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Publisher: Linden Lab    Genre: Miscellaneous
Min OS X: 10.3    CPU: G4 @ 1000 MHz    RAM: 512 MB

Second Life
February 8, 2007 | David Peck

Love'em or hate'em, the computer as part of the modern communication evolution has had a significant impact on the socialization of homo sapiens. While some rightly view computer diversions as a barrier to good old fashioned face-to-face relationships, for every loner locked up in their office, thousands more are using their computers to reach out to others in ways we could not of imagined twenty years ago.

More and more people are spending greater amounts of time glued to their computers, online, transacting business, shopping, educating themselves, talking with each other, seeking romance or adult activities, and playing games. Millions of teenagers and adults spend untold hours in chat rooms, gabbing on AOL Instant Messenger, or playing highly social games such as The Sims Online and World of Warcraft.

Limits Of This Review
Second Life (SL) is a big community, but Linden Lab, the creator of Second Life, is quick to point out that it is not a game. It is fair to view SL as a MMOC- Massive Multiplayer Online Community with gaming opportunities. Second Life is a phenomenon and hundreds of reviews and articles have been written about it. My goal is not to repeat the published info, although some repetition is unavoidable. Since Inside Mac Games is an online gaming site, the primary focus of this review is on getting established, understanding the environment, and examining some of the Second Life games that exist or are in development. This review is not an inclusive representation of all the gaming available within Second Life, but it does represent what I was able to dig up in about 6 weeks of research.

Okay, Second Life is not a game- got it? But it does have a flexible framework including a Second Life Object Editor and a Scripting Language that allows creating everything from long flowing hair to motorcycles, AK-47s, buildings, and games. There is some skill involved and it's no surprise that virtual artists, hair and fashion designers, and architects are providing their services for a price. To see an artist at work check out this You Tube video of the making of Suzanne Vega's Second Life Guitar which was designed for an August 2006 Second Life live performance in avatar form. It is amazing.

Emergence of a Second Life
We all know about gamers who willingly shed the trappings of a routine life for thrilling adventure by running covert operations, conquering orcs, and no less than saving the world. But escapism is not an exclusive gamer fantasy. Multitudes are discovering the emerging metaverse* an intersection between virtual worlds and networked data that enables users to chat, interact, obtain information, be entertained and educated, and if desired, live vicarious alter-ego lives via extravagant online personalities.

*metaverse- a term coined by Neal Stephenson in the 1992 novel Snow Crash and recently referred to by Mark Wallace in the PC World article The Future of You (Nov 2006).

At the start of the new millenium, Linden Lab, based in San Francisco, saw the potential of 3D-enabled online social dynamics and had a vision that became Second Life, a huge collaborative virtual community that caters to humans' social, entertainment, and entrepreneurial nature. It is best described as a social simulator whose foundation is interaction and escapism based on having fun and making money.

Primarily, SL functions as an elaborate 3D chat room incorporating the seductive freedom to create virtually any online persona using one of the most flexible avatar creation systems in existence. (Avatars are virtual-physical representations of ones self.)

Secondarily, SL lays the foundation for a vast commercial enterprise catering to members' entertainment needs and promoting merchandising that caters to personal avatar enhancement, real-world merchandise, adult entertainment, education, and games. SL appears to be more than a fad. As of this review, its enrollment hovers around 1.8 million, with 800,000+ players having logged on in the last 60 days and anywhere from 8000-18,000 members logged in at any given time.

Second Life consists of many servers, each covering specific SL geographic areas and they are all linked together. One of the things that increases the sociability of Second Life as compared to typical MMOCs is that all online members can interact with each other in the same virtual space.

SL commerce is no joke. A recent Popular Science article makes mention of approximately 3000 people who are earning $20,000 USD (USD= U.S. Dollars) or more a year in Second Life and refers to at least one Second Life real estate mogul who earns hundreds of thousands of actual U.S. dollars per year (and recently became a millionaire). As corporations and entertainment interests take note, Second Life is becoming more of a serious place to conduct business, promote products, establish retail outlets, hold concerts, push collaborative ideas by means of online meeting rooms, and of course, make money. See these BusinessWeek links: Breathing Second Life into Business and Second Life's First Millionaire.

As a gamer, once you know that there are games in Second Life, the question becomes how well do these games play and more importantly can they take the place of dedicated computer gaming adventures such as Half Life, Age of Empires, Elder Scrolls, or World of Warcraft? Keep reading!


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