Second Life is a media phenomenon, but it is hard to understand why. It is not that Linden Labs has not done a good job creating a version of an online game that everyone can play for free, it is just that there are other online games that have essentially the same them, although they do have to pay for those. (The Sims Online is probably the best known one.)
Second Life should not be grouped with other online games like Everquest, World of Warcraft, or City of Heroes. Leveling and combat are not part of the average players experience in the world created by Linden Labs. It aims more to be exactly what the title suggests it is, a second life for its players.
The Open Source Nature of Second Life
One of the appeals of the Second Life client is that a technically savvy player can code his own rooms and add them to the game. Then the person can charge a small fee in the game to let other players access his creation if he chooses to do so. The problem with the open source nature of the game is apparent the minute you try to load Second Life. Even after the first time when most other games will cache the most commonly needed files temporarily on your hard drive, Second Life can take minutes to load a single scene, even if the users graphic cards are up to date.
Linden Labs Media Phenomenon
When a player first steps in to the town of Linden, it is hard to see why this game has gotten the media attention that it has, until the first Quick Time videos play on the users screen. The Quick Time videos may not be all that good but then it dawn on the new player that these videos can be used for anything. Companies quickly caught onto this notion and started using the videos and other billboards within the game to advertise their products. They also quickly realized something else, unique to the online world of advertising. Putting their signs in highly trafficked areas of Second Life did not necessarily result in more business or that their ads would get viewed. They realized people had to be interested in the products that they offered.
Second Life as a Visual Chat Room
Second Life is more of a chat room with a visual interface than it is in the game, and this social aspect is managed by groups which includes one island in the game where only people with Asperger’s Syndrome can live.
One more thing about Second Life should be mentioned. People make real money in the game. No one makes enough to make a living off of it to my knowledge with a conversion ration of $10 Linden dollars to one dollar US, but a few of the players had made a small profit running virtual shops. Although Second Life is free to play and has sparked an unusual interest by the media, in order to own property in this fictional town, a player must sign up for a premium account.