Second Life: For those who are not aware, there is another world that exists, where over a million people live and thrive, and it is closer than you think. This world is one which you can see but not touch, since it exists only in cyberspace. Second Life if the creation of Linden Lab, a San Francisco company which has generated a 3-D virtual world where millions of people and companies interact with each other to live out a life of your own choosing. Unlike other online games, Second Life offers a unique twist: the money you earn in the virtual world can be cashed out and converted into real US dollars. That’s right. Whatever money you make in this online game can make you rich in real life. Don’t believe me? Ask Ailin Graef. She is Second Life’s first real world millionaire (read the news article).
In just over two years, Graef has gone from an initial investment of $10 and a small virtual piece of property to becoming a major real estate tycoon and owner of various businesses, labels, and whatever else you can image a business woman getting involved in. This is possible since the virtual world within Second Life works the same as our real world. If you want to buy something, there is most likely someone willing to sell it to you. This demand has brought not only millions of games, but also some well known companies. Toyota and Pontiac will sell you virtual cars. Dell advertises their computers and accessories. Reuters provides real and virtual world news right to your finger tips. You name it, real world companies are willing to compete on a level playing field with virtual businesses for your money. This concept of making real world profits off of a virtual world made me curious to download the free software myself and investigate how this place works.
After a brief tutorial (parts of which I skipped), I placed my character into the virtual world and began to wander around. It wasn’t long until I found a few houses and a business along side the road. Many of the houses had closed doors, so I was not able to look inside. Other houses had open doors, allowing me to walk through and look around. The houses and items are created using simple 3-D object editors or you can purchase pre-made objects and place them on your land. In the first store I found, you were able to purchase special post cards of various scenic spots within the virtual world for a few Linden dollars. Exploring further, I found a travel agency which not only sold “trips” (to where, I don’t know), but also provided news updates, an ATM, and more virtual keepsakes. With these businesses providing simple products, you can imagine how bulk sales could lead to real world profits after a while.
But I am still stuck on this concept of converting virtual dollars into real cash. I mean, if you were to generate a personal profit within Second Life, do you have to pay income taxes on your earnings? What if you created a virtual company? Do you have to pay business taxes? What if you/your company had a large quantity of Linden dollars on hand, and the Second Life servers were to crash or the server hosts shut down all together? Do you have a legal recourse against the company to recoup your losses? I am still researching various sites to find these answers, but you can imagine some of the complexities created by this games unique concept. If you know any of these answers, please share them with us (along with a source link which we can reference). Personally, this is not my genre of games; however I could lured into it if I understood the business aspects and game engine a little more. If this game interests you, or if you have played it before, please share your experiences with us so we can understand it better.