By James Ralston
When you visit secondlife.com, an introduction video starts automatically. Words appear on the screen superimposed over video clips of the game:
“A place to connect. A place to shop. A place to work. A place to love. A place to explore. A place to Be Different. A place to Be Yourself. Free Yourself. Free Your Mind. Change Your Mind. Change Your Look. Love Your Look. Love Your Life.”
Obviously, a little unnerving. But, what is really frightening is the amount of people who have bought into what Second Life is selling. It’s not just a video game like Call of Duty: BlackOps or Barbie Horse Adventures: Riding Camp. It’s more than a brief escape from life; it’s an alternative to life. As the intro suggests, anything you would do in real life, you can do in your virtual Second Life. People no longer need to worry about the former reality that you can’t sit on the couch and play video games your whole life. You can make substantial income that translates into real money in real life or, as Second Life users refer to it, RL. You can have full on relationships and even get married, and many do, in Second Life. Second Life has an effect on RL since so many people in RL now consider themselves more a part of Second Life than they ever were in RL.
When one signs up for Second Life, they create an avatar that they will use to navigate the Second Life world. Many people choose to design an avatar that is nothing at all like their RL selves. This relates to the concept of photographic truth. Someone can live their Second Life as an attractive, young African American female who is a social butterfly, owns her own business, and lives in a high-rise pent house in New York City. But in reality they are a 50-year-old Japanese man living in Tokyo. If one is not satisfied with their image in RL, they can “change their look, love their look, and love their life”. On one hand, it is nice that people can take a break from reality and pretend to be someone else in Second Life. On the other hand, people are exiting RL, and being fooled by the photographic dishonesty of Second Life, believing that what they see is real. I’m not sure this kind of obsession with something completely fake is healthy, and a lot of Second Life users let it dictate their real lives.