First off, let me say this. I’ve been in Second Life on three separate occasions. The first was way back in the beginning of the universe. I was a huge MMO player at the time and I was trying them all as soon as they came out. SL was no exception. I downloaded the software, fired it up and spent about 20 minutes there before I quit and uninstalled it. It was quite primitive graphically and the UI was no better. The second time was a few years later after I’d read in Wired about this guy who had bought a huge piece of land in the game and was renting out shops, etc. I thought perhaps I should pop in, buy some land and then wait it out as an investment. So I downloaded, installed and went through the new tutorial. I lasted about an hour this time. The last time was a few months ago. I just had to see if the world had improved.
I was more impressed this time, but something just didn’t feel right with the UI and somehow the world was too complex and open. Since you could teleport or fly anywhere, real estate location was irrelevant. Furthermore, the supply of land was limitless since new servers could be added at any time. But the world (I keep wanting to call it a game, but its clearly not) is popular isn’t it?
Why is this crappy MMO so popular? Why have real companies invested there? Why do they have so many people like me logging on to try it (granted, many like me don’t last long there)? It’s simple. We all want the Metaverse to be real. For those of you who don’t get the reference, run out and buy and then read “Snow Crash” by Neil Stephenson. It is clearly what SL wants to be and clearly something that if it existed would be really cool. I mean, how amazing would it be to really be able to have a virtual second life? We all want to push our reset buttons and start again don’t we? Or at least we want to try our a dream we may have had instead of the drudgery of our current lives/jobs. We all crave what SL is trying to bring us.
The bummer is that SL does a piss poor job of it. I’m not going to go into details, but SL to me doesn’t realize that dream. But, and here is the important part, the fact that there is so much interest tells us something. It tells us that people want the Metaverse to be real, that we want a virtual second life. You could also interpolate all the fantasy on the internet to indicate the same craving. We just need some company (hmn Blizzard are you listening?) with the talent to build a great world and then unleash it. Watch it fly!