The Making of Second Life: Notes from the New World

Wagner James Au, Author . Collins $25.95 (274p) ISBN 978-0-06-135320-8

For those unfamiliar with the hype or the ridicule, Second Life is a “massively multi-user online world,” a vast simulation created by ordinary loggers-in using 3-D graphic-design tools from the site's proprietor, Linden Labs. Posing as animated “avatars,” “Residents” ramble or fly through the videoscape; they socialize with other avatars, create art, have sex, build cities, open shops and nightclubs, spend Linden Dollars (redeemable for real dollars) and fight wars, all while seated at their computer screens. Au, a journalist who chronicled the site as Linden Labs' reporter-avatar, visits the usual dot-com–saga touchstones. There's the shoestring startup by eccentric geeks; the pilgrimage to Burning Man; the bloviating visionary founder, Philip Rosedale (“I'm passionate about Second Life because there doesn't need to be a God”); the marketing gobbledygook about “Leverag[ing] Metaverse Brands.” Au celebrates Second Life as a seedbed for unfettered cybercapitalism, a liberating outlet for the masses' pentup creativity and a “lucid dream” that erases the virtual-real divide. Alas, in his telling, Second Life's ongoing fantasia—“the monkey now perched on the wing screamed 'DIEEEE' as he strafed a well-armed babe in a bikini”—feels very much like a recounted dream: creative, certainly, but rather tedious and patently irrelevant. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 12/24/2007
Release date: 02/01/2008
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