Second Life is not a game. It never was.
Second Life is an ‘Internet-based virtual world’ (‘Second Life’, 2007), designed, indeed, to let users live their second lives there. Granted, there are several elements as yet unachievable in real life, particularly flying and being able to cross swords and exchange gunfire without getting permanently hurt. But these were user-created functions and activities, much like the same way people set up companies specializing in tactical sports and war games.
With Second Life’s unique customizability, objects of any size from a shoe to a 20-storey building can be created with its user-friendly graphics tools. As such, virtually any place or event in the world can be recreated. Already in other games such as World of Warcraft, there was an instance of guild members holding a funeral or mourning session in-game to mark the real life passing of one of their members (Levy, 2007). If such events can be conducted in a fantasy-themed environment geared towards slaying monsters and warring with other guilds, what more in Second Life, which was designed specifically to simulate real life?
Agendas can also be carried out in Second Life. Just as how Joseph DeLappe ‘has turned “America’s Army” into a war protest and a memorial to dead soldiers’ (Clarren, 2006) by logging into the game and doing nothing but periodically typing in ‘the name of each service person killed in Iraq’ (Clarren, 2006), or how World of Warcraft is famed for its ‘intricately planned raids on dungeons’ (Levy, 2007), Second Life Residents can, with abit of organization, gather at a particular place to protest against or rally for any issue, or in fact, do just about anything as a collective body. A stark example of this was in mid-January of this year, 2007, when a group who called themselves the Second Life Left Unity bought land next to the controversial Front National party’s virtual headquarters and started rallying protests with the aim of eventually driving the Front National out of Second Life (Burkeman, 2007).
Finally, ‘games’ characteristically require some form of suspension of disbelief, of imagination and fantasy. Games provide a form of escape from the dull world we live in, which is why to players, it is fine to kill, steal, and rape in Grand Theft Auto, and it is nothing unusual to launch yourself 30ft in the air by controlling an invisible Force, and throwing lightsabers at surprised opponents. As mentioned earlier, there are a few aspects of Second Life that are fantasy, but a great majority of norms, beliefs, and values are identical to that of the real world. Vandalism, cyber-rape, and harassment are frowned upon. Helping new players find their way around and answering any queries they might have are considered magnanimous and helpful actions. We are reminded of the reality of our physical world while playing in Second Life, something that, I believe, makes the game so popular.
For the most part, after all, Second Life is merely a slightly different parallel universe, modified to allow us a little more freedom that nature denies us here on planet Earth. I wouldn’t just call such liberty ‘a game’.
(2007, April 6). ‘Second Life’. Retrieved April 7 from the Wikipedia website at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Life
Levy, S. (2007). World of Warcraft: Is It a Game? Retrieved April 7 from the MSNBC.com website at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14757769/site/newsweek/page/3/print/1/displaymode/1098/
Clarren, R. (2006, September 16). Virtually dead in Iraq. Retrieved April 7 from the salon.com website at http://www.salon.com/ent/feature/2006/09/16/americasarmy/
Burkeman, O. (2007, January 20). Exploding pigs and volleys of gunfire as Le Pen opens HQ in virtual world. Retrieved April 7 from the Guardian Unlimited Network website at http://www.guardian.co.uk/france/story/0,,1994882,00.html