Friday, February 16, 2007

Second Life questions and answers

I'm interviewed by Alfredo Dillon in Myriades, a magazine in Argentina, about Second Life. My article hasn't yet been translated into English, so here's our email Q&A:



1. How would you define Second Life? Is it a videogame, a 3D chat room, or a virtual world? It’s definitely a virtual world. There are few of the “play” aspects you’d associate with a videogame, and there is enough functionality (i.e. “flying”) that separates it from a chat room.

2. What do people look for in Second Life? Do they really find a second life in Second Life? Different people come to virtual worlds for different reasons. Most are curious or looking to have fun, others are looking to create a full-fledged online persona.

3. I’ve read on the Internet that you estimate that most people who register themselves in Second Life never come back. Why do you think that happens? That’s true of many online services, not just virtual worlds but also websites, applications, etc. There has been so much attention directed at Second Life recently that it must surely get a lot of people visiting it who wouldn’t without the hype. As with other much-ballyhooed virtual worlds (I’m thinking of The Sims Online), there will be a relatively small group of people who take it very, very seriosuly.

4. Do you think Second Life could have been a bigger phenomenon? If so, why did it “fail”? Which are its limits? It’s way too early to tell whether Second Life succeeded or failed. Right now, in the press at least, people are responding to the hype (financial and otherwise). Now that more people know about it and the site is better populated than before, let’s see what happens. It’s way too early to think about limits.

5. Could you please explain the concept of “bubble journalism”? Hype is contagious. When reporters cover a beat that’s filled with hype and excitement, it’s easy to catch the fever. Reporters have to be knowledgeable, but they also have to have some distance. Otherwise, they go from reporting on a bubble to being part of it.

6. Do you think the excitement about Second Life is a temporary phenomenon, or do you believe it could be the first step of a “virtual reality revolution”? Is there really a future for virtual reality? Virtual reality is a very broad phenomenon, way beyond computer-based virtual worlds, with many different applications, ranging from education to medical. Second Life is an example of an existing phenomenon, not a first step. There are plenty of other virtual worlds: World of Warcraft, Everquest, Star Wars, etc.

7. What are the social potentials of virtual worlds? Do you think they can affect significantly the “real” world, or they are just videogames? Who we are online is pretend. But sometimes we become the people we pretend to be, for better or worse.

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