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Second Life: Creating a new you

Second Life is one of the fastest-growing phenomenons on the Internet today. With hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of members, it is also one of the largest. Surprisingly, few people who are not involved in Second Life have a clear knowledge of exactly what exactly it is, nor do they understand what the appeal is behind it.

Many people think that Second Life is some kind of Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, similar to World Of Warcraft or EverQuest. This is partly correct, but Second Life is more than a simple game; it is actually a Virtual World where people can be whoever, or whatever, they choose with very few limits imposed on them. In the world of Second Life, players can do everything they can do in First Life and more. Veteran players don’t like calling their First Life “real life,” as that implies that Second Life is not real.

Once a player creates an account, they can control every aspect of their avatar, called a resident, from clothing to facial features, and can even change their resident’s species. Giant wolf-like residents, for example, are not uncommon in Second Life. Junior Adam Nash, who joined Second Life as part of a course for communications professor Kevin Maness, said that he even found “an Athiest Monkey in the back of (his) church.” Players can also custom design clothing for their resident or purchase pre-made designs. First-year student James Laughlin, who also joined Second Life for Maness’ class, says that when he is finished working on his regular assignments, he spends most of his time fiddling around with his resident’s appearance.

In Second Life, there are hundreds of different islands, some created by the programmers and some created by users. These islands all have a different theme or purpose. Some house churches, some massive shopping malls, some are replicas of places in First Life, and some are even “combat islands” where residents can create their own custom weapons and duke it out amongst each other. However, players must physically choose to go to all of these places. They are not randomly dropped in the middle of a war zone or other random and possibly uncomfortable areas.

Players can also earn money, called Linden Dollars or Lindens. There are many different ways to earn money such as getting a job within the game, creating and selling custom-designed clothing for residents, or even taking part in real-world marketing surveys. Lindens can be used to purchase virtual items in the game, such as cars, clothing, houses, furniture or even “land.” Lindens can also be bought using real money. Likewise, Lindens earned in the game can be exchanged for real money in a player’s First Life. The exchange rate between Lindens and real dollars fluctuates daily. While many people can and do earn real money using Second Life, because the exchange rate of dollars for Lindens is so low, few use it as a primary source of income.

As far as what the appeal behind Second Life is, Maness says that it is the same appeal behind the internet in general: “Players can be whoever or whatever they want. There is incredible freedom in Second Life, the entire experience is self-created, and there are very few limits.”

Indeed, Nash says he will probably continue to visit Second Life even after the assignment ends. However, not everyone taking the course feels the same way: Laughlin says that once the project is over with, he will probably let his account die.

While Second Life is free to use, a premium membership is available for $9.95 per month. It offers users, among other benefits, more tech support than the free membership and an allowance of 300 Lindens per week.

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