Second Life: The Other Side of the Coin

    January 5, 2007

The virtual world created by Linden Labs has been the object of much discussion throughout the blogosphere in recent weeks. Big-name companies have opened Second Life operations and brand marketing within the virtual world seems to be hitting full stride.

Second Life: The Other Side of the Coin
Second Life Has Its Share Of Griefers

I have an avatar in Second Life, as do a lot of other people. In fact, Linden Labs figures indicate that its virtual world boasts a user account base of over 2 million, which doubled from 1 million in a span of just two months.

It’s funny, but I don’t seem to come across anywhere near that kind of population when I’m actually logged into the world.

Let’s face it, Second Life has become the media darling of the blogosphere. Many journalists, myself included, have heralded the platform as the “wave of the future” in terms of social marketing, product placement, and brand recognition.

While it’s true that Linden’s virtual world has a tremendous upside, I think some of us may have missed the inherent problems that come with operating in a world that is, by in large, user generated and supported. When you put the power of creation in the hands of the user, there’s a backlash of immaturity and abuse that inevitably follows.

Case in point, CNET’s Second Life bureau experienced an unusual, and quite frankly disconcerting, assault from a Second Life resident:

Unfortunately, as the interview was commencing, the event was attacked by a “griefer,” someone intent on disrupting the proceedings. The griefer managed to assault the CNET theater for 15 minutes with–well, there’s no way to say this delicately–animated flying penises.

That’s right, the cutting-edge world that businesses are falling all over themselves to populate is home to these types of shenanigans.

Unfortunately, animated flying penises are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to questionable Second Life practices when it comes to content creation.

A December entry at Gawker documents a “feature” within the world that is just plain disturbing:

We’re not as conversant with SL’s moral conventions as your average nerd, but it surprises even our jaded souls that you can indulge in rape fantasies (options: “Rape victim,” “Get raped,” or “Hold victim”) for a trifling 220 Linden dollar things. Nice that the purchase takes place in an evocative back alley, with the actual rape set in some kind of red cobblestone gimp-dungeon.

Somehow, I have a hard time believing that this is the world IBM envisioned when it decided to launch operations within Second Life.

As a journalist, I am wholly committed to protecting the freedom of expression. When I’m confronted with flying genitalia and customizable rape fantasies, that commitment is tested, to be sure.

Within Second Life, residents have the freedom and the capability to create just about anything they can conceptualize within the dark recesses of the mind, and anyone looking to capitalize on the social marketing possibilities presented within the virtual world will have to be ready for anything.

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Joe is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest ebusiness news.