Is Second Life for People Who Have No First Life?

Using Second Life has been quite an adventure.  Like MajorMan, I was accosted by a virtual stranger almost immediately after joining up and teleporting into the synthetic world.  It was quite amusing, actually.  An avatar with a huge rainbow Mohawk and a leather cowboy outfit walked up to my avatar as I was learning to walk, fly, and look around.  Suddenly, the chorus from “Save a Horse Ride A Cowboy” began blaring through my computer speakers and I was propositioned to participate in lewd acts.

Welcome to the Wild West.

Despite this rather obscene welcome into the world of virtual gaming, I have to say that I have enjoyed my experiences “in world.”  As I played with the search function and began to teleport to different islands I began to understand what all the Second Life hype was all about.  There were many people I could “talk” to in Second Life, many of which were from foreign nations.  I visited Estonia’s virtual embassy (although no one was there).  I visited the Creative Commons area (where I got a free virtual t-shirt). I even got lost in what appeared to be an almost identical, synthetic version of Amsterdam.

As I read up on Second Life, I was intrigued by how Linden Labs have made the platform so open to its users.  Not only do individuals create most of the content on Second Life, but according to their copyright agreement these individuals also have rights to the intellectual property they create in-world. The openness in which Linden Lab has fostered appears to be behind much of the success of the platform.  By giving users to have an incentive to participate and tinker, more people tend to join up.   However, is Second Life too open?

When CNET tried to interview Anshe Chung, (the millionaire whose avatar graced the cover of the Business Week story we read) her in-world interview was ruined after some Second Lifers decided to take over the program. Just as the interview began, hackers arranged for a parade of flying, um….obscene images to fly around on stage. (You can watch the incident here, NSFW).  This isn’t an isolated incident.  John Edward’s Second Life campaign headquarters was also vandalized shortly after being opened online.

There’s no question that the amazing abilities of these online games will ensure that they’ll remain big money makers.  Also, as we’ve seen with the Wii, it’s clear that the gaming industry will continue attract new mainstream audiences to the gaming world. However, can virtual worlds like Second Life continue to succeed without imposing more controls to prevent anarchy?  I suppose only time will tell.

Finally, another great clip from The Office:


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