Media extends our ability to interact with the world as well as our ability to retrieve and share information. As we move forward in the digital century, our extensions are growing in number and becoming increasingly human. The seismic shifts in how we communicate in the [twenty-first] century pose new challenges for marketers, but forward-thinking marketers view these challenges as opportunities.
Newspapers extended media’s reach through sight; radio through sound; and television through site, sound, and motion. The Internet added a layer of social interactivity to what television had previously provided. Virtual online worlds add a new dimension to this paradigm; an unprecedented social dimension. While there are many manifestations of the new social interactivity, from Blogs-to-Podcasts-to-Wikis, one can argue that the most compelling manifestation for marketers is the virtual world called Second Life. This article briefly explains what Second Life is and is not and explores why marketers should care.
What Second Life Is and Is Not
For those of you who are not familiar with it by now, Second Life is a 3D virtual world created by Linden Labs and propagated by its residents. Upon entering Second Life, residents create an avatar — which may or may not bear similarity to their own likeness — and venture into this unique world. When people first hear about Second Life, they oftentimes liken it to The Sims, World Of Warcraft or other MMOG’S (Massively Multiplayer Online Game). Although there are similarities in graphic implementation, Second Life is quite different.
What Second Life Is Not
1. Second Life is not a game.
2. There are no winners (by any formalized standards).
3. There is no predetermined purpose, and there are no rules other than such minimum regulations as are necessary to maintain a peaceful community. Generally, if you can dream of doing in Second Life, it can be done.
4. There is a real human being associated with every avatar; there are no non player characters (NPC’s).
If Second Life Is Not a Game, Then What Is It?
I may not be as heavily ingrained in the world of Second Life as some, but I seem to be doing a lot of evangelizing these days for the opportunities that exist for marketers in Second Life. I have formulated my own simplistic description of Second Life as “a 3D version of the web.” This description is admittedly vague, but it has value because it disabuses people of their natural misconceptions.
When referring to Second Life, I never use the word “game,” rather I refer to it as a “platform.” Given that much of my evangelizing is done with respect to marketers, or people in related industries, I tend to highlight the economic structure of Second Life (the Lindex- which “works by matching existing buyers and sellers of L$ currency together to automatically reach the best price for currency” ) and the real world brands that have embraced this new platform (American Apparel, CNET, Adidas, Major League Baseball, and Vodafone to name a few).
If people are still not convinced, I reference the barrage of articles written about Second Life in the past few months (The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Businessweek, Wired, and many more). With or without my evangelizing, I know that it is merely a matter of time before Second Life is a concept as commonly known as “podcasting.” Disruptive technologies are generally met with fear before adoption, but the adoption cycle is not far off in the case of Second Life.