I’m sure most of you have heard of Second Life (SL) before. In case you haven’t, let me give you a very short overview of what we’re talking about. Second Life is a 3D virtual world, entirely created by its inhabitants (residents). In SL you will find almost everything you know from your Real or First Life (RL), and more.
It works much like a game; you sign up for a basic (free) or premium account, install the software (viewer) on your computer, start to form your personal character, you can explore the world, interact with other residents, play your role within the game, create things, receive things other residents have created and so on.
Yes there is role playing within SL, yes there are games within SL, yes people have jobs in SL earning virtual money (Linden Dollars or L$), yes you can go shopping with your L$ and spend real money too, yes you can buy or rent land, yes people earn real money in SL, yes there is sex, yes there is crime, and yes everything else you heard may well be true.
Let me tell you that there is a lot less of all the bad stuff one might expect. During my time in SL (over two years) I was never harassed and witnessed merely a handful of serious griefings (terrorist attacks). Surprisingly, most people do behave quite well!
More questions are answered in the SL FAQ .
So what’s the hype?
It’s tough to give a specific explanation, but in general it’s probably the diversity of options that makes SL so attractive. People live out their dreams and fantasies, they detach from the real world and their RL issues, they unwind in a game that offers a niche for almost every shade of the human character. Many residents engage in RL topics, supporting real people with real issues. Yet others are in it for the money, forming SL businesses with which they earn RL cash. Some are in it for the free entertainment, they enjoy being creative, hunting down free stuff (freebies), playing the SL version of Bingo (Slingo) or other games, while chatting with fellow residents. Many love to hit the clubs, dance, mingle, participate in a contest, play trivia, and simply explore the beauty of a thousand worlds. Employers even conduct job interviews in SL. Ask a thousand different people and you will receive a thousand different views – a thousand people, a thousand worlds.
Why the heck a post about Second Life on Make Use Of?
As suggested before, SL offers a lot more than a role playing environment. It’s a haven for anonymous support groups, discussion rounds, as well as online education. There are regular meetings supporting cancer patients (survivors) and their relatives (caregivers), people with emotional issues, and alcoholics. Discussion groups cover everything from dream interpretation to zen practice to creative nonfiction or children’s poetry.
Education is one of the most progressive fields in SL. Many educational programmes focus on skills required inside SL, which is a great way to get started for new residents (newbies or noobs) or those wishing to start a business. But that’s not where it stops. The German Volkshochschule (adult education center) for example regularly offers free courses and guided tours through museums or rebuilds of national monuments. Lots of universities provide their students with lectures and seminars held inside SL (in-world). Publicly listed educational events range from English classes, via classes on Creation vs. Evolution, project management to Egyptian hieroglyphics.
Most but not all of these events are free. Most classes are free, however some charge a small fee, for example L$500 ($1.90 or â‚¬1.30) for a one hour English class.SL is a market for artists and talented people from all walks of life. There are singers, furniture designers, fashion designers, tattoo designers, painters, photographers, scripters, managers, sales people, estate agents, teachers, doctors, actors, journalists and more, and many of them make a RL living in a virtual world.
Taken together, there is a virtual world out there that has great potential for more than just having fun. It’s up to you and your imagination and if you need a little help stay tuned for insider tips & tricks that will show you how to get started and make use of a Second Life.
Second Life runs on Windows, Mac and Linux. I hear the Linux client isn’t very stable and there are various issues with graphics cards on all platforms. Please refer to the Second Life System Requirements, the Knowledge Base, and the Forums for details, help and support.
What is your experience with SL or other virtual worlds? Why do you love or detest these “games”? Please share with us in the comments!