About Second Life

More than a Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) Second Life is considered an MMORPG. Massively multi-player refers to the number of people who can be online and “in-world” at one time. Second Life currently has more than 16 million “residents” (Secondlife.com, 2008) or avatars -- virtual representations of themselves -- with an average of half a million logging in each week. Castronova (2001) identified the defining features of virtual worlds as interactivity, which provides simultaneous remote access to one computer by a large number of people; physicality, which allows people to access a program that “simulates a first-person physical environment on their computer screen” (p. 6); and persistence, or the ability for the program to run whether in use or not while storing data regarding the individuals and their online objects.

Second Life was initially conceived and created by Phillip Rosedale and his San Francisco-based company, Linden Lab (Kirkpatrick, 2007). The environment is now “open source,” meaning its residents create the surroundings for themselves. Almost all of the current structures and objects in Second Life were made by its residents (Antonnaci and Modaress, 2005; Second Life, 2008), using functions native to the program or by importing from outside sources.

Many people currently “living,” working, teaching, or learning in Second Life would argue this is not just a “role playing game” (the RPG in MMORPG). Although role play is something that can be and is done with great popularity, the building feature of the virtual environment can provide many opportunities for academic instructors to teach in ways that are not available in the real world. Likewise, it has become another social environment rich in behavior worthy of great social science research.