Something terrible happened as we watched the stock market massacre last week. A bank called Ginko Financial shut shop after depositors rushed to withdraw their money. The bank, which had 18,000 accounts, said it would issue bonds to compensate depositors who had lost money.
But you know what? Ginko was not your usual neighbourhood bank; it lived in a four-year-old virtual world called Second Life. It had deposits worth $700,000 — all wiped out after a run that was prompted by a ban on gambling in the nether world inhabited by nearly nine million people who keep themselves busy buying and selling lands, building homes, listening to music and buying stuff that you and I can from high street shops.
It all began rather innocuously for me — a mail from a former colleague asked, “Are you in Second Life yet?” I am an Internet freak but from the old school, who likes to go on the Net to read and watch nerdy films. But Second Life intrigued me and I decided to take an “avatar”. I became Pindrop Rahelu, got myself a friend called Sidshan Broome and set out to discover this NEW world where everything from homes, to food, to clothes, to swaying palm trees to people exist only as pixels on a computer screens.
A random check at the workplace, just before I took the temporary identity, showed some of us had heard of Second Life, but most raised their eyebrows. “What is that?” asked a colleague. He had heard of three-dimensional computer games. I said I was talking about us — real people with real lives in another world in a way they would want to but were not — or some such.
Second Life is a thriving place with its own shops, restaurants, newspapers, offices and land with beautiful homes that beautiful people (or so one would think) buy and sell. They use the Second Life currency — the Linden dollar — that can be converted into real money using credit cards at online currency exchanges. The exchange rate: approximately L$270 for each US dollar.
More importantly, businesses in our world have funded real estate there and universities use it as an education tool. And now, one of Britain’s oldest symphony orchestra — the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra — is building a replica of its concert hall where it will perform works by composers including Rachmaninov and Ravel, web sites dedicated to Second Life reported.
There is nothing that you can’t buy in Second Life, walking down the lush boulevards peppered with fancy malls and shops in the new world. Classified ads on the site offer everything from skins, clothes to hugs, kisses and other emotions. You can spend time in creating yourself the way you would want to.
Mr P’s shop offers “100s of Custom Animated Gestures to help express your every emotion. Interaction Gadgets, from Hugs and Kisses to Groin Kicks and Leg Humps. Toys and Fun Stuff: Poses and Sits starting at just $L10 Lots of Walks and other Flying Animations.”
And Exotica says it is one of the premier skin and clothing merchants. “Our store offers a vast selection of skins, suits, dress shirts, skirts, casual outfits, sports and yoga suits, biker outfits, cat suits, jeans, t-shirts, prim shoes & boots …” It’s a fun world out there and it might be worth visiting if you have a right broadband connection.