89. Second Life beckons
By Andrew D. Wright
I open the large wooden doors of the snow-covered castle with a touch.
Inside a giant cheetah is sitting upright watching a movie. "Come on in,
make yourself at home", he says. I sit down next to him and watch the
whole film. Afterwards I left the castle and started flying through the
air like Superman towards the setting sun.
What sounds like a fevered mind at work is just one little sample of
Second Life, an online community of more than 350,000 people living in a
near infinite variety of virtual worlds.
Anyone can sign up and use Second Life for free. Premium members pay a
monthly fee and can own land and buildings.
Users pick any first name and one of a limited number of last names and
choose the appearance of their avatar.
An avatar is like a moving lifelike doll you direct around the landscape
or into buildings. You can make your avatar look like your real world self
or make it literally anything you want. A simple and intuitive series of
menus and slider bars make it easy to set up.
You can meet and chat with other avatars representing live people from all
over the world. Universities have been using Second Life to hold virtual
classrooms and conferences where everyone can see and hear everything as
if they were there in the real world.
What makes things really interesting is that the virtual world of Second
Life has an actual functioning economy with its own currency, the Linden,
convertible to U.S. dollars. The exchange rate, about $310 Linden to $1
U.S., means that this is an easy practical method of making
Users can earn Lindens in Second Life a number of ways or buy them using
real money. Lindens can be used to pay for goods and services anywhere in
Second Life. There are worlds full of stores selling products generated by
users. All users have the ability to build things out of thin air in
special sandbox areas then copy the item and sell it to residents of other
There is not space to even begin to cover the range of things people are
doing in Second Life. Users are making their own music and videos. Getting
married. Dancing at the discos. Designing new worlds. Gambling at the
casinos. Exploring. Running virtual companies selling their virtual goods
and living in the real world off the profits. Dressing up. Forming into
family groups. Creating museums. And yes, there are mature-only worlds
Your avatar cannot be hurt or killed and walks across the ocean floor as
easily as it can fly. Items in the virtual world can by touched or worn
using a right-click menu. Touching or sitting on floating icons can
animate your avatar so it can dance a flawless tango or ride a waterslide.
Newbies can brush up their skills in special starter worlds.
Second Life is available as a free download for Windows 2000/XP, Mac OS X
and Linux. It works best on a fast computer with lots of RAM, a high-end
graphics card and high speed Internet connection for streaming media and
all the eye candy to work the smoothest.
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Originally published 30 July 2006