Sex, Money and Fame in Second Life

After a quick tour of I was hooked. A week later, my Avatar, Eureka Dejavu was born, has her own website and will be covering all the goings on in this virtual world in a weekly column for The Huffington Post.
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I first heard about Second Life, a virtual world, during lunch last week with a group of colleagues including the prolific writer and futurist Dr.Clifford Pickover. Listening to him talk about it, I couldn't wrap my mind around what Second Life might be. I didn't even know what an "avatar" was (your virtual representative in this world ), although it called to mind a bunch of adolescent boys sitting around a table in a basement somewhere playing Dungeons and Dragons.

Not quite.

After logging on to the Second Life, I quickly learned that it has its own economy, it's own currency (Linden dollars, which you purchase with real world dollars) and actual businesses that are making real money. Real Estate is thriving there and avatars can buy and sell land and build their dream houses or sex dens. Major corporations are spending millions in research and development to establish facilities there. Reuters has a Bureau Chief in place. Harvard has a virtual classroom. Politicians are campaigning there. Fortune 500 companies are buying islands to hold virtual meetings. After a quick tour around SL I was hooked. A week later, my avatar Eureka Dejavu was born, she has her own website and now she will be covering all the goings on in SL in this weekly column on Huffpost.

Living in Second Life is about much more than just acquiring the biggest bust you can muster...although it doesn't hurt. I mean it literally doesn't hurt. It doesn't leave scars and it's free. If you feel too flashy parading around in an outfit better suited for a street-walker, you can always edit your appearance. In fact, when I first dropped in to Second Life, with absolutely no idea at all what I was getting into, I chose a so-called "Urban Chic" avatar. She looked like the girl next door and I intended to keep her that way, but couldn't resist the unlimited ability to sculpt a completely new body and face from cheekbones and chin to the slope of the eyes and length of the lashes. You can even opt to add jowls, under-eye circles, saddlebags or love handles, but seriously, who, aside from an undercover Tyra Banks, would?

This is a note that popped up on my screen:

Note to the newbie: Master this art of editing your appearance so you don't find yourself running around naked and bald. It happens, trust me, and the Second Life Community Police Blotter reveals that nudity, along with weapons testing, caging and harassment, can be a violation.

I started off with around $1,500L (equivalent to about $260 USD dollars depending upon the exchange rate which fluctuates) and spent it on clothes, hair and shoes. Most of my purchases made me look like a harem girl or an Amish teen on vacation among the non-believers until I figured out, with only a few $L left, how to pull a look together.

To put the concept of Linden dollars into perspective, take Second Life's breakout business, Anshe Chung Studios, which primarily deals in Virtual real estate. Co-founders Anshe Chung and Guni Greenfield, the avatars of a real-life married couple who now live in China, predict revenues of $2.5 million USD in 2006, which is the rough equivalent of $670L million. That's actual real world money from selling imaginary real estate. But it isn't exactly imaginary, because you can be teleported there, and meet with other avatars that are fronting for live humans. In Second Life, you can put your castle on an island and listen to the wind whip through trees you created, on which you can even etch initials and hearts. I have no idea how to go about doing that yet, but I came across a carved trunk in a bucolic field, so I know it's possible. I then ran smack into an invisible force-field, beyond which I was not permitted access.

So much for Second Life being different than First Life! Sure, we can all dance (once you figure out how to move and fly without landing in water or getting stuck behind a wall), but I'm down to about $25L, and the quickest way to fortify the finances appears to be a foray into the thriving sex trade. Since I've barely mastered the ability to teleport myself into new locations without landing on someone else's head, I think I'll have to hold off on the sex parties, which, so far, seem not unlike a real world orgy in which the participants hunker up over their Blackberries instead of actually getting it on.

I've been interviewing avatars ever since I arrived. While some have been extremely insightful and funny, others are just as dull as in real-life, when you get stuck on the train next to a guy who just won't stop talking about his mind-numbing daily routine. In those instances, you have no choice but to swing the blade on the possibility of future interactions by declining an offer of friendship. It comes up on the screen: So-and-So has offered you friendship. You must then click on "accept," meaning that this person can then trail your whereabouts or chat with you whenever you're in Second Life, or "decline," which pretty much says it all. The first time this option arose, my trigger finger reacted faster than my sense of common decency and...just like avatar's autonomy was born!

Just as in real life, where actions come back to bite or bolster, my come-uppance was delivered in the form of "Adam Reuters," the Reuters Bureau Chief in Second Life, who rejected my offer of friendship (which, in all fairness, was hastily extended without any introduction). The same way immigrants in real life seek out neighborhoods in strange lands where the aromas of home are familiar, the inside jokes make sense and the people know your customs, I tried to find my own kind in SL as I started my journey to find suitable office space as the official Huffington Post blogger in the parallel "reality" known as Second Life.

I'll keep you posted.

When she is not Eureka Dejavu, Rita J.King is an award-winning investigative journalist and columnist whose work (including photographs, essays and articles) has been widely published from the New York Times to the Village Voice. She has been featured in dozens of publications and programs nationally and internationally including NPR, the Associated Press, the Christian Science Monitor and CNN. She is also the Founding Director DancingInkProductions. She can be contacted at "Sex, Money and Fame in Second Life" will appear each week on the Huffington Post, and Eureka Dejavu will comment about her adventures on

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