Here is a little thing on the Second Life webite that I wrote for Vice Magazine but never saw the light of day.
There are now over 5 million registered ‘residents’ on SecondLife.com who regularly use what is looking increasingly like Neal Stephenson’s Metaverse from that novel Snow Crash. The population increased by 951% between 2005-2006 and Linden Labs, the company behind this virtual land of opportunity, are seeing annual financial growth rates of 287% for the site they see becoming a ‘3D web-browser’, a concept that marries the social-networking of sites like Myspace with the cash-cow commercialism of Amazon.com.
We decided to sign up and see what the deal is. The site is free to join and has it’s own currency the ‘Linden Dollar’ ($I US get you about $250 LD) with which you can buy pretty much anything: land, property, weapons, drugs, sex. You name it, just point your avatar in the right direction and have at it. Linden’s laissez-faire approach to regulation has led to an almost frontier-like free for all which any enterprising young turk can grab a piece of like canny Japanese chick Anshe Chung, SL’s first ‘virtual Rockerfella’ who’s been bringing in over $150,000 a year in real estate investment.
The multinationals have been quick to catch on, SonyBMG launched with a virtual Ben Folds show, Toyota are selling virtual cars and Harvard have opened a distance learning school. Rudy Gulliani has even opened a campaign headquarters for his presidential campaign in SL.
The relative lawlessness of Second Life has made it ripe pickings for a thriving vice and drugs trade as well as several pretty weird political developments. The recent establishment of an HQ for the extremist French National Front saw the Second Life Liberation army buddying up with the Second Life Left Unity Party to have a good old fashioned riot and various vigilante hackers regularly set off maliciously encoded ‘bombs’ against companies such as our friends American Apparel whose scantily clad models they object to.
This is pretty ironic considering sex seems to be everywhere. We sent our avatar dude into the Initiation Island but weren’t all that sure what we were doing and had neglected to buy any clothes. As we were ‘playing’ as a chick some kindly fellow approached us, talked us through the clothing process and then attempted to lay us, hmm. Our first trip into a bar led to an encounter with some virtual hookers who offered “the works” for $1200 LD, about $5 US. We again came a cropper here as we’d forgotten to purchase any genitalia and the girls got kinda pissy when we revealed our pixelated nothingness.
Although you can purchase weapons the peaceful nature of SL means that the use of them will lead to a suspension or if you do anything really naughty, like try and kill someone, a ban so if you are into tearing shit up best stick to World Of Warcraft. The current SL drug of choice is called Seclimine, here is how one SL peddler touted his wares: “Seclimine is intended to get you and your avatar good and dopey, disoriented, and wondering why the walls are melting and the floor is made of meat”. Ohkay. To be honest in order to get anything out of this it seems you’d really have to put a lot of time and effort in and I’m not really that into ending up some 23 year old heart attack victim from excessive role playing and Red Bull consumption.