Making a Living in Second Life
Quote:Making a Living in Second Life
Jennifer Grinnell, Michigan furniture delivery dispatcher turned fashion designer in cyber space, never imagined that she could make a living in a video game.
Grinnell's shop, Mischief, is in Second Life, a virtual world whose users are responsible for creating all content. Grinnell's digital clothing and "skins" allow users to change the appearance of their avatars -- their online representations -- beyond their wildest Barbie dress-up dreams.
Within a month, Grinnell was making more in Second Life than in her real-world job as a dispatcher. And after three months she realized she could quit her day job altogether.
Now Second Life is her primary source of income, and Grinnell, whose avatar answers to the name Janie Marlowe, claims she earns more than four times her previous salary.
Grinnell isn't alone. Artists and designers, landowners and currency speculators, are turning the virtual environment of Second Life into a real-world profit center.
"It's not just a game anymore," said online artisan Kimberly Rufer-Bach. "There are businesses, nonprofits and universities" taking advantage of the online world.
With users now numbering over 130,000, game-maker Linden Lab estimates that nearly $5 million dollars, or about $38 per person, was exchanged between players in January 2006 alone. Working in Second Life is "the same as working in London and sending money home to pay the rent for your spouse," said company CEO Philip Rosedale.
Just ask Rufer-Bach, known in Second Life as Kim Anubus, who works full time making virtual objects for real-life organizations. In a recent contract with the UC Davis Medical Center, Rufer-Bach created virtual clinics in Second Life to train emergency workers who might be called upon to rapidly set up medical facilities in a national crisis. The work is funded by the Centers for Disease Control. "In the event of a biological attack ? the CDC have to set up emergency 12-hour push sites, to distribute antibiotics," said Rufer-Bach.
To create the most realistic simulation possible, Rufer-Bach crafted about 80 distinct objects, "from chairs (to) a forklift, plumbing, wiring," she said. The end result is a training environment that's not only lifelike, but relatively inexpensive. "There are substantial advantages to doing this training in the virtual world," said UC Davis professor Peter Yellowlees. For one thing, it's "incredibly cheaper."
Of course, most of the business opportunities in Second Life don't involve anything as weighty as medical training. The game has a significant market in specialized avatars: People pay as much as 2,200 in-game "Linden dollars," or just over $8, for stock avatars -- with custom work commanding prices that can go much higher. Rufer-Bach ordered a special avatar for her mother, "a knee-high lavender warthog, with a tiara and wings and a big fat spleef with smoke effects."
The game world's mixture of fancy and serious business can lead to some incongruous scenes. "We joke that you just don't show up at a business meeting as a mermaid," said Rufer-Bach. "One guy is a furry, with an animal head. Another's a ball of glowing fuzz. There's a giant two-story robot transformer."
One they've perfected their look, Second Life immigrants who want to build virtual homes often purchase or rent land from entrepreneurs like Tony De Louise, from Long Island, New York, who gave up the meatspace rat race to become an online landlord. "I've worked two to three jobs most of my life," said De Louise. Now, "instead of coming home at 10:30 at night, I'm home and can help my wife put our new baby to bed."
De Louise and business partner Alice McKeon own d'Alliez Island Rentals, and now lease land on a chain of in-world islands they own. They pay Linden Labs $1,250 for each island, plus a $195 monthly maintenance fee. Renters in turn pay from $15 to $75 for average-size land parcels.
"We have three purely residential (islands), one purely commercial," said De Louise, whose in-world name is Tony Beckett. "Two are for furries," who prefer animal-like avatars.
The landowners act as benign dictators of their property, making sure the islands are calm and protected, and helping renters get started building their own homes or businesses.
Even with 17 islands in their cyber archipelago, De Louise and McKeon don't expect to catch up with Second Life's most famous landowner, Anshe Chung, who reportedly makes more than $150,000 a year in the virtual world.
"We've taken it very slow," said McKeon, known in Second Life as Alliez Mysterio. "We reinvested the money we've made and that's how we have the 17 islands." McKeon said Second Life is now her sole source of income.
De Louise said Second Life can be difficult to explain to friends, who invariably ask, "People pay you money to rent land that doesn't exist?" "I say, you've got to see it," said De Louise. "Watch the videos off the website and after you take your chin off the floor, come on in."
With more and more people cashing in on Second Life, the most pressing question may be, how many can benefit before the boom times end?
Wharton professor Dan Hunter, an expert on law and virtual worlds, said Second Life's relatively small size makes its economic future hard to predict. But virtual worlds are becoming spaces where "globalization of services can occur," he said. "In SL, services are valued. 'Hey, I can provide something that someone else wants! And I can make money from it!' The expansion of the economy is almost certainly going to be dependent on expanding the service opportunities."
This, said Hunter, "can be generalized to a range of services -- a tremendously important trend in employment in the 21st century?. I confidently predict that my kids (currently 6 and 4 years old) will end up working within one or more of these worlds."
For now, any uncertainty within Second Life only seems to energize its entrepreneurs. "It's growing, changing," De Louise said. "And in chaos, there are opportunities. That's what Second Life is, it's opportunity."
McKeon agrees. "And you have to be willing to go after that opportunity."
Looks like people are moving away from real life, to live in a virtual world. What a way to get away from your problems.
This 'Second Life' online game seems a lot different than most massive online games, in that its currency is exchangeable for real US dollars in game. Gives me the impression that someone wants everyone at some point immersed in a virtual world, Matrix style.
Here is the site of this weird "Second Life" http://secondlife.com/
I'm lumping together various information concerning law (the illusion of control through words) here: http://honesty.org/forum/showthread.php?tid=59