Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Guest post: What is the point in Second Life?

[Tobold's note: Virtual worlds which aren't exactly roleplaying games are underrepresented on this blog, as I don't play them. Thus when Josue offered to explain what the attraction of them is in a guest post, I agreed to publish it.]

This is a guest post by Josue Habana of Second Life blog Pixel Scoop.

Logging into Second Life for the first time was a disorientating experience, to say the least. Back in 2007, the orientation was not as clear, there was little help around and working out the controls was as complex as a lecture in rocket science. But I stayed and learnt the controls and have, in my two and a half years in Second Life, mastered the platform. But, mastered what exactly? The first thing you learn about Second Life is that there is no aim, no strategy, there are no levels, no points to collect, no baddies to defeat. So what is the point in a game with no aim?

Well, in answering this question, let me first address the use of the word ‘game’ in reference to Second Life. Most people do call Second Life a game. The platform is discussed in gaming communities and I do consider myself, to some extent, a ‘gamer’. Yet despite this, Second Life isn’t a game in the traditional sense. It is, instead, a virtual world in which absolutely all of the content is created by its users. It’s a world in which nothing physically exists, yet people pay very real money in order to purchase goods and services. In fact, the Second Life economy is worth $50 million (yes, that’s US dollars) every single month. That is to say, 50 million US dollars are spent each month in transactions between ‘players,’ or residents of Second Life. That goes some way to explaining one of the reasons that over 12 million people have registered for Second Life and why some 80000 people are logged in at any one time. So what exactly do you do in this virtual world in the absence of any traditional game traits?

Play Games

While I just explained that Second Life has no levels or points, you can still play games. Second Life itself is not a structured game. But residents themselves do create their own games within Second Life with everything from paintball to go karting and shoot ‘em up roleplay games all very popular.

Create Content

As I mentioned, all of the content in Second Life is created by its residents. An estimated 250000 virtual items are created by residents each day and many of these will be sold by their creators. The building tools are user friendly. Objects ‘built’ in world can be textured and scripted to have some functionality. While some create for the purpose of selling items, others create as a hobby.


Second Life allows you, in many ways, to walk through the imaginations of thousands of other people by visiting the specific areas created by them. One such area is a replica of the Mont. St. Michel, France.

There are thousands of sites including some replicas of real life tourist sites and heritage locations. With residents creating new regions every single day, you never run out of places to explore.

Run a Business

Whether you are selling content you create in the world or perhaps your services in world, Second Life is a functional business platform for many. Anche Chung (real name Ailin Graef) became the virtual world’s first millionaire back in Second Life, when she amassed a huge fortune selling virtual real estate. While earning a full time income in Second Life will be no mean feat, many do operate small businesses in world either simply to fund their Second Life ‘habit’ or as a means of ‘practicing’ business. After all, the platform allows you to set up a fully functional business without the massive investment that a similar project in real life would require. And the principals are the same.

Take Part in the Arts or Music Scenes

Second Life has a thriving community of writers and musicians. Thanks to the ability to use voice conversation (through VOIP technology) within Second Life, many residents hold and attend poetry reading sessions either to share their own written work or enjoy that of others. The same applies with music. Live musicians can perform live in their homes and stream into Second Life. Live music events are particularly popular. Discussion events on various topics are also popular. The collaborative potential of Second Life cannot be underestimated in creative terms. For example, performance of plays take place in the virtual world by means of collaboration between actors and crew often on opposite sides of the world.


As a resident of Second Life, you will meet people from all over the world. Social events are commonplace and many forge friendships that transcend the boundaries of the virtual world to become very real friendships.

Learn Something

Harvard Law School, Princeton, Stanford and the UK’s Open University are just a tiny handful of the respectable educational institutions with a virtual campus in Second Life, where they offer classes to students of their real courses. Education in Second Life is earning a much deserved reputation as being an entirely immersive and beneficial experience. You can attend classes in almost anything through many of the countless educational organisations in Second Life. These include language classes, programming classes and literature, to name but a few.


I can hardly write an article on Second Life without making mention to something that many believe makes up a much larger part of SL than it truly does. Thanks to tabloid, exaggerated mainstream press, Second Life sex is more talked about than the educational or creative possibilities and many non-players are under the impression that the virtual world is just ‘geeks getting laid’. Sex is big business in Second Life. There is no doubt about that. But the adult type locations have now been moved to adult specific regions and can only be accessed by those who have verified their age with a form of identity, through the Second Life age verification program.

Use Your Imagination

I have highlighted here just a few of the many reasons that people stay in Second Life in the absence of levels, tasks or points. Really, this hardly even scratches the surface and the only limit is your own imagination.

So what exactly is the point in Second Life?

It’s whatever you want it to be.

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