For my own part,
I have never had a thought
which I could not set down in words
with even more distinctness
than that with which I conceived it.
There is, however,
a class of fancies
of exquisite delicacy
which are not thoughts
and to which as yet I have found it
absolutely impossible to adapt to language.
These fancies arise in the soul
alas, how rarely,
only at epochs of most intense tranquility
when the bodily and mental health
are in perfection,
and at those mere points of time
where the confines of the waking world
blend with the world of dreams.
And so I captured this fancy
where all that we see or seem
is but a dream within a dream.
~ “A Dream Within A Dream“, The Alan Parsons Project
There has been a lot of flattering coverage on Second Life in the mainstream media, such as FORTUNE (“It’s not a game“, 5 February 2007) and TIME (“My So-Called Second Life“). David Kirkpatrick, FORTUNE’s senior editor, is particularly bullish about Second Life, having sang the praises of the Internet-based virtual world in several articles (e.g. “No, Second Life is not overhyped” and “Coldwell Banker’s Second Life“). But I’m afraid David may have allowed the euphoria surrounding Web 2.0 to get the better of him.
So, for the sake of my fellow media professional, I am offering my second opinion about Second Life. If you haven’t guessed what my second opinion is by now, ask yourself this question: Why have a second life if it’s essentially the same as the first?
Some people may argue that Second Life is popular because it allows you to assume a different identity, like in a role-playing game. But RPG is very different from the existing world. Well, at least you don’t get a company like IBM holding virtual meetings or Nike running a virtual store in it. Speaking of which, isn’t it stupid to have a meeting in virtual universe (or “metaverse“, as some prefer to call it) when you can actually meet people via conference call, if not face to face?
As TIME magazine puts it, “The corporate world’s embrace of the place as a venue for staff meetings and training sessions does seem to lend Second Life a layer of legitimacy. But maybe it’s a case of some CEOs trying too hard to be hip.”
Already, we’re suffering from too much “reality” TV. I don’t want to turn on the PC and have yet another “reality” experience. What people should be doing is to get a first life and spend quality time with real people in real life.
In fact, I believe a big part of Second Life’s failure will actually be its ability to be used as a platform to sell products and services. Companies like IBM, Dell, Nike, Sony BMG, Toyota, Sun Microsystems, Starwood Hotels, Circuit City, Sears, ABN Amro, etc., have already set up shops in Second Life to offer information about their products and services. Once the landscape is dominated by commercial interests, what difference would the virtual world be from the real world?
Furthermore, what people do not realise is that virtual ownership is no ownership. If Linden Labs goes bust, so will your assets in Second Life.
FORTUNE’s article unwittingly summarises it best:
“And Linden changed its business model. It began generating revenues primarily from the sale of virtual land. …. In essence, customers are renting space on the 1,750 servers that store the digital representation of that land.”
Contrary to the hype you’ve been exposed to, Second Life remains a game, and far too many people fool themselves into thinking it is more.