This is not actually the first lit review I’ve done over the weekend, but heck.
This weekend I looked at the following areas:
- Alternatives to Second Life
- Fun stuff in Second Life
Demographics and alternatives to SL
I downloaded and installed There.com and tried it out for a bit. I must say the world There looks prettier and the interface less clunky. This Computer World article written in August last year compared There.com with Second Life. Here’s a summary:
- Basic concept of people designing and operating their own avatar in a shared, persistent 3D space
- Movement and social interaction (i.e., walking, flying, chatting, making friends, etc.)
- Platform of standard PC systems
- User interface – There.com’s UI takes up less screen space
- Search – There.com sends the user out to a browser window
- Apparent wide use of Voice over IP in There.com, which is an added feature for premium accounts which cost a one-time payment of $10
- There.com aims at a younger demographic; doesn’t allow non-PG content
NB: According to this Reuters article, Coca Cola was leaving SL for There.com late last year. This Forbes article explains why a few others are leaving as well.
Besides There.com, a long list of other alternatives were listed and presented with a video from each virtual world in this post on the Second Life Games blog. One key insight from this article are the 3 things Onder Skall the writer consider the most important features of SL that underlies his analysis:
- Real money must move in and out of the “virtual” economy freely. RMT (Real-Money Trading) is designed in, not forbidden by TOS.
- Users must be able to create unique content and retain ownership over it. Things like scripting and accepting uploads are important here. Multimedia is a bonus. We must be able to control the rights to our content.
- The world must be persistent, and the users able to change it. Residents like being able to build the world themselves, and don’t need somebody stepping in and erasing their work.
Reading the list made me realise that these things aren’t exactly important to the project I have in mind. However, on further deliberation, the idea of identity is linked to having a persistent world with persistent avatars, and the content – in-world objects, scripts and appearances – are essential to identity. One might want to critique these forms of expressing identity, but the fact remains that these things are important here.
K Zero, a consulting firm on ‘virtual world strategies’, provides comparisons in other aspects. It places the various virtual worlds on an age v.s. content creation plot. It also offers an explanation for the popularity of Second Life:
Firstly, it’s the first virtual world to attract media attention and therefore brands, so promotion has been a key element. However, the ability to create content appears to have had a major role in attracting take-up. The presence of an economy and a commercial environment (being able to buy and sell) also has greatly assisted adoption and therefore an older audience profile. The presence of content creation appears to be attracting a older type of person. This is clearly demonstrated by the difference in ages between Second Life and There.com. There positions itself more as a social hang-out and less about creation.
The age demographic differences between Second Life and There.com are further elaborated in another article by K Zero, together with a comparison of their gender demographics.
Fun stuff in Second Life
There’s been quite a bit of bad press about the sleaze factor on the adult grid of Second Life. But a quick look at the Second Life Games seems to suggest there also good clean fun to be had, with blog categories like ‘rides’ and ‘cool builds’. Then again, there’s also a ‘sex’ category. And it seems that the Games Park (owned by Onder Skall, the owner of the blog), located in a Mature district, is gone. I checked out the link to the location and it was up for rent.