Written by S. Bowyer

 

     Second life, a game of personalities, opened in 2003, and is well-known by many people, including the 16 million who own accounts to the game. It's a hang-out more popular than some social networking sites, and it's one of the few games that is bent by the creativity of the users. 

     The true definition of Second Life alters based on who you ask. Is it just a game? Not to some. Does it contribute to the real world? Some users affirm it does.

     The Creator, Philip Rosedale, is an American entrepeneur, who created Second Life to demonstrate an alternate society or virtual economy. He stated during 2006's Google Techtalks, "We don't see this as a game. We see it as a platform that is, in many ways, better than the real world."  

     On The Grid, a 9 minute documentary, was made to explain Second Life, but I soon found out that Second Life is more than it seems on the surface. These are not mere characters interacting -- not even evolving, but living as their controllers wish to. It blurs the lines between the imagination and the effect if make-believe was true.

 

 

     On The Grid asks the players to explain the game, but it only touches the surface of the research. Second Life is an alternate world with all the facets of our real lives. Work, food, housing, family, health, education, finding new love, or being a famous artist.

     One user says, "If there's something someone can't do in real life, there's always Second Life." This is true for Alice Krueger, who is disabled with Multiple Sclerosis and uses her Second Life avatar as her new way of living. 

 

 

     Another positive aspect is the cross-economy of Second Life, that blends Linden (Second Life currency) with real-life currency. One couple quit their jobs to become online real estate agents, selling avatars their dream homes in-game for Linden, which is later converted to real-life money.

 

 

     Other stories include artists and musicians who have made money with their craft in the game. The contributing factor is Second Life is shaped by the users, and the user's creations are subject to personal copyright. If a player designs a home, they retain their copyright and intellectual property. Same is said for musicians and artists who share their work. Other avatars have to purchase if they want to use it.

     While the above stories show positive outcomes in Second Life, there is also negative, as with any social activity. There have been fights documented between people/avatars, which have gotten out of hand. Sometimes referred to as Second Life Combat, it can be duked out with weapons or words. The weapon-style of fighting means your character will be saved to a checkpoint. Others are word-wars, which might result in someone filling out an abuse report, particularly if the person has broken one of the CS (community standards) rules. Breaking these guidelines results in suspension or expulsion from the game. The six rules are: 

 

Intolerance

Combating intolerance is a cornerstone of Second Life's Community Standards. Actions that marginalize, belittle, or defame individuals or groups inhibit the satisfying exchange of ideas and diminish the Second Life community as a whole. The use of derogatory or demeaning language or images in reference to another Resident's race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation is never allowed in Second Life.

 Harassment

Given the myriad capabilities of Second Life, harassment can take many forms. Communicating or behaving in a manner which is offensively coarse, intimidating or threatening, constitutes unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors, or is otherwise likely to cause annoyance or alarm is Harassment.

 Assault

Most areas in Second Life are identified as Safe. Assault in Second Life means: shooting, pushing, or shoving another Resident in a Safe Area (see Global Standards below); creating or using scripted objects which singularly or persistently target another Resident in a manner which prevents their enjoyment of Second Life.

Disclosure

Residents are entitled to a reasonable level of privacy with regard to their Second Life experience. Sharing personal information about your fellow Residents without their consent -- including gender, religion, age, marital status, race, sexual preference, alternate account names, and real-world location beyond what is provided by them in their Resident profile -- is not allowed. Remotely monitoring conversations in Second Life, posting conversation logs, or sharing conversation logs without the participants' consent are all prohibited.

Adult Regions, Groups, and Listings

Second Life is an adult community, but "Adult" content, activity and communication are not permitted on the Second Life "mainland." Such material is permitted on private regions, or on the Adult Continent, Zindra. In either case, any Adult content, activity, or communication, that falls under our Adult Maturity Definition must be on regions designated as "Adult," and will be filtered from non-verified accounts. Other regions may be designated as either "Moderate" or "General." For more information on how to designate land, events, groups, and classified listings, please carefully read the "Maturity Definitions."

Disturbing the Peace

Every Resident has a right to live their Second Life. Disrupting scheduled events, repeated transmission of undesired advertising content, the use of repetitive sounds, following or self-spawning items, or other objects that intentionally slow server performance or inhibit another Resident's ability to enjoy Second Life are examples of Disturbing the Peace.

 Copied from the Second Life website

 

     Despite all the rulings, there are still many videos of arguments amongst players that become very aggressive and offensive. One video shows a 24 minute fight amongst several individuals, with very strong adult language. Viewers of the video had varying opinions, some believing it was too much anger for a video game, others stated the users should just report each other and move on, while others were excited by the entertainment from the exchange.

     Some find love on Second Life, as was featured in the documentary titled Virtual Adultery and Cyberspace Love. The filmmaker featured several couples, all on Second Life, some of them already married. 

     "It's not a game, it's a virtual world. . . the escape it offers can be more seductive than the real world," says the commentary.

     Nick and Kiera met in Avalon, the Second Life town, and live together in real life. They speak about their lives in the game, and their upcoming marriage. They decided to commit to their vows, their avatars getting married for their family members to watch. The couple kiss in real life when the virtual priest announces them as man and wife.

     "All the words they used were a bit weepy, but I think it's lovely," says Kiera's mother, watching.

     "It's not virtual. They've met each other and love each other in real life," says another family member.

     Steve and Kristen met in-game also. Steve ended a relationship of 24 years to be with Kristen. He reflects on it for the documentary. 

     "I think I did it as well as I could have done it," he concludes. 

     Both are now living together, planning a very bright future together, inside and outside of the game.

     The couple focused on most are Lee and Caroline. They are a married couple who met in real life, with no connection to video games. Lee works to support his family, and found Caroline becoming very involved in the game after several years of being a housewife. He recalls that sometimes he was told to leave the room, his wife explaining she wanted to experience things she couldn't while married to him.

     "I would cry when I was doing the laundry," she says. "I made my avatar pretty quickly. . . I wasn't just a housewife anymore. It was like being born again. The possibilities were just endless," Caroline admits.

     Caroline spends up to 14 hours a day online, while Lee goes to work, takes care of the kids, and sleeps on the couch. Lee is aware of an individual that she spends a lot of time with. His real name is Elliot. Caroline told her children that mummy is playing a game like Barbie and Elliot is just Barbie's boyfriend.

     "I enjoyed his presence," Caroline says. "It's something that made my heart race a little faster. It made me curious about what he was like."

     "They felt like real dates," she says.

     When asked about sexuality in the game, Caroline states, "95% of sex is in the brain . . . so you can make it something really incredible."

     Lee speaks of the avatar's boyfriend, his wife's new friend. "She'll say it was all roleplay. . . but where she took it, it was real."

     After spending long evenings with Caroline, Elliot demanded to see her in person. He said that he understood she was married, and didn't want to interfere, but he was getting impatient.

     "I didn't think she was happy at all.. . she shouldn't be held back by anyone," he says.

     Caroline speaks of the times her and Elliot had fights, and their breaks. Lee admits he would see her weep for days when they had a fight, but would not speak about it.

     The documentary cuts in at the point that Caroline and Elliot have stopped spending time together, and Caroline has decided after 8 months of an online closeness, she wants to meet Elliot in real life. She intends to fly from her home in America to the UK to meet him. 

     "If she chooses to go and be with him while we are still married, that is the day I was cease to treat her like my wife. . . I don't know one man that's going to be okay with his wife sleeping around. . . they're not going to crochet together; they're not going to trade baking secrets," Lee tells the filmmaker. 

     Meanwhile Caroline speaks about it as finding a diamond which you can't afford, but she'd really enjoy just borrowing to try on. 

     "I think I had more hopes that it could be carried outside of Second Life. He could move on quite easily, I believe," she says of Elliot."

     "If there's a 5% chance of him and I taking it into the life. . . I'm the type who'd see all the good and say go for it," she says.

     In the last interview -- after a series of events I'm not spoiling -- Lee concludes that his relationship with Caroline is like the movie Forrest Gump.  "Forrest Gump was Forrest Gump. Maybe he wasn't the brightest stick in the shed, but he was always insistent. Sometimes he could change and sometimes he couldn't -- couldn't blame him for it. He met his Jenny. His Jenny was this outgoing, vibrant personality who just loved to live life at the edge and experience things and no matter what happened to her, he was always there -- for better or worse, and no matter what happens to her (Caroline) she'll always have me."

     The documentary closes with an update of the couples in Second Life influence. 

     In 2015, Second Life will be launched in a brand new version to blend with Facebook's Oculus Rift VR headset. It seems after 11 years of its existance, the platform is going to see a new life.

     Second Life continues to shape peoples' lives, and the Linden currency continues to be exchanged, sold and bought by players, as well as their ongoing membership costs of $6-10 US per month.

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