Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Duff: Looking for romance in Second Life

Duff: Looking for romance in Second Life

I tried to find the romance in Second Life. I really did.

Last week, one of our bloggers sent me a Wall Street Journal article about the online game called Second Life. The article, by Alexandra Alter, is one of the best I’ve seen. It chronicles the troubled marriage of a man who puts his virtual life above his real one, even to the point of having a virtual “wife” who he has never met in the real world.

Alter’s article was so compelling, I decided to try Second Life for myself.

I made myself a generic avatar and set off in search of adventure. After three hours I quickly understood why people use this game for infidelity and cybersex. Unless you’re a programmer or a graphic artist, there is literally nothing else to do.

The graphics are crude but serviceable, and you can tell people have put some real work into it. Second Life is really the Home Depot of computer games. Everything in the game is a do-it-yourself project. Amateur animators can design houses, furniture, games and knickknacks, each with their own set of rules and animations.

And all of these creations are for sale. Everything in the game is bought with “Lindens.” Currently, 250 Lindens can be traded for one dollar U.S., making the game a source of real-world income for people with the right skills. Designers have built and sold entire islands in this game.

The central figure in the WSJ article ran a virtual nightclub, complete with bouncers, bartenders and strippers – all run by real people.

Second Life held no attraction for me because there is no “game” here. They might as well change the name to Mid-life Crisis. Call me shallow, but if I’m not killing Orcs within 10 minutes of character creation, your design concept is fundamentally flawed.

The Wall Street Journal article ends with the virtual protagonist driving his virtual Harley-Davidson down a virtual mountain road. Why is it always motorcycles? And why are guys in Harley-Davidson shirts always driving cars? I guess by the time you have enough money to afford your dream bike, you’re too old to look good on it.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but spending real money on fake things sounds ludicrous to me – like going out for dinner so you can buy pictures of steak.

Written by Michael B. Duff

September 14, 2007 at 14:28

Posted in Columns, Games

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