A review/editorial/commentary of “Second Life”..
For those who don’t know, “Second Life” is an online world created by Linden Labs. It’s a virtual environment where you can do many of the things you can do in the real world and more. The environment is built by users.. each chair, building, outfit is created in-world.
I’ve been using SecondLife for a year now.. Tashie was the first to take a step with opening a store. She was tired of finding duplicate “free” items everywhere and wanted to make a one stop shop to find as many as possible without the duplicates. We decided we liked hanging with people and opened a club.. and this continued to grow. Currently we have our own “island” which we control. We have a 3-story mall, a club, the freebie store, amusement rides and tons more. We don’t make money on it, but it’s something fun to do. We’ve met some great people and we’ve enjoyed most of our time making this island our home away from home.
The concept of having a “second life” where you can be whoever you want, live in a different world and do things you can’t (or would never) do in real life is not new.. but making it happen is a challenge. When you give people the ability to do “anything” and make “anything” it can create technical problems.. how do you prepare for things you’ve not thought of.. and how do you add limits without stopping people’s ability to create? ..and it’s this major “flaw” that makes you feel like you’re using beta software. Every couple weeks they roll out more bugfixes and a few new features. Each new feature adds more bugs. The technology is simply not tested well enough before rolling it out to the users. There is a “preview” grid which is open to people and where you can test and report bugs.. but that’s not why most of us play. Linden Labs seems unwilling to create/develop a decent testing system. Most days with major rollouts currently have additional downtime as they find bugs and add quick-fixes.
Many see SecondLife as a “game” so they expect to come in world with some funding, they expect to go around, hang out, chat, listen to music and play games. The intended use by Linden Labs is a bit different. They’ve changed the economy to try to “preserve” the value of in-world currency but don’t seem to understand that the average user just wants to unwind online after a day at work, not to have to get a job in SecondLife or use real life money to buy additional in-game currency. For those who run things in-game, we also get to compete with Linden Lab sponsored events or sponsored venues (as an exmaple we had a staff member leave to a Linden-funded education venue because we could not compete with the pay). I feel the Linden’s choice to try to say some things in-game are more important and worth paying for than others to be a flaw in the system. If residents are happy to build/create/teach/whatever, they should find their own ways to make funds or just do it for the joy of doing it.. Lindens should leave the playing field alone to keep things enjoyable for all.
I have mixed reviews of the helpers (Linden employees) in Second Life. There are some who are the “front smiling face” of the company who seem to not have the technical understanding when you try to talk to them about problems, but they’re most commonly the ones answering the public questions from users. There’s some that seem technical but would like us to believe that our video drivers can crash 40 other people including the sim we’re on. There’s a few overly technical who are a pleasure to deal with.. thanks Jack, Cyn, Steve and Kenny.
Probably the best trick that Linden Labs did with SecondLife is make it addicting.. despite the flaws, the money, the excessive computer requirements to play.. you’re still willing to spend your time and often your money on this addicting waste of time. I completely admit I’m unable to just “walk away” even on days like today where I feel like I *PAY* them to beta-test their software, report bugs and watch the island crash.