BLOG POST: Setting sights on Second Life – Wan Ying Tay
Over the weekend, there have been speculative rumors spreading on the Internet that Microsoft has plans to buy over Linden Lab as well as the virtual world, Second Life. Whether or not this is true remains to be seen, but what is certain, is that both Second Life and Linden Lab have been reported as going through a number of changes over the last couple of months, perhaps more so for the latter than the former, as seen from its recent staff layoff and office closure.
Second Life is a social virtual world developed by Linden Lab. The concept of a social virtual world is not new, but giving users the autonomy to create content and build objects is novel. Almost everything that you see in Second Life has been designed and built by the users (often referred to as Residents) themselves. Since its launch in 2003, Second Life has been able to attract consumers, educators, researchers, designers, librarians, archivists, businesses etc. to have a go at creating a virtual presence. Some of them have since left, but those who remain, continue in their attempts to leverage the potential of Second Life.
Without a narrative or back story like most game-based virtual worlds, users of Second Life sometimes find it difficult to find a clear purpose to be there. It seems, however, that the main draw of Second Life is its social and community-driven nature. It is not hard to see that there are many groups and communities in-world. What is difficult though, is locating them and finding events that are worth attending and places which are populated. Sure, there is the search engine which one could use. That said, it is not unusual for one to do so and yet find an empty sim (or region) or an inactive group.
Having spent some time (more than a year now) in Second Life, I have managed to find a number of groups which seem to be growing, particularly in size and regularity of events. Many people whom I spoke to have often mentioned that the groups that they belong to have helped them integrate into the Second Life community and is the main reason why they continue to log in to the virtual world. They have, it seems to me, created their own narrative or back story – a more defined purpose for them to be there.
Like most Residents of Second Life, I’m waiting to see what Linden Lab or the future investors have in store, as this would certainly have an effect on the virtual world and what goes on in-world. Being amongst and talking to Residents, it would appear that some of them are trying out other alternatives to Second Life (some in fact have migrated to other platforms), but the majority of them remain optimistic about Second Life and are not prepared to leave yet. I think, it is perhaps time, for Linden Lab or future investors or bosses to work hand-in-hand with the in-world community in ensuring the continued operation of the virtual world.