The Games People Play: Where is Second Life headed next?

You may love them or you may hate them but chances are you have an emotional response when the subject of games is brought up at a cocktail party. The paradox is that work, art, sports, play and gambling are all related to games but games are often defined as having no serious impact on our lives. Is Second Life a game or is it a virtual world?

When people ask me to define Second Life and I respond that it’s a virtual world they often get a sort of puzzled look on their face but if I say it’s a game- they know exactly what I mean. I explain that it’s like a game but it has no rules and no one wins or loses so that sets it apart. I hate to describe it as a game because the experience of being in-world is so much more meaningful than the word “game” connotes.

I think the best definition of Second Life that I’ve heard so far is that it’s different things to different people. For some people it’s a game and for some people it’s a place to start a business and for others it’s a learning environment etc. I’ve always believed that it can be whatever you want it to be, within limits of course, because after all….it is only virtual.

Watching Second Life downsize has not been easy as it has had such a profound effect on my life. I wondered if so many were leaving Second Life, where were they were going? When I discovered Google Insights, a keyword research tool, I found that although fewer were searching for Second Life, more were searching for virtual worlds and a light bulb lit in my head.

Upon further research I discovered that most often people associated virtual worlds with games and once more the gears in my head started turning. Having heard that IMVU had changed it’s business model from virtual world to social game it occurred to me that Second Life might also need to make that transition in order to remain solvent.

Perhaps like yourself, I too have mixed feelings about games and I wondered what Second Life would look like if it were turned into a game. It’s fun to try to predict the future and then when Rod Humble assumed the position of CEO at Linden Labs, I assumed at first that with his gaming background he would be the one to convert Second Life to a game. Having done a little research into the Sims it seems to me that in many ways it diverges significantly from the definition of a game and that perhaps there is another path for Second Life and Linden Lab to pursue.

-Anastasios Aurotharius


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