When a student introduced me to the elaborate virtual world of Second Life, my first instinct was not to go there, but to ask geeks to explain it to me and send me things to read. I am grateful to same, especially to my brother-in-law. This helpful guide from Wired may help other nerds and pre-n00bs get the lie of the land.
As a sociologist I am interested in how people think the world is made and how it could be made. Second Life is a wonderful experiment in free market social engineering. Its great appeal is that you can do and make just about anything you can imagine.
My main concern, as readers of this blog know, is with family life, so I was curious about how family life is made there. I asked helpful student Nora "Do you court, marry, and have children?" in Second Life. Her answer is instructive.
Yes and no. You can choose a partner, but to make this official, I think you pay an extremely small fee to LindenLabs so that they can change your online profile. Anything beyond that is the decision of the users. There are definitely wedding places in SL and there are of course people who met in SL and who married in real life. There are no SL babies, though. … But there aren't babies built into the game, unless you get really smart and figure out how to script that! :) You can actually change your avatar to look like a young child, but anyone younger than 17 or 18 (i forget which) isn't allowed into SL. They have their own separate grid to use.
I used to be very interested in narratives of alternative worlds. Science fiction got me through high school. But I have found that since becoming an official sociologist, and most especially since having a wife and children of my own, I am much less interested in virtual or alternative worlds, and more interested in the real one.
I think it is wonderful that Second Life exists, and that the half million people who regularly work and play there have found a place for their passions. I celebrate the wonderful variety of this world, including the alternative worlds it contains.
But I don't find it to be something that I want to do myself. So I very much welcome responses from people who do "get it" to elaborate on why.