Have you heard of SecondLife? Have you played SecondLife? It’s like…WoW…or RuneScape, but WITHOUT A POINT! You play a completely customisable character in this virtual world where you can interact with other players. You can earn money in various ways, spend money in various ways and lose money in various ways. It’s possible to own your own house—and to own your own land even! (You gotta pay out for that in real dollars though—and your own island will cost you sums in the 4-figure region.)
Money? You can exchange real dollars for the game’s virtual ones (dubbed “Linden Dollars”), or you can earn them in the game. It’s possible to design and program your own objects and items in the game, and sell them to other players for Linden Dollars. You can use this money to buy other items and objects in the game, or to own your own house somewhere on someone else’s property.
If you want to own your own land and property, you have to start by having a paid account. This entitles you to own a certain amount of land. If you want to own more than this, you have to start paying a sort of land ownership tax. Then you have to buy the land in the game.
To buy land directly from the game developers, it comes in blocks of 512 square metres, and costs L$1/m2 (L$ = Linden Dollars). So the minimum charge for a block of land is L$512. You could also buy land from another player who was forced to buy 512 square metres (or more) but isn’t using it all, which is also quite common. You could also buy your own island for US$1,250. This gets you 65,536 square metres. You also have to pay US$195 per month in maintenance fees.
If that’s not big enough, you could shell out US$5,000 for 262,144 square metres, and the maintenance fees on this are US$780/month. Here’s the thing I don’t get—WHO THE HELL IS PAYING FOR THIS STUFF? Who would pay four-figure numbers for virtual fucking land?!
Getting money in the game can be done through the purchase, sale and creation of land and objects, or it can be done by trading back and forth for real money. Linden Labs (the game developers) runs something called the LindeX currency exchange. It’s used for trading between US$ and L$, as well as back again. At the time of writing (just like in real life, the exchange rate can change), US$1 would be converted into L$189. The more you buy, though, the cheaper they get. Converting from L$ to US$, however, is more expensive with it costing L$292 to get US$1 out of it. And some people try to make livings off of this!
The game itself was developed quite well. You create objects using a set of textures, and you edit the three dimensions of a given shape, connecting them all together to make an object, and then you can give it a type of “action point” if you want it to interact with other people or objects in the game. You can also define how it’s worn if it’s a wearable object. Then there’s programming language (which, as a programmer, I can honestly say was fairly well thought-out) that goes with it to define not only how the objects interact with the contents of the game, but also interact outside of the game. It’s possible for the programming in an object to interact with email systems or Web sites that actually exist on the Internet. I have, in theory, thought of a way to make an object in the game order a pizza to my house and bill it to my credit card for me.
The scary part is the objects that these people spending their time creating. The screenshot below examples one of the many, many, many disturbing objects you can find in the game. In this instance, it is one of my friends (who plays the game on an almost nightly basis) wearing an animal penis that someone spent the time (and paid enough attention to animal penises to be able to) to plan out and make. When I was asking her if she could provide the screenshot for me, one of the comments that came up was “Don’t worry, most of the people who wear knobs in the game aren’t actually male”. What a disturbing thought.
On that note, one of the biggest places of attraction in the game are the sex rooms. There are entire buildings devoted to making characters have sex—“action balls” that can put two or three characters into position and start moving them in and out of each other, parts of the anatomy which weren’t originally built into the game and all sorts of weird and strange bondage equipment added by other players, and where walking around without clothes on seems to be the norm. These places are common, easy to find, and by far the most popular part of the game. And all because some people just can’t seem to get some in real life….
All in all, while I can see the attraction in playing this game, (and I assure you, if I had an ever-expanding amount of free time at my disposal, I would be creating objects and selling them and converting it to real money too!) but I just don’t think it’s worth the time, or the real US dollars that can be spent on it if you’re not careful. Not to mention, it requires a dead sexy system to run well at all, as well as one huge fucking internet connection. We actually can’t have two people playing it on our cable modem at the same time without it being entirely too slow.