Saturday, July 07, 2012

An Introduction to Second Life

It's distinctly challenging coming up with a good definition for what exactly Second Life is.

In its most basic form, it's 3D virtual world where individuals interact with each other using "avatars". You are free to build pretty much whatever you want with the tools you're given.

But there's a little more to it than that.

Philosophical Questions.

What is Second Life about?

  • Is it an online adaptation of The Sims?
  • Is it a MMORG (Massively-Multiplayer Role Playing Game)?
  • Is it simply a role-playing exercise?
  • Is it a social tool?
  • Or is it a blank-canvas world where people can create and do whatever they want?

And, importantly for us, how can it be used for academic purposes?

The ever-cynical Urban Dictionary offers the following definition:

A game where desperate people with no lives or friends get to live out their dreams of social acceptance and sex.
— Kaptain Kangaroo

First launched in 2003, Second Life has undergone multiple changes since then, endured immense criticism, and more, but the basic premise remains the same.

Second Life is still seeking general public acceptance. One of the biggest problems with Second Life is one of its biggest features: the relative anonymity.

Since in-world avatars are not a direct likeness of their owners, some users feel compelled to act out their darker, more sinister fantasies. I'll leave out specifics.

However, after interacting with some of Second Life's regulars, one gets the impression that it has a very passionate fan base.

Clearly, there must be more to this than meets the eye.


Avatars are the "characters" that individual Second Life users can assume in the virtual world. They can be anything: A traditional human or human-like being, a vampire, a teddy bear, a tree, a car, or even a rock — literally anything. Avatars can be changed at any time.

Creating Things

Second Life has its own programming language — named after its creators: LSL, or Linden Scripting Language.

With the right skillset, one can create almost anything in Second Life, and its users frequently do.

Stonehenge in Second Life

Stone Henge

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

The next couple of posts will talk about the programming in this virtual world.

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