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The big, important, exciting, fun, new, wonderful thing about Second Life for me is that it’s a world. I know that sounds completely obvious, but let me explain.

When you log into Second Life for the first time, after going through New Avi Plastic Surgery and Boot Camp, you’re just standing there. You don’t know anyone unless you have a real world connection to someone else who’s in Second Life, you don’t have a place to live, you don’t have any money, you don’t own anything, nobody’s expecting you anywhere and (the occasional griefer aside) no one’s trying to blow you up. A lot of Second Life has to do with deciding what you feel like doing and then finding someplace to do it and someone to do it with. If you decide to do something else, either at the same time or instead, you do that. There are no points, and nobody’s telling you where you have to go next or what cool thing you have to do or what’s on. We’re all just making everything up. Just like life.

So the thing that hadn’t really clicked for me until today is that the other virtual worlds that exist out there, like There.com and World of Warcraft and this new one called Kaneva that’s trying to be YouTube-meets-MySpace-meets-Second Life…they aren’t really worlds at all.

There.com is kind of a carnival or a playground, as far as I can tell. They provide things to do and let you build certain kinds of things and do certain kinds of things. All for fun! But don’t go outside the boundaries, ‘k? ‘Cause we won’t let you anyway.

World of Warcraft is a bloodbath, a place to go to struggle for treasure and power and stab things.

Kaneva seems to be a glorified TV set, a place to go to hang out while you watch videos and share profiles.

(I’ve never been to any of these places, now, so stop me if I’m missing the point.)

Basically, those three “virtual worlds” seem more like virtual entertainment systems. I think their creators believe that what we all need is more entertainment.

I’m not so sure. How many TV channels are there? How many DVD’s can you rent whenever you feel like it? How many games are there to play, videos to watch on the Web…? Entertainment is nearly infinite. Sometimes we need to be entertained, sure, but don’t we have plenty to be getting on with?

I think these companies are saying the same thing Microsoft is saying when their software tries to correct purposely non-standard grammar or to block an attachment that I really actually do want to open: they’re saying “We’ve done studies, and we know what you want, so here it is. Don’t try to get something other than what we’re giving you, because believe us, we’ve checked and you don’t really want that.”

Phooey on that. Double phooey. Give me nothing, and everything, and let me sort it out myself. If I need to be entertained I’ll get cable.

^^^\ Kate /^^^

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