less about the points. If your fleshvatar goes on a mountain hike do you post an Instagram of yourself at the top with this caption?

Crushed that mountain!

For me, it’s not about crushing anything. It’s about the experience.

Experienced a beautiful walk in the hills.

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