Monday, October 29, 2007

Second Life - What Ever Happened to Real Life?

Have you been caught up with the phenomenon of Second Life?

If this is the first time you've heard of it, Second Life is a virtual game experience recreating a world and entire persona, but from within a "virtual" or Internet environment. It's like taking Facebook or MySpace and having your friends and places you visit talk back to you, virtually. And, apparently, it is highly addicting.

There is something nagging at my mind behind this whole Second Life phenomenon. Before I dig into that, let's look at some questions about the virtual world people are living in:

What's behind the Second Life or the Virtual Life phenomenon?

Second Life is an online society within a 3D world where you can explore, build, socialize, and participate in their own economy. In fact, they even have a Second Life form of monetary exchange, called Linden. Residents retain the rights to their digital creations (a key to Second Life), and you can basically do what you want within the domain of this virtual 3D world.

How big is Second Life, really?

With a Google Page Rank of 7 and traffic numbers ranking over those of, (until a recent surge), and almost as high of numbers as, is doing an excellent job of building an experience people are drawn to. The site is still not as big as Facebook, Yahoo, or, but it is bigger than other business networks like and (evaluation through and

The statistics are pretty interesting: First of all, there are a lot of repeat visits to their site. 35% of Second Life (SL) visitors are regulars, and 12% are ADDICTS. The site is mixed 50/50 male/female. The largest demographic is 18 - 24, but there is a surge in 35 - 44 year-olds at Second Life, too. Isn't that when people are supposed to be in their PRIME? Another demographic I noted is that Asians are highly drawn to Second Life. I wonder what in the Asian culture would cause them to find a virtual reality so highly attractive? Perhaps their belief in reincarnation is a play. I also noticed other ethnicities ranking high, so perhaps the basic belief in reincarnation could be a factor, as the lowest percentage visiting Second Life, as a ratio, is Hispanics (Catholic - no belief in reincarnation). Last, most of the audience drawn to Second Life has a college education. Visitors to Second Life seem to be a fairly techie, scientific crowd, from what I have experienced.

How do people benefit through Second Life experiences?

First of all, there is a lot to do there. The search menu shows events, discussions, entertainment, shopping, different types of groups (charity, arts, etc.), and more. The world is filled with hundreds of games, from multi-player RPG's to puzzles and grid-wide contests. There are also dance clubs, movie theatres, shopping malls, space stations, and even vampire castles. In my session today, I discovered roller skates, a broomstick (yes, you can fly in Second Life), and even a Hover Board. Kewl, sorta, in a techie, geeky kind of way. Although the game play was slow, for me, SL does make the idea of IM's, conference calls, or other communication with a long-distance friend intriguing.

What caught my attention is how you can interact with people through Second Life. Through a virtual world, you can be many places at once, either through teleporting OR through creating MULTIPLE avatars (your SL persona) which enable you to interact with people through their experience, and this creates more opportunities to exchange information dynamically, whether it be a film review, art review, or experiencing a "first look" together with other virtual friends. It is easy to make friends, just like in real life. You find some people chatting, ask what's up, and take it from there.

Some people are there to just check it out. Others are there to explore this strange online world. Others are there to SELL you things. Capitalism is alive and well in Second Life.
And, as in real life, in Second Life, people meet and fall in love. Here's one example from one of the Second Life employees, who manages some of their blog tips of the week. Giant bunnies and romantic love. I've heard of falling in-love online, but I saw this and thought: "Wow. Alice in Wonderland meets the Chat Rooms of 1998". Things have changed a lot in the past ten online years, haven't they?

How are businesses benefiting through Second Life?

Here's something interesting: businesses have discovered that with the frequent visits to Second Life, there is a natural opportunity to MARKET to people through their second life experiences. If someone is spending 3 - 5 hours a day experiencing and living in this virtual world, they still have 20 other hours where they're living REAL LIFE experiences, right? And that presents a marketing opportunity. So much that I've read about companies targeting entire advertising campaigns into Second Life experience. The game experience, with Second Life, becomes more than a game. some companies are merely augmenting their online strategies, such as Reuters, who created a SL post just to pass more news around.

I saw a Pontiac ad on a billboard on one page. Many other corporate ads dot the Second Life adscape (landscape). But, frankly, much of what I experienced at SL was USER generated, by people practicing their graphic design skills, or other techie gadgetry, for fun, and yes, for money.

In May 2006, Sire Records and musician Regina Spektor launched an interactive, virtual listening party for her new album, Begin to Hope, inside Second Life. This marked the first time a REAL LIFE record company launched an album from within this virtual world. A record launch in Second Life is an innovative move by a record company who saw an opportunity to market to a young, hip audience and establish a land mark with their album.

Second Life lists over 35 different business occupations, ranging from event planner to tattoo artist to vacation resort owner, all within the game, yet making REAL life money through the Second Life experience.

The reason for this is The Marketplace, a unique feature of Second Life which currently supports millions of US dollars in monthly transactions. This commerce is handled with the in-world unit-of-trade, the Linden dollar, which can be converted to US dollars at several thriving online Linden Dollar exchanges. When I pulled up the Linden Exchange, the growth from two years ago to today is starting to look staggering (see Linden Exchange). That makes Second Life unique to virtual experiences, because now you have a unit of trade that can be exchanged with Real Life money. Interesting isn't a strong enough word for what happens from this: people are now even resorting to STEALING online content to get REAL life money (not to mention, the Second Life lawsuit posted today was over a SEX TOY!) Does it always have to come to that?

The money, for Second Life, is off-the-hook: $1,625US to buy your own "island" with monthly maintenance fees of $295US. (Note: that is US dollars = REAL DOLLARS). So, the Linden Labs folks get a pop up-front and a healthy annuity revenue stream from every island built in the game. These fees are separate from regular premium user fees of $9.95/mo. (US).

Sure, it's free to join and check it out, but if you want cool clothes, cool gadgets, and fun things to do (fly holding hands, etc.), these types of things cost Linden. Kaching. There are currently over 11,000 islands and over 700 more being added to SL each month (source: So, if you do the math, with $17+ Million in islands and millions more in monthly usage fees, plus several more million from the 300,000+ regular users, not to mention the fees from 7+ million monthly transactions, this is a multimillion dollar organization with huge potential upside, especially considering the growth displayed in the Linden exchange.

I keep thinking of the brainwashing program from the movie The Island, where the administrative voice repeated to the clones: "You WANT to go to the island." Yeah, I'm sure they want us to go to the island, at Second Life, too.

How deep is the impact of virtual reality with Second Life?

The exciting promises offered by "Second Life game" gaming experience is broad and expanding. For example, there are opportunities to test new ideas for products or services through the virtual world, that may have lessor impact than the real life might. Or, a trial ad-campaign could be run through a mock of Second Life less expensively than through Real Life production. Buildings can be rendered 3-D to give a better understanding of how communities might get built in the future. And, one aspect that I'm investigating, is the promise of education. The possibility of conducting a virtual 3-D conference might cost less than real life conferences and perhaps offer any time, any place, through the Second Life experience. How far can this go? Time will tell. However, it appears to be just the tip of the iceberg.

Will the phenomenon of virtual reality end with Second Life?

I don't think so. Here's why: there are enough negative circumstances, events, and facts occurring from real life to cause people, generally speaking, to want to ESCAPE REAL LIFE. As a result, they're seeking out other experiences, through video games, virtual reality, or through spending an inordinate amount of time on social networking sites, chat sites, and more. I'm seeing a growing trend, not a shrinking trend.

It's no wonder, either. What leads the morning and evening news? WAR. TERROR. DEATH. DISEASE. TRAGEDY. The familiar saying in news broadcasting is "If it BLEEDS, it LEADS." Does that concern you? People are conditioned to react strongly to fear. Hey, let's face it, our present administration in the USA has built an entire platform on war and terror. If you looked at the promises of the President PRIOR to taking office and see the spending after taking office, you'd see that a focus on reducing the military except for strategic initiatives was not delivered upon at all. What occurred, instead, was massive spending on military like this country hasn't seen since WWII. But who does all this spending on war benefit? A few rich tycoons, mostly. Who loses? Mostly the hard-working tax-payers, who are financing the war. How did they vote for it? By FEAR of terror and wanting something like 9-11 never to happen again. Yet, it shouldn't have happened in the first place, according to all the laws of nature, physics, and our own defense deparment manuals. Okay, I digress.

If you look at the evening news, you'll see that all of these negative images IMPACT us in such a strong way. Statistics on happiness indicate that people who DON'T watch the evening news are 5-7% happier. Count me among that statistic.
The fact is, people want to ESCAPE from all of the negativity of REAL life. Whether it be a difficult childhood, physical challenges, problems with work, or financial strain, so many people are stressed by the challenges life presents and just want to escape this to something that meets the dream, in whatever way they can find it.

The question nagging at me, when I look at Second Life, is this: "What ever happened to living a GREAT and EXCITING REAL LIFE?"

If you've lost yourself in a virtual world, can I encourage you a little bit?

I just had an exchange on Facebook with someone who confided that many of their friends made at Facebook were from dating sites. That's an admission of the addiction of the virtual world. Another friend mentioned he had spend time in Second Life, and then I saw an episode of the rather funny television show from The Office (airing on Thursday nights on NBC) showing a clip from one of the show's stars creating a virtual person in Second Life, only the person was almost exactly the same as the person in Real Life. Ironic, huh?

The reason why a virtual life is so attractive to so many people is largely because their REAL life sucks. Well, okay, maybe it doesn't suck. But there's enough negative hits from (a) popularity or unpopularity, (b) doing a job they DO NOT like or want, (c) being in a frustrating relationship, (d) not living the lifestyle they dream about, or (e) other frustration that causes people to find the escape of a virtual world much more satisfying. If you're ugly, it doesn't matter in a virtual world. Anyone might talk to you at SL. Of course, they can be rude, and block you, at SL, too.
Are you doing a job you hate in real life? In the virtual world, you could be a rock star, a writer for The Rolling Stone, or an actress. Are you in a relationship that leaves you wanting more love, more sex, more FUN, more ANYTHING other than what you've got? In the virtual world, people want you, people love you, people sex you up, and get you even more excited about future possibilities. See what I mean? To someone whose REAL LIFE is boring, frustrating, disappointing, or negative in experience, a VIRTUAL reality presents a world with entirely new possibilities.

My question is this: "Is the world of virtual reality TRULY satisfying you?"

If the virtual life satisfies you, then great, you've got a great outlet of fun and recreation that gives you a way to enjoy some spare time from your work life.

But, if your answer to that question is "no, it isn't satisfying me, because I still have to live my REAL life the rest of the time," then I challenge you to look deeply within yourself.

I challenge you to look at why you are feeling a need to escape.

I challenge you to say "Who am I and what do I really want to do with my life?"

And then, upon listening to your answers, start living your REAL life in congruent ways that match your real life with your DREAM LIFE.

In the end, isn't that what we really want from a virtual life? A second chance at living our dreams? Why not make our dreams come true in REAL LIFE?

It CAN be done. As the wonderful "imagineer," Walt Disney, once said, "If you can dream it, you can do it." I love that quote. Because it offers us a better way to live our REAL LIFE.

First, create a dream life, then take steps in your real life to make the two match. Dream, learn, build, develop, experience, evaluate, dream, learn, build, develop, experience, evaluate, and so on. This can become a method to break free from the bummer of a real life that we're escaping turn turn our REAL LIFE into a life more closely matching our DREAM LIFE.

I've been building this type of life for quite a while now. The more my real life matches my dream life, the more I realize I really LOVE my REAL life, and the more a virtual life loses the luster of appeal for me. I'm not perfect. But, as I implement this process, I continue to grow, develop, and build the life I want. What is the process:


Can you say that you're developing the life you want to live for your own life?

If not, try this:


See how your own life begins to manifest more and more of what you seek to attract from your dream life into your real life. You might, like me, just find that your real life no longer requires a virtual life in order to be happy and living on purpose. Or, if you're living your Second Life, you might even apply this guideline to building an even better "in life" experience.

If you wish to learn more about the Law of Attraction, you might enjoy these additional articles on this subject:

In addition, I've written an entire workbook on the subject of The Keys To Discovering Your Life Purpose. I encourage anyone struggling with the things discussed in this article to give it a serious look.

This article is written by Scott Andrews, Founder of AspireNow. Copyright 2007.
Second Life® and Linden Lab® are trademarks or registered trademarks of Linden Research, Inc. All rights reserved. No infringement is intended.

You may republish this article only AS A COMPLETE WHOLE with ENTIRE LINKS and copyright messages attached. All rights reserved.

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