What the hell is Second Life? A Primer.

Over at the popular Singapore aggregator Tomorrow.sg, there was a post about Second Life’s CTO visiting Singapore. In the short description, it described the emergence of Second Life from a financial perspective. To the uninitiated, I felt that this might have given them the impression that this metaverse was simply about making money, so here’s my little primer for anyone trying to explain what this strange thing called Second Life to newbies.

So what the hell is Second Life?
Just to set the record straight, Second Life (SL) isn’t a game. There are no mission, no quests, no experience points to earn. Unlike games like World of Warcraft, you don’t get told what to do…

Think of these MMORPGs as like renting a fully furnished apartment. Everything’s in there and you just need to mix and match items and strategies to navigate your world. Now think of Second Life as like buying an empty house. It’s not much fun when you start out, but you get to ultimately have full control over how you want it to turn out (you make more choices). In other words, SL is fun in a different respect… one where the canvas is larger and one’s creativity is almost unbound.

For most SL residents, it’s an open-ended metaverse where you can interact socially, by meeting new people, attending virtual conferences/concerts/clubs streamed from real-life (RL) or even make hot cyber-love if you’re so willing, just to name a few. I spend most of my time in there exploring the immense world, experiencing both the beautiful and the ugly.

Basic accounts are free and there’s really no reason to pay for it unless you want to earn weekly stipend of Lindens (SL currency) and/or to own land (to build homes, shops, etc). Lindens are the virtual currency for buying all sorts of virtual items (e.g. clothing, gadgets) or services (like in RL).

As you can see from Rinaz’s video, more advanced SL residents own land, build items (e.g. homes) and even make a living virtually as the system supports intellectual property (IP) rights. You can set the level of creative commons you want on items you distribute (free/forsale), including transfer rights, modify rights, copy rights.

For those interested in getting a Second Life but need a starting point, there’s an “SL Singapore” group you can join. Simply search and join the group, or add “Alvin Korvin” as a friend (he’s the group coordinator). I think there were just under 30 members from our previous in-world meetup (see Vantan’s and RamblingLibrarian’s posts).

I personally see these metaverses as the “New Web”. Since Second Life is ever-changing thanks to constantly user-generated content, SL makes the case where it exists as the most feature rich multi-user virtual environment (MUVE) I’ve seen so far. It’s applications have gone into the realm of education, research (e.g. sociology, psychology), business, etc. Still, SL isn’t the “be all end all”. Just as when Mosaic first gave us the means to experience the visual web, I see Second Life as giving us the first glimpse at a tangible online social space. There should be more competition in this genre in time to come.

Before you go, here are some random tidbits related to Second Life…
You Know You’ve Spent Too Much Time In SecondLife When…
Via Intelligirl’s Second Life Education Research blog, this oldie but goodie post tells you ten signs you’ve been spending too much time in Second Life.

Making a One Minute Machinima in Second Life
Electric Sheep Company shares their tips on making a short machinima. Thing is, for a quality video recording, you need quite a bit of hardware…

Explosive public attention for Second Life
As expected from the influx of publications and commercial involvement with Second Life, more people are starting to get curious about this virtual world. I wonder how many stay on vs. drop off SL after trying it…

Vimeo: Ordinal Malaprop’s clips
A good example of machinima used for showing how particular SL items work. Ordinal Malaprop demos some of the items he has for sale in Second Life.

Slick Flickr Browser in Second Life
Siobhan Curran / Kisa Naumova made a slick Flickr browser item for Second Life. Useful for quick presentations.

7 thoughts on “What the hell is Second Life? A Primer.

  1. Hi Kevin, longtime reader here – I just posted an interview with CEO of Linden Labs Philip Rosedale. Check out iinnovatecast.com and keep up the great blog!

  2. FYI, since shortly there is a group for sociologists in SL, interested to discuss social research into SL.

    You can (in SL) search for ‘sociologist’ OR (in SL) IM Kano Tamale OR mail me at nrcfzb6hrk@xs4all.nl.

    best regards,
    Kano Tamale

  3. Just wanted to drop a note to say that I’m a library science student, and we’re looking at MMORPGs in a class. I didn’t know what SL was really about, and when I googled what the hell is Second Life, who knew I’d get this!? Thanks!

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