20 December 2006

Second Life

I'm not much of a gamer, but from time to time, I need a game. Something to help me escape reality and worry about less important things for a change. I'm not usually interested in paying money for that diversion either.

Second Life is a virtual world. Free to join and explore.

I'm big into the cyberpunk idea, especially Neal Stephenson's version of the Metaverse in his book Snow Crash. In 2000, I found it in PC form (via Virtual PC on Mac) from the online world called "Action Worlds." Less resolution than even your worst action shootem' up 3d video game, but it was a world where you could build buildings and interact with others in real time. It sucked, so I gave it up.

2006 - I read a CNN article on how the New York Times has embedded a permanent reporter in Second Life. Now I'm intrigued. It has real money, real property, events, advertising, free zones, elections, community rules, hackers, criminals, prostitutes, business men, real estate millionares, artists, musicians that play live, and most of all: the solution to gaining all the material wants you ever dreamed of, if you are willing to settle for the virtual version. You can customize your "Avatar" or the version of yourself in the world in a myriad of ways. You can look like a cartoon character or a near perfect version of yourself. You can even go to a store to buy working virtual genitals. No shit! Believe me, there was nothing more surreal than standing in a store filled with people shopping for smingis and punanis.

This is me, "Quota Soon" in a skybox in Second Life:

If the battle of the virtual worlds has been raging, I'm putting my money on Second Life. I think it's the winner. In October of 2006, the population was 1 million. Two months later, the population was 2 million. There is this weird pressure on me to invest in this world. I know it's like buying futures. Linden Labs, the creators and virtual "Gods" of this meta-verse are rapidly refining, growing and improving the world. Hiring like crazy to keep up. I'm certain they will be the ones, or whoever buys them, that port software to things like virtual gloves and visors to create a completely immersing experience. The virtual world I'm hoping will come in my lifetime.

I don't want to get too philosophical but the obvious criticism is the absurdity of spending time and effort in a virtual world. I would ask you, "How much time do you watch TV?" Same thing, except the virtual world is interactive and not passive. Did people realize Microsoft Word, when it first came out, was a virtual typewriter and filing cabinet? There are some efficiencies in Second Life that haven't been realized yet. It scares me because I know I have to learn it. I wonder how many times I'm going to have to re-learn technologies until I can retire to my Zen cabin in the woods and spend my days contemplating the movement of clouds and pay nothing for the double feature of the sunrise and sunset. I'll settle for a virtual one now, I guess.

There are so many avenues and interesting observations I've made I could make an 8 page blog on this subject. I'll save it for future entries.

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