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July 22, 2006

Meet Second Life's top reporter

photo of W. James Au, and image of his SL avatar, Hamlet Au

The We Make Money Not Art website has an interview with someone who works one of the oddest beats in all of journalism... W. James Au (in the guise of his online persona Hamlet Au) covers the mean streets of the virtual world Second Life. First hired by Second Life creators Linden Labs to chronicle what they rightly predicted would be a groundbreaking online phenomenon, Au now files his reports for his blog, New World Notes. Here's a quick snippet from the interview:

How much can people cheat, pretend and lie to others in virtual life? is there any limit? When does it get back to you?

There's quite a bit of that, especially for those looking for love or at least a night of sexual gameplay, and much of it is not necessarily unethical, part of the roleplaying experience. (Is it lying if your avatar is a gorgeous babe in her 20s, when you're really a heavy-set dude in his 40s? What's the standard for truthfulness when the world is *defined* as a second life?) What's interesting is that people in Second Life, unlike traditional MMOs, are generally attached to their avatars as an extension of their real life selves, so there's a tendency to self-regulate. Of course, you could always burn people and create an alternate persona afterward, but then, you lose any reputation value that comes with having a long-term presence in the world. "Griefing", for this reason, is usually a one-shot phenomenon.

The full interview is here.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at July 22, 2006 01:29 PM