Tobold's Blog
Thursday, January 07, 2010
Guest post: What is the point in Second Life?

[Tobold's note: Virtual worlds which aren't exactly roleplaying games are underrepresented on this blog, as I don't play them. Thus when Josue offered to explain what the attraction of them is in a guest post, I agreed to publish it.]

This is a guest post by Josue Habana of Second Life blog Pixel Scoop.

Logging into Second Life for the first time was a disorientating experience, to say the least. Back in 2007, the orientation was not as clear, there was little help around and working out the controls was as complex as a lecture in rocket science. But I stayed and learnt the controls and have, in my two and a half years in Second Life, mastered the platform. But, mastered what exactly? The first thing you learn about Second Life is that there is no aim, no strategy, there are no levels, no points to collect, no baddies to defeat. So what is the point in a game with no aim?

Well, in answering this question, let me first address the use of the word ‘game’ in reference to Second Life. Most people do call Second Life a game. The platform is discussed in gaming communities and I do consider myself, to some extent, a ‘gamer’. Yet despite this, Second Life isn’t a game in the traditional sense. It is, instead, a virtual world in which absolutely all of the content is created by its users. It’s a world in which nothing physically exists, yet people pay very real money in order to purchase goods and services. In fact, the Second Life economy is worth $50 million (yes, that’s US dollars) every single month. That is to say, 50 million US dollars are spent each month in transactions between ‘players,’ or residents of Second Life. That goes some way to explaining one of the reasons that over 12 million people have registered for Second Life and why some 80000 people are logged in at any one time. So what exactly do you do in this virtual world in the absence of any traditional game traits?

Play Games

While I just explained that Second Life has no levels or points, you can still play games. Second Life itself is not a structured game. But residents themselves do create their own games within Second Life with everything from paintball to go karting and shoot ‘em up roleplay games all very popular.

Create Content

As I mentioned, all of the content in Second Life is created by its residents. An estimated 250000 virtual items are created by residents each day and many of these will be sold by their creators. The building tools are user friendly. Objects ‘built’ in world can be textured and scripted to have some functionality. While some create for the purpose of selling items, others create as a hobby.


Second Life allows you, in many ways, to walk through the imaginations of thousands of other people by visiting the specific areas created by them. One such area is a replica of the Mont. St. Michel, France.

There are thousands of sites including some replicas of real life tourist sites and heritage locations. With residents creating new regions every single day, you never run out of places to explore.

Run a Business

Whether you are selling content you create in the world or perhaps your services in world, Second Life is a functional business platform for many. Anche Chung (real name Ailin Graef) became the virtual world’s first millionaire back in Second Life, when she amassed a huge fortune selling virtual real estate. While earning a full time income in Second Life will be no mean feat, many do operate small businesses in world either simply to fund their Second Life ‘habit’ or as a means of ‘practicing’ business. After all, the platform allows you to set up a fully functional business without the massive investment that a similar project in real life would require. And the principals are the same.

Take Part in the Arts or Music Scenes

Second Life has a thriving community of writers and musicians. Thanks to the ability to use voice conversation (through VOIP technology) within Second Life, many residents hold and attend poetry reading sessions either to share their own written work or enjoy that of others. The same applies with music. Live musicians can perform live in their homes and stream into Second Life. Live music events are particularly popular. Discussion events on various topics are also popular. The collaborative potential of Second Life cannot be underestimated in creative terms. For example, performance of plays take place in the virtual world by means of collaboration between actors and crew often on opposite sides of the world.


As a resident of Second Life, you will meet people from all over the world. Social events are commonplace and many forge friendships that transcend the boundaries of the virtual world to become very real friendships.

Learn Something

Harvard Law School, Princeton, Stanford and the UK’s Open University are just a tiny handful of the respectable educational institutions with a virtual campus in Second Life, where they offer classes to students of their real courses. Education in Second Life is earning a much deserved reputation as being an entirely immersive and beneficial experience. You can attend classes in almost anything through many of the countless educational organisations in Second Life. These include language classes, programming classes and literature, to name but a few.


I can hardly write an article on Second Life without making mention to something that many believe makes up a much larger part of SL than it truly does. Thanks to tabloid, exaggerated mainstream press, Second Life sex is more talked about than the educational or creative possibilities and many non-players are under the impression that the virtual world is just ‘geeks getting laid’. Sex is big business in Second Life. There is no doubt about that. But the adult type locations have now been moved to adult specific regions and can only be accessed by those who have verified their age with a form of identity, through the Second Life age verification program.

Use Your Imagination

I have highlighted here just a few of the many reasons that people stay in Second Life in the absence of levels, tasks or points. Really, this hardly even scratches the surface and the only limit is your own imagination.

So what exactly is the point in Second Life?

It’s whatever you want it to be.
What does this have to do with WoW?
Very good post. It's important to illuminate the positive and negative sides about this. You have, as you said yourself "just scratched the surface".

Personally I "lived" in this world about a year back, and it was quite a bit of fun! This "world" is perfect for role playing, which I clearly love.

But, it totally screwed up a some parts of my real life. I lost contact with a few old friends and this "world" became my escape from real life.

Well.. I guess I can't blame the game, but it is dangerously easy to become addicted.

To sum up:
Started out as a fun game.
Continued with business (Scripting).
Ended up as a addiction that messed up some parts of my real life.

Have fun in this game people, but remember to have fun outside of it too! :) (Take a look at scripting, it's really a lot of fun.)
Uhh, it should be noted that the Second Life blog Pixel Scoop blog link is NOT work safe?

And it is pretty much filled with sex stuff on the main page, sort of goes against what the guy was saying about second life not being fully of horny geeks.
I tried SL quite a while back and I found it totally and utterly boring.

It just doesn't tick any of my boxes at all. But it must have some appeal to at least a large number of people or it wouldn't exist any more eh.
Great quote from this guys blog, "Please consider this a last ditch desperate plea to persuade you to install a much needed feature into the main viewer. For some time now, the Emerald Viewer has enabled bouncing boobs. This is arguably one of the most amazing things that ever happened in my Second Life."

Uhh? And lots of explicit sexual stuff, XXX pictures of nude men, erotic cannibalism - pretty much confirms all the stereotypes I heard about second life players.

I seriously can't believe this guy convinced you to pimp his blog on your site Tobold, cuz frankly this guy disgusts me.
Thank you Josue, that was very interesting.

I really must check it out at some point.
Second Life really comes off as a ghetto of the internet.
I seriously can't believe this guy convinced you to pimp his blog on your site Tobold, cuz frankly this guy disgusts me.

Sigh! You guys need to decide whether you want censorship or not. On the same day I've been criticized for not giving somebody free reign to express his ideas, and here I am criticized for letting somebody express himself.

The reason I agreed to that guest post was that the post by itself is not bad. I do agree that the blog behind it is disgusting, and I didn't like it, but then I find most of Second Life disgusting and don't like it. The question is whether I should try to pretend that anything I don't like doesn't exist, or whether I should encourage people to see for themselves and more importantly think for themselves. If you visited that blog and came away with a negative impression of Second Life, I totally understand that. But I'd say you still end up wiser than you were before, so its mission accomplished.
Hmm, a valid point Tobold, I guess it is an important distinction - and in the end it's probably better for people to be aware of the existence of Second Life weirdos and "entrepreneurs" like Markco and their schemes.

I guess it was the shock of the contrast between the reserve of the post explaining Second Life with the reality of the blog. I think a little more editorial comment on guest posts would go a long way. :)
time for a Syncaine guest post!

Seriously though, it's your blog. I'm really not sure what a lot of these people who go off on you are all about. People just itching to impose their opinions rather than share them perhaps...

This kind of guest posting is a good idea though -- maybe you could give some visibility to some of the other MMOs out there. "My Time in Habbo Hotel" ;)

Criticized or not, you should have at least added a NSFW disclaimer for the link you included, since many of us access your site from work. For goodness sakes, theres an image of a naked woman in a doggy pose being serviced by some kind of machine or something, as well as a male character with an exposed erection in another pic!

Luckily I decided to check out todays postings over my morning cup of coffee from home, as this could very well have been something that would certainly cost me my job if I accessed that site from work!
Is reading a blog about games safe for work? It sometimes scares me to think that I have a net negative effect on global GDP.

And knowing human nature, wouldn't a NSFW disclaimer not direct *more* traffic to that blog? :)

But I think the reason I didn't think of warning people is that I wasn't offended by pictures of naked pixels. Part of that is cultural, Europeans are more likely to be offended by violence than by sex. The other part is that I have a very well developed sense of what is real and what is virtual, due to my long-time involvement with virtual worlds. Cybersex is not real sex, but more like a sad image of some people's imagination.
Is reading a blog about games safe for work?

Your site is one of the few blogs that hardly ever contains any images other than charts or graphs, so yes, I consider your blog to be work safe in that regard. I would think that many others read your blog from work during breaks or downtime as well, so a NSFW warning should be a simple matter of courtesy for your readers when dealing with sexually explicit material, regardless of whether it's in pixel form or not.
You misunderstood my question. I'm asking whether your boss would be okay if he found out that you were reading my blog during work hours. How "safe" doing it anyway is depends not just on the type and quantity of images, but also how visible your screen is to your boss passing by.

I don't use many pictures, but I don't feel comfortable with the idea of you telling me I couldn't use pictures if I wanted to, because you're slacking at work and will hold me responsible for it if found out.
How "safe" doing it anyway is depends not just on the type and quantity of images, but also how visible your screen is to your boss passing by.

Not true.

We have PC's in our break room that employees can use to check their e-mails and surf the net, but we are bound by a usage policy that prohibits pornography of any kind from being viewed or downloaded(as in cached images that I, as a non-administrator cannot remove from the browsing history), and I'm not about to become a test case over whether or not pixellated nude images are really porn, or not. =P

I'm not worried about how much traffic a NSFW warning would generate, that is between you and your guest poster. I can go without reading your blog from work, and since you havent acknowledged that it would be good practice to warn your readers about such content, I'll just stick to reading your blog from home. No Harm done - this time. =)
I think his point is that whether or not the images are good or bad, the fact that you have pictures on your screen is much more noticeable than text.

This blog is excellent in that it is mostly text, and at a glance is not much different from many work related things you could have open.

However, you guys should know that most other blogs/sites have many more pictures. Regardless of the content it would be wise to avoid links to sites you dont know at work, all the time.
Ive used SL and WOW. I like em both. I dont play SL as much as I used to and am in WOW a lot more these days.

I read the blog behind this too and yup there's a recent post on sex. But it's satirical. In fact most of it looks satirical.

I read through the last couple of months posts and if you read it with an open mind it's just a guy having a laugh at SLs sex scene, having a laugh at himself and just being funny in general. Theres way too many ppl reading too much into it
Still, I think the point stands: Tobold you yourself said the linked blog could be considered disgusting; and many people including myself have an internet policy at work that allows using the net for 'work-safe' surfing and personal use during breaks or before or after hours.

I think it's a compliment to your blog that it is about intellectual discussion of the online gaming industry and many people check it daily for your take on what is out there.

Given the very dry almost clinical and professional explanation of Second Life that this guest poster made, one could expect similar content on his blog: what we got instead was a list of explicit fetish words, images of nude erect men, images of nude women impaled on a spit being roasted. A simple "this link contains sexually explicit content" if you don't like "NSFW" could serve as a good warning for those who don't want to see such things over their morning coffee!

You certainly have a right to link to anything you want no one is arguing with that; we just were a little surprised we don't usually encounter such content from your blog.

I don't think it's a matter of standards on nudity, an artistic site with nudity would perhaps be received differently then the prurient and debased sexual nature of the Second Life blog.
Theres alot of irony in the fact people complain about the pictures or certain lines from the blog without reading the content itself.

On the subject of the emerald viewer, he admonishes himself in the next line, clearly knowing its pretty immature but so what.

Also alot of the images and other pictures are related to silly people in the world or places NOT to go accidentally unless you are into that kind of thing.

Also, as Tobold states, being European I'm more likely to whine about a picture of a dead horse (used on a forum, actually, to demonstrate "beating a dead horse" with a motivational, I was not impressed, but most people didnt care.. damn cultural differences) or violent content than I am about some pixelated flesh.

But its okay, Irony is delicious, along with some other emotions, as im sure some Undead would have us beleive.
we don't usually encounter such content from your blog

You don't encounter it because I don't publish such content on my blog. Nevertheless I refuse to be held responsible for everything you might encounter when you follow a link AWAY from my blog. How am I to know what that link will lead to next month? Prime example is a previous guest post, from Markco, which at the time led to his blog on making gold in WoW, but since then has been transformed into a site selling scam gold guides. Given your knowledge of Second Life, and the information in the post itself, you can't really be totally surprised that any blog about SL might contain pixelated nudity.

The other problem is that you damn prudes completely derailed yet another comment thread. Now everyone is discussing NSFW tags and policies of how to read blogs at work, and nobody is discussing Second Life, and whether it is interesting to play a game with. Grats, well done, I don't know why I even bother to write about games any more if you all just want to discuss your personal problems.
I sincerely apologize for contributing to the derailment of the comments thread. I think that as long time readers we are more interested in your blog and what goes on it than the rather dry content of a guest post - we like your writing and your opinions, Tobold.

I think everyone dismissed Second Life out of hand as online sex playground and not of interest to an MMO player, be they a fan of WoW, EVE, Darkfall, or Aion.
"The other problem is that you damn prudes completely derailed yet another comment thread."

I think this is an overreaction, Tobold.

A couple people ask for a NSFW tag to be added, which in the grand scheme of things is not really a big deal one way or another. However, when you chose to respond by chiding them for viewing your blog at work, you opened up the can of worms even more. Is it really that surprising that people would want to reply to that with corrections/clarifications to your misconceptions?

People are going to respond to what's interesting to them, there's no way you can control what they say. If you're going to have blog discussions, the best you can do is help guide the direction of conversion in so that it stays "ontopic." For example, a response such as "I've taken your request into consideration, but I'd ask that you keep the conversation focused on issues surrounding Second Life" would have probably been a lot more effective.
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