Oh, Second Life. Feel free to take a few seconds or so to recall your favorite jokes for this quasi-popular interactive Web medium before we begin, like: "get a First Life," or... uh... "Second Life sucks." You know. Stuff like that. Because I swear to god, I've spent a little bit of time inside Linden Labs's epic creation, and I remain convinced that it was probably some of the more pointless hours I've ever spent in front of a computer.
To me, Second Life is just a modified version of Microsoft's ancient V-Chat application, which in itself, is just a fancier version of the equally ancient The Palace chat room software. Sure, you can do more than just chat in Second Life. You can run a business! You can design virtual houses! You can lob virtual genitalia at fellow citizens. But at the end of the day -- I simply have to borrow a phrase from Gordon for this one -- who gives a ?
It's a nicer way of saying what BusinessWeek alluded to last month. Second Life has enjoyed its time in the sun as the oft-articled , PR megalith of the last year or so. But as a practical gateway between all things real and virtual, the service is little more than a glorified chat room, hardly the melting pot of ingenuity, business, and cyber-devotion that seemingly every news outlet paints it to be. To which I summarize, again, who cares about Second Life? And why the hell do real-life businesses see this as a viable way to reach a new audience?
Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but the absolute last thing I want to do with my time is log onto a virtual world... just so I can experience elements of the real world... in a virtual corporate setting. Yep. I'm just going to go log on, fire up my buck-naked avatar, head on over to the Cnet booth or something, just so I can watch a realtime chat between... fake... creations... that represent reality. Whatever happened to just "going to a Web site" and "reading a damn interview?" Is that too old-fashioned? Because if this is the future of Web journalism, I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.
But I digress, I just don't get the point of these virtual worlds. Sure, there's some economic value to Second Life -- if you're one of the 1-2% of total users that are actually making more than $10 a month. But even in that, I fail to see the excitement in owning a new hug gesture, or some new clothing, or -- heaven forbid -- some grandiose house. It's a virtual world. Which is far different than a "video game," or an MMORPG, where better loot at least gets you something in return. If given the choice, I'd rather spend real-life money to get a Thunderfury -- an uber-leet WoW item that gives you both astethical and ass-kicking benefits -- than a freakin' virtual abode. At least I could use a weapon to have tons of fun throughout the entirety of the realm. What, am I going to just go sit back in my virtual house and drink a virtual beer or something? Seriously. Not fun.
I realize that's a slightly petty argument to make, but it's the best example I can think of. It absolutely kills me to see the mainstream media, if not society as a whole, giving some kind of credence to these virtual worlds. It's nuts. And it's worse when the courts get involved, like this lovely little story. In short, a dude fixed the system and won Second Life property for a value far lower than what it was worth. And now he's suing Linden Labs, because they took said property back. The case is comparable to a 14-year-old suing Blizzard because his buddy stole the raid drop that he were supposed to get. I hope to god a judge doesn't take this seriously, because in the end, everything runs under Linden Labs. It's their deal. If they wanted to shut down the world and replace it with a giant, virtual middle finger, that's that. Badda-bing. You're done.
Which I suppose brings me to my ultimate point -- virtual worlds, and their game-related brethren, have been around for quite some time now. And it's all just one fad after the next; one year's Everquest becomes the next year's Dark Age of Camelot, becomes the next year's Warcraft, et cetera. I personally think paying any kind of real-life money for in-world material, save for said world's monthly fee, is akin to tossing your cash into a big virtual fireplace. But that's just me. Second Life is more PR than playability, and godspeed to anyone who thinks V-Chat 2.0 is worth the time.