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The Dangers and Wonders of Virtual Worlds.

Updated on March 22, 2018
Susan Cummings profile image

I am a citizen scientist and amateur writer with six short stories that can also be found on Audibles and Amazon. I love to write and nature

History of SL

The history behind Second Life ((Au)) and where it is today being epic in the simulation 3D revolution. As Wagner James Au would describe it, “Second Life is an immersive, user-created online world.” What I would imagine started as any animated creation has progressed into something that absolutely boggles the mind. In my own experience with Second Life, I can vouch for the descriptive portrayal of which I briefly read in Au’s publication.

In a research paper it is more about the subject and less about the student or person writing about the subject; however, because of my personal experience within this virtual world, and the many opportunities, some good and some not so good, I felt it equally beneficial for my own experiences to be noted, and to give the subject more life. The research on any given subject, I believe, is more reliable and powerful if the source is also the writer. I have had the pleasure to be part of a very interesting and informative learning experience, by joining millions of people from around the world, in creating a journey of the mind. People’s imaginations can now have a place to expand and be counted. What someone may have only imagined, it all comes to fruition in Second Life. It offers challenges, and there is much to remember. But, once you get started and understand the basics, everything else starts to fall into place; and the more and more you explore, the more your imagination yearns to learn and experience more.

Getting Started

“Second Life” To start, you are given instructions on how to create your “avatar.” (Harper) with a wide variety of choices to pick from. An avatar, for those who are unfamiliar with virtual worlds or the recent movie “Avatar” (Landau), is a computer oriented world where the likeness of human, animal, alien, vampire, werewolf, or just about anything the imagination can conjure up, exists. There are many choices for the creative mind to ponder, or you can be as close to the real you as possible. The virtual world will also supply you with a welcome kit made up of many items: such as, clothing, destinations, accessories and opportunities within the avatar world. There are many real world companies that have business offices and locations on Second Life. Teachers in colleges are letting students know about these virtual opportunities that can lead to real life careers. It is absolutely amazing the things you can do without driving, using a telephone, texting, or emailing. You can actually be employed for the same company you work for in real life.

I have learned much in this virtual world. Second Life can be a positive tool for those who wish to invest in a home or a business in real life, as long as you become aware and responsible for the laws within SL and in real life. You get to make many mistakes in this virtual world that you need to avoid in your real life. Several careers that could be practiced are: Architecture, Interior Design, Business Management, Entertainment and Photography, just to name a few.

Universities, colleges and schools would benefit greatly in utilizing Second Life and using this to teach to their students. There are virtual libraries, historical places, and events in history that have been created or re-created for all others to enjoy and learn. I have personally visited such sites, and I am always amazed at the fact that I am standing in a re-created moment, or a place I have only heard or read about. There is the ability to role-play and participate in that history; such as, WWII and Pioneers and Indians.

Anything in real life can and is in Second Life. There are several Police Departments that will take complaints and follow through with investigations. There is a virtual military that also exists within the realms of this fantasy world. Although, I am not sure who or what they may or may not represent. You can horseback ride, swim, race cars, fly a plane, ski, ice skate, water ski, climb mountains, take a balloon ride, take a walk in some of the most beautiful forests or jungles, go skinny dipping (which I have not done), be an athlete, and it is all for free! Where in real life can you do all of this, and more, without spending a dime? However, Second Life does give you the option of becoming a Premium Member, and you can choose a monthly, quarterly or yearly subscription. With the subscription you get a home, special deals at a variety of locations and other perks, as well. I chose not to be a Premium Member, but to instead buy my own land that I can build on and purchase my own style of home that I can decorate. I also have the option of land that is on the beach, on grass or in a forest type setting. There are many realtor and rental agents available to those who either choose to rent or own. The one I chose is called Quiet Life Rentals. I still have to pay a fee each week, but I have more freedom, as in real life land or home ownership, but, there is no curb-side pickup of trash!

SL Tour

Building in SL

After you have decided on who or what you want to be, exploring Second Life is an adventure all in itself. The building of what the virtual world describes as “Sims”, which can be actual places, or places created in the builder’s mind. The builders may take pictures of places they have visited on vacation and recreate this imagery in the virtual world. The beauty and magnificence of many of these places is astounding to the eye and senses. Places you can only imagine visiting in real life, come to life before you in Second Life. The builders of these creative worlds and destinations are clearly artists of another kind.

Monetary Matters

Second Life, like real life, provides a means of financial or monetary access. They have what is called Linden Dollars. When you first sign up for Second Life, and after you have establish your Member Account, you can choose to have them save a credit card, debit card or PayPal account, and you can either use American, or other Country currency, and again, Linden Dollars to purchase items from the thousands of businesses within the virtual world. They also offer credit, which I personally have not established. When you buy personal or commercial land, they have Deeds for that land, as well as other items that are purchased, such as, media players. The resources available within Second Life are similar to those available to you in your real life.

The Reality of the Virtual World

At first, when I began my adventure into this beautifully animated world, I was stunned by the similarities to my own life, or a life I would like to create for myself in real life. I was at first very apprehensive and careful, but also very naïve to the reality of the virtual world. Not really associating with the fact that there are real people behind the avatars that you may meet along your virtual endeavor. There are those who have agendas and there are those who are just there for the pleasure and experience of it. I would visit places and meet people, just like real life, but there would always seem to be an underlying objective to other’s intentions. It appeared to me that people resented anyone new coming into a space or area outside of the real world and invading their hidden world. This was just an impression I had at first, but I have since shrugged this off, and, like my real life, I am not interested in what people think, unless it is productive, of course. And it also could be that they don’t want to be known as well. The avatars you meet and see in Second Life very well could be your neighbor, teacher, police officer, firemen, politician in real life. Wouldn’t that be interesting? Maybe not for some of them, I am sure!

Dangers in SL

One of the most disturbing things that I have seen in Second Life is avatars who appear to be children. Even though Second Life is on the California Time zone, I have seen child avatars at all times of the night and early morning. There are many avatars who appear to be children, but they are actually adults. The Supreme Court made a ruling stating that virtual children are not real children; therefore, anyone exhibiting or having unwanted behavior cannot be held responsible for acts against children, (Jan LaRue). It is literally a playground for deviants of all kinds. Perhaps this may explain why to some in Second Life a newcomer is a threat.

The Good, Bad and Ugly

Second Life also provides many of the opportunities, good or bad, as real life does. Avatars can rent or own homes, land, businesses, farms, night clubs, etc. But it also has a dark side, as real life with many other more cynical aspects of the real world. Where there is people, there is both good and bad, and like real life, you really have to be careful about whom you meet and where you go. Virtual worlds can be used for both good and bad intentions, as real life, and could possibly be used as a tool for not so nice things. The avatars are actual people, and this could be where communication, planning, and other devious intentions are conducted and plotted. The communication between avatars can be local or private and the person has the ability to store their “scripts” with others. I would imagine our law enforcement agencies probably already know this and the “Patriot Act” (Now Freedom Act 2015) (FinCen) could be fully enacted, since there are literally millions of people from around the world, on Second Life at any given time.

It can also be an explanation to the very happenings that appear to be occurring around the world. Especially in America where Same-Sex Marriage has really taken root, Transgender and other Gender issues have really come to the forefront. What is a lifestyle and the norm in SL now appears to be birthing itself into real life. Many from SL truly believe this transformation can take place. It has been ongoing in SL way before it was even considered for real life. However, what I believe is forgotten in this plight, is that many in SL are of the same mindset, therefore, offer little resistance. But in society within the global, real world platform, there are many more people who do resist. The same animosity I encountered in SL is the same being displayed and played out in real life by those of a different ideology. Terrorism is no stranger to them, it is their friend and has been for quite some time. People unfamiliar with what is going on in the world would benefit greatly by exploring SL. Then you will understand how some, who do not have a grasp on reality, have been given false hope about a Utopia that doesn't exist, except in their own minds and SL SIMMS or destinations.

Bills In Congress

Congress recently passed a bill regarding copyrights and Second Life was affected by this, since many of the businesses in Second Life do not have to go through the Secretary of State’s office for registration, and there may have been some unintentional misuse of product, titles and other copyright issues. Many laws that exists in real life can and do affect Second Life.

Dialogue and Communication

Perhaps through Second Life, there can be positive dialog and negotiation as well. It can be a tool for all people around the world to have a common denominator and interest, instead of what unfortunately separates us. It is such a great pleasure to be able to experience the creativity of others, with others, and not care about color, ethnic background, gender, politics, etc. When people say “it’s all in your head,” I say, it’s also in Second Life, and you should go there!

Works Cited

Au, Wagner James. The Making of Second Life. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2008.

FinCen. USA Patriot Act. Arlington: United States Department of Treasury, N/A. Website.

Harper, Douglas. Online Etymology Dictionary., February 25, 2012. Dictionary.

Jan LaRue, Chief Counsel. S 151 "The Protect Act:" Virtually Legalizing Virtual Child Porn. Washington: Concerned Women of America, 2011. Website.

Landau, Jon. Producer. Los Angeles: 20th. Century Fox Film Corporation, 2008. Movie.

Linden Labs, Inc. What is Second Life? Video about Second Life. California: Linden Labs, N/A. Video.





Submit a Comment

  • Susan Cummings profile imageAUTHOR

    Susan Cummings 

    20 months ago from Salem, New Hampshire

    This article is a synopsis for any one interested in diving into the virtual worlds, and the in's and out's of them. It can be very fun and exciting, but also very eye opening. I experience the creativity and the wonders of the places that have been taken from a photo and recreated on Second Life. One can imagine much better on how the place or event would appear in real life.


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