Have You Got a Second Life?

Of all the 3D virtual worlds that can now be found on the internet, Second Life is arguably the one that has received the most popular press attention.

If you have ever been in to Second Life, then you will be familiar with the sort of things it can offer. If you have not visited Second Life – or indeed, never been into a 3D, avatar populated immersive world – here are a couple of quick tastes of what life is like “in-world”.

The first is a presentation about Second Life that has been uploaded to the social presentation sharing SlideShare – “An Introduction to Virtual Worlds: Second Life and Beyond. Even if you have been into Second Life, quickly flicking through the presentation may point out some features about it that you didn’t notice at the time.

The second is a user-generated movie about Second Life that I discovered YouTube…

How does Second Life differ from 3D worlds like Google Earth or Virtual Earth? How does it differ from 3D game worlds? In your opinion, is Second Life a game?

Now watch the following clip about the game “The Sims” (IGN Review) – what similarities and differences are there between Second Life and The Sims?

The most obvious difference to me is that in The Sims the player takes on a third person, God-like role, controlling the actions (to some extent) of their player characters, whereas in Second Life, the “player” becomes (or actually is) the avatar.

In the Sims, the game world is a self-contained fiction: the aim of the game, such as it is, is to help the player characters live out their lives in the Sims world. To a certain extent, there is an element of ‘progression': players must look after characters within the game world that are dependent on them and help them keep up with Joneses – get a job, and education, a house and so on (every time I have tried to play the Sims the session has ended with my characters’ house burning down!)

In contrast, Second Life just provides a canvas for creativity and social interaction – Second Life is an online world (in contrast to the desktop or console bound Sims) within which you can chat and socialise with other people from all over the world.

Want to know more about Second Life?

We’ll look at worlds like Second Life again in later posts, in the contexts of community and making money in virtual worlds…

In the meantime, the following video replays a Google tech talk, recorded in March 2006, featuring a presentation from Glimpse Inside a Metaverse: The Virtual World of Second Life. Even though Second Life has moved on since the presentation was recorded, if you’re interested in hearing about Second Life from the insdie (including some insights about the techie stuff!) it’s well worth listening to:

If you want to try Second Life out for yourself, you can find it at Second Life – http://secondlife.com. If you would rather read about Second Life second-hand, then there’s always the book Second Lives: A Journey Through Virtual Worlds, by Tim Guest!

However, as we’ll see in further posts, there are plenty of virtual worlds other than Second Life, many of them popular with different age groups (Second Life is largely for the over-30s!). So don’t feel as if you have to join Second Life to experience a 3D virtual world – as you’ll see in the next post on this topic…

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3 Responses to “Have You Got a Second Life?”


  1. 1 Peter Miller May 19, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Just a few thoughts regarding Second Life(R):

    1. Some people have claimed that SL is a actually a game about maintenance of social reputation.
    2. Many people participate in the economy in order to make tier, i.e. pay their rent. You could see that as a game though some, of course, make a living from it too.
    3. Some sims are devoted to role-playing games of various types and this aspect has carried over to sims also being used for training purposes, e.g. medicine, disaster management.
    4. Some sims have been designed in game format and, indeed, there are commercial in-world game engines. Most gamers see the environment as being inferior to purpose-designed and optimised games. At a very basic level sims can be damaged-enabled such that “death”, mediated typically by a projectile, sends the avatar back to its home sim.
    5. Many games (chess, Go) can be played in-world and some, notably Tringo and Primtionary, originated in-world, the former subsequently being marketed commercially. A recent genre typified by Tiny Empires is the HUD game (HUD = Heads Up Display) in which participation is ongoing and does not require the presence of the avatar in any particular sim.
    6. Commercial companies in the film (“I am Legend”) and TV (“CSI:New York”) sectors have used games in SL as a tie-in to their primary medium.
    7. The treasure hunt is a mainstay of many educational inductions.

  2. 2 Tony Hirst May 19, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Hi Peter
    Thanks for the comment – I guess in some respects, Second Life offers a space for gaming, rather than being a game in and of itself, e.g. by acting as a platform on which game engines can be constructed, or as a not-for-loss activity where players have to earn Linden dollars to cover the expenses they (choose to) incur within the game world.

    Thanks also for the prompt to the SL/real world tie-ins that series like e.g. CSI offered. For anyone interested, you can find out more here:

    “Fictional Characters Get Virtual Lives, Too” (New York Times) [ http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/04/arts/television/04CSI.html ]


  1. 1 The Virtual Worlds Universe « Digital Worlds - Interactive Media and Game Design Trackback on May 12, 2008 at 11:36 am

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