Second Life

by Wencke Schuncken
author awarded score: 60/100

Second Life Review
Publisher: Linden Lab
Developer: Linden Lab ( and many online users)
Format reviewed: PC

Reviewed by: Wencke Schuncken and Pam Douven

It’s Saturday and a friend invited me over to watch / play a great game called Second Life. At least she's very optimistic and already playing it for a couple of months. I on the other hand heard and read about Second Life a couple of years ago, but it never convinced me to be a fun and entertaining game. Maybe the name “Second Life” gives me the shivers as my normal life is already booked from the early morning to almost midnight and don't start talking about my financial situation! So how much fun can it be to integrate / play a second life besides my normal life?

Second Life (SL) is a huge social and economic online universe with different worlds. Let's take a closer look at the social aspect. Of course it's not possible to cover each social activity but you're always free to explore Second Life by yourself. There are no Artificial Intelligent characters in game, so each visible character is controlled by a real person. You can have some conversations, exchange personal items and do "group activities" such as dancing. Certain worlds created to get in touch with other persons, such as a 24 hour disco. Just like in real life it's a place to have fun, dance (together), show off and meet other people. In a later stage you'll have a friends' list and when they own property, you can visit them at their virtual build homes. After some clubbing, maybe you're in the mood to do something naughty. Well, as you probably would expect, there are lots of sexual orientated places to visit. If you rather would like to visit a casino or another playground, to spend your last Linden Dollars (SL currency) and to have fun, it's possible! My friend is addicted to SLingo (bingo in Second Life), and while playing she also chats with other participants / friends. Maybe to have fun conversations or is she trying to distract them from the game? Another favourite feature is the shopping spree as everyone loves to shop, right? ( if you have enough money that is of course! ) Name a product and it's available in SL for sure, and if not, you should grab your chance and develop that product, open a shop and start selling it. This brings me to the more economic gameplay.

Money makes the world go round and that certainly is the case in Second Life. If you have a free account, there's no money (Linden Dollars) in your pocket. But you can earn some by doing certain activities. For example you can find a job as a SLingo host or dancer. But in the beginning you can also find money in trees or simple by sitting and waiting / chatting in certain money generating chairs. Note that not all things have a price; there are lots of freebies available such as clothing, skins, shapes, furniture, etc. The big money however is assumable in the real estate- and sex business in SL. With a premium account ($9.95 per month) it is possible to create your own real estate, design your house or shop. Perhaps you'll sell these with a profit to start with a new real estate. Land can be bought and maintained with Linden Dollars, but note that there's a monthly fee involved besides the premium membership fee. The bigger the property the more expensive it will be. With a real life credit card you can deposit / transfer money to your SL account. Personally I love to be creative and make money. SL provides an excellent way to earn money with your own created objects such as jewellery, cloths and other stuff. With Photoshop for example you can create your own lovely dress, upload it to SL and try to sell it in your own created shop. It can be quite simple to start your own business and fun to do, especially when you have customers who appreciate your work (show me the money!). Simple objects can be created with an in-game program, but you have to be patient. Remember that Rome wasn't build in a day!

If you're wondering how to join get involved in Second Life, visit website and click on "join membership free". You need to fill out some registration details to start creating your avatar. Choose a cool nickname and select a female, male or even a fox avatar. There are lots of standard characters to choose from; for example if you want long or short hair. After filling out some more personal information you end the basic registration by choosing either the free account or premium account. Then it's time to download and install Second Life. When finished and successfully logged-in, you'll start on an orientation island to learn the basic gameplay and avatar controlling. The controlling is done by clicking on an object with your right-mouse button that opens a circle with options to choose from. This also is the main controlling during the game. On the island are multiple, clickable objects to change your avatar shape, skin, eyes, etc. Whatever you like to change, change! You'll also learn how to chat, cloth, move items, fly, and other basic knowledge on how to handle the game with your mouse and keyboard' arrow keys. It's really easy and everything is visualised clearly on screen. By using a search button you can find a certain world of your interest like dancehall, casino, swimming pool, everything that pops up in your head and want to check out.

If there's something I cannot be positive about, it's about the graphics. Sometimes it reminds me on my early Commodore 64 gaming experience as the graphics seem dated, not spectacular and not very detailed. Depending on the server capability, it can have an effect on the environment and avatar. Remember those dated race games with graphics building mountains, roads and spectators in the back? That's my experience with SL. If you are being transferred from one world to another it can take a couple of minutes before the whole environment is build around you. Or suddenly your hair disappeared or cannot load your clothing. Nevertheless there's always an option to buy certain upgrades to give your avatar a more detailed look. Even nipples can be ordered to give an extreme example but it's going to cost you money! SL graphics are certainly not good but as with some other games, gameplay is more important than graphics.

Each world provides different kind of sounds; what kind of music the builder / designer prefers to hear or want to broadcast. Of course it's possible to adjust the volume or turn it off completely. To express your avatar, you can choose from multiple standard programmed sounds such as saying "hey", laugh and even sing. All sounds are categorised in gestures: movies, music, fun, holiday and more sounds can be bought of course in SL. It's also possible to upload your own wav files to SL! Also sound effects are available such as the wind blowing, water splashing, and so on. Currently more and more music bands are performing live in SL. U2 even gave a concert and their avatars and behaviour were perfect copied of the real artists! (And I was somewhat negative about the graphics earlier?)

Although I'm not the up-to-date fashionable type of woman in real life and don't like shopping that much, I really enjoyed it in SL. Almost all of my money earned by dancing or sitting in money generating chairs was spend on clothes (and slot machines I couldn't resist). My appearance seems more important in a virtual world instead in real life. All characters are being controlled by gamers and it's impossible to state that there are more female than male characters / gamers. Although I experienced it that way, it also depends on where you hang out.

This is the toughest part of the review; the conclusion. While my enthusiastic friend explained, taught and even created a character for me to get things started, I wasn't impressed by the game at all! My goodness, the graphics and server capacity weren't impressive at all! I didn't expect to test / play it after that SL Saturday but I was wrong. Curiosity of what other places could offer and the fact that it doesn't cost you any real money to explore the SL universe made me play it more than expected. But after some intense playing, it seems that the money factor (just like in real life) is the biggest negative drive in the game. No money, no game! Of course you can buy Linden Dollars with your credit card and spend it on virtual things, but I would suggest spending it in real life on more important things! Players who like to meet other people and hang out in a lot of cool communities, should considerate to play SL. Players who are driven to achieve goals and love to get challenged will get bored easily. But don't forget you can always check it out for free and if it turns out not to be your type of entertainment; it can be removed from your PC as quickly as you've installed it! And in case you wonder, I haven't removed it …yet…