Second Life and the Metaverse: the Wall Street Journal

Philip Rosedale in Remember Second Life? It’s Now Taking On Big Tech’s Metaverse. Credit: The Wall Street Journal

If there is one thing that can certainly be said concerning the news that Philip Rosedale has “returned to Second Life” is that over the last few weeks it has certainly generated a lot of interest from the media.

I’ve already covered articles on Rosedale, Second Life and his views on “the metaverse” from the likes of Protocol (see here)¹, and VentureBeat  / GamesBeat, c|net, and The Wall Street Journal (see here)² – admittedly with some speculation on my part on the case of the latter. More recently Wired and others have also covered SL, Rosedale and “the Metaverse”, and he has been interviewed by CNN, CNBC (the latter of which I’ve yet to summarise), and most recently, by The Wall Street Journal once more.

The latter takes the form of a video segment – embedded below – that features Rosedale taking about Second Life, its users and “the metaverse”, whilst comparing and contrasting SL with plans voiced by the likes of Facebook / Meta and Microsoft and touching on the Lab’s hopes for SL – including further hints at the direction in which the company is leaning in terms of upping the platform’s appal to a broader audience.

Running to 20 seconds short of 6 minutes, the video is actually a concise and honest look at SL, and comes complete with a careful underlining of the age of some of the in-world footage used – a refreshing touch given that so often we are confronted with “archival” images / footage of the platform that get presented without any cage context, and so can leave people thinking they are looking at SL as it appears today.

Starting with Zuckerberg enthusiastically stating how people will all “work, learn, play, shop” in “the metaverse”, the piece quickly reminds viewers that for Second Life, all of that promise is very much a case of “already there and doing all of that, thank you!”. It then offers a fairly accurate recap of SL’s history in terms of early attractiveness, user engagement, and gradual (if somewhat low-key overall) resurfacing of interest (which predates all the current “metaverse” hype by around 24 months). As such, it neatly packages:

  • The the history of SL and its longevity.
  • The broad attractiveness people have found with the platform – notably the appeal of content creation and the power of the economy SL has forged.
  • A frank, thumbnail look at some of the issues those coming into the platform face in trying to understand it (the IU, understanding avatar operation & customisation, finding others (particularly those of a like mind) with whom to interact, etc.
  • Slightly conversely with the above, it also underscores the fact that while complex to understand, SL’s avatar  system is still incredibly powerful and well beyond anything the likes of Meta are considering.
  • The reiteration of the idea that virtual worlds down actually need VR or other headsets for engagement, and any focus on such hardware will, for a foreseeable future at least, remain a hurdle to potential engagement rather than a benefit
  • The openness in allowing some doubt about all the current hype around “the metaverse” to be expressed.
  • The underlining of LL’s approach to basic aspects of their platform in order to (hopefully) generate better user take-up and retention (e.g. improving performance, developing mobile support, improving (/simplifying) avatar user and the viewer’s UI).

The video also neatly encapsulates some of the problems “the metaverse” faces that appear to be outside of the thinking of Meta, etc. One of these is clearly stated by Rosedale: getting the vast majority of people simply comfortable with using avatars for tmany of their interactions. Like it or not, this is a stumbling block, and one Rosedale is correct in point out. Were it not, then after nigh-on 20 years, it would not be unfair to assume SL’s user base would likely be somewhat larger than its current 1 million active monthly users.

That said, this is also where the video is apparently a little too glib. In making the comparison between SL’s and Meta’s monthly active users (3.5 billion for the latter across its platforms), there is a suggestion that Meta has a big head start – but that’s hardly the case. If anything, I’d suggest the Meta has made its life that much harder compared to LL. Not only do they have to convince that 3.5 billion active user base of the need to swap away from doing much of what they do “in (first) person” – so to speak – to doing it with an avatar, they’ve also got to convince them to do so with a headset strapped to their faces. Given that currently, they probably have around 10 million headset users out of that 3.5 billion, they clearly have a huge mountain of their own to climb to get the rest to invest in headsets, even with a cash pot of up to US $10 billion to spend in doing so (which I assume includes money directly related to further headset development, etc.).

There are some wider holes in the piece that could be picked at – such as what the likes of Microsoft and Meta really mean by “interoperability” and the “movement of assets”, and whether, beyond some perfunctory basics they’ll really go down that path (after all, walled gardens are the best way to hold on to an audience – and their money); but at the end of the day this isn’t a piece on the metaverse per se. It’s about Second Life and its continuing relevance in the world today.



  1. Second Life’s founder doesn’t believe in VR, by Janko Roettgers and Nick Statt – Protocol,
  2. Philip Rosedale’s High Fidelity cuts deal with Second Life maker Linden Lab – Dean Takahashi, VentureBeat/GamesBeatSecond Life Founder Returns to Take On the Metaverse – Meghan Bobrowsky, Wall Street Journal (via Archive to avoid paywall); Second Life founder returns to revamp his original metaverse – Scott Stein, c|net

Philip Rosedale: musing on Second Life and the metaverse

Philip Rosedale (2006) via Esther Dyson on Flickr

Note: the articles linked to in this article will display a log-in form on opening. Simply click the X to close this and view the article.

Whilst coming a week late to the party, but Protocol, the on-line tech publication, presented a brief but punchy interview with Philip Rosedale on his return to Linden Lab, a piece that makes for worthwhile reading.

I admit that a small part of my attraction to Second Life’s founder doesn’t believe in VR, by Janko Roettgers and Nick Statt, lay in the fact a couple of Rosedale’s comments on the state of VR as it is today, pretty much echo what I was saying a good few years ago (that the current generation of VR headsets are inherently anti-social in the way that cut the user off from those immediately around them). However, that’s not the reason for me to point to the article; there is far more of relevance within it.

What makes this article a particularly pleasant read is the direct approach taken by this authors, with key points neatly broken down into sub-sets of bullet points. These start with a refreshing  – and, I would state – fair summation of the state of consumer-facing VR before moving to to some of the challenges faced by “the metaverse” is trying to reach a significant global audience, and what’s on the horizon for Second Life in the future.

Janko Roettgers

This third sub-set of items has already been covered to some degree and includes the topics we’ve already heard about / surmised:

  • The use of tracking technology for avatar expressiveness.
  • A renewed move towards mobile support for Second Life (again, related to the “decentralised environment patents” transferred to LL?).
  • Improved communications capabilities.

No specifics are offered, admittedly – but what is recognised and – allowing for the fact that Rosedale is only (currently?) a part-time advisor to the Lab – a recognition that Second Life is long in the tooth with a heavy reliance on legacy technology  / approaches – and that at some point it is entirely possible that at some point building a new platform alongside of, and eventually replacing, Second Life as we know it, may well become a necessity.

And before anyone says, “but they did that with Sansar, and look at what happened!”, it is worth pointing out that a) Sansar was never developed as some kind of “SL 2.0”; it was made clear from the outset that the Lab was looking to address two different environments: Second Life and what was believed to be the coming wave for VR users, with agendas / needs that were very different to the majority of Second Life users. As such, there is no reason why, if LL did embark on an actual “SL 2.0”, it would likely be far more in respect of retaining the current user base and growing it, rather than seeking other horizons, as was the case with Sansar, whilst also allowing the platform to pivot more readily to newer technologies.

I actually find this point-of-view – which again, is a personal perspective from Rosedale, and not at this point anything we know to be part of the Lab’s plans for the foreseeable future – to be refreshing. Linden Lab has perhaps been too afraid of the spectre of “content breakage” and Second Life users a little too attached to inventory that they (probably) haven’t used in years, that it’s about time someone voice the reality that in order to move forward, there may well come a time when a break from at least some of the past is required.

For me, a particular point of interest within the article is what Rosedale states about the challenges facing “the metaverse”, and specifically the need to get to a point where avatar-centric communications can be “as effective as a simple Zoom call” together the  need for Second Life to provide “a better communication experience to take on Zoom calls.”

Nick Statt

I find this of a point of interest because it both underlines the coming of “avatar expressiveness in SL, and what the Lab hope to achieve with it, and also a continuing disconnect that is still evident in thinking around what “the metaverse” “must” do.

Within SL (and for the metaverse as a whole), there is no doubting that there are a range of use cases that can only benefit from avatar expressiveness. Picture, for example, a teacher within a virtual classroom being able to recognise a student who is experiencing difficulty or confusion during a lesson just by witnessing their facial expressions, and thus provide assistance.

However, the idea that “the metaverse” can gain traction among users just by emulating tools already at our disposal – Zoom, Skype, Duo, Viber, etc., – is potentially misguided. Such tools are already too ingrained into our psyche of ease-of-access and use to by easily replaced by carrying out the same task in virtual spaces. If “the metaverse” is to gain a mass appeal that isn’t centred on one particular environment / limited demographic – again, note Rosedale’s comments about Fortnite, Roblox and VR Chat – then it has to have a broad-based and compelling set of attractions rather than risking being seen as “just an alternative” to what can already be done using this, that or the other app or programme, etc. that is already at our disposal.

But in this I’ve said more than enough –  or al least the article from which it is drawn, so I’ll close here and leave Roettgers, and  Statt’s piece for you to read directly. And in doing so, I’d also recommend taking a look at what amounts to a follow-up piece by the same authors. With In the metaverse, everyone can sound like Morgan Freeman, Roettgers and Statt talk to Philip Rosedale about spatial audio and the company he currently runs: High Fidelity; it’s another informative read.

Grumpity Linden talks Second Life to Le Journal du Net

Second Life banner piece for the October 25th issue of JDN

Cube Republic pointed me towards an article appearing in the French on-line newsletter, Le Journal du Net (JDN), a reference site for corporate executives produced by media group CCM Benchmark. The interview is also referenced on the Lab’s official In the Press page. Entitled Second Life’s annual GDP is $650 million, the article is the banner piece for the October 25th issue of JDN, the piece in places makes for interesting reading whilst also covering ground with which many SL users may already be familiar.

The piece starts with a discussion of the recent rise of “the metaverse” as a catch-all buzzword among tech companies from Epic Games to Facebook, and outlining the fact that much of what is now being hyped was similarly hyped 18-20 years ago, with Second Life one of few platforms that actually attempted to achieve it, and which should now, by rights, be regarded as a forerunner and living example of what “the metaverse” might be.

From here, she draws on a key differentiation between Second Life and the vision Zuckerberg’s company is offering – and the barriers they may well face.

I think they themselves realized that the reputation Facebook has forged over time can be a barrier. This lack of confidence in the company exists and there will have to be a number of levers of confidence to allow those who wish to explore these virtual worlds. But it is still too early to get a clear idea. At Second Life, we ensure the privacy of our residents. For example, some assume their homosexuality in Second Life, but we know that some may live in areas of the world where their sexual orientation could lead them to prison. We are therefore extremely vigilant on this issue of data security. With the immense wealth of data in the hands of the digital giants, it will be necessary to ensure the protection of the privacy of the users of these virtual worlds.

– Grumpity Linden (aka Anya Kanevsky, Linden Lab’s VP of Product), talking to French newsletter JDN

Later in the piece, she goes on to make a key point that has helped Second life achieve its longevity and which seems to be a point missed in many of the discussions / statements by other companies wishing to stake their claim to a vision of “the metaverse”:

Everything in [Second Life] was created by our residents and not by Linden Lab employees. We just play the role of facilitator. This represents our vision of the metaverse. I don’t see how creating different games that would be connected to each other could be akin to the metaverse. In my eyes, this is content created by companies for users. For the metaverse to exist, it must be created and managed by the people who live there.

– Grumpity Linden talking to French newsletter JDN

The more familiar waters sailed by the piece include things like the 200,000 monthly unique log-ins SL enjoys, the uptick in engagement seen during the core months of the Sars-CoV-2 pandemic (and that the Lab feel they are seeing many of those who turned to the platform to remain even as the freedom to get out and about in the physical world gets easier, even if at a reduced number of hours per session). It is in these discussions that the article’s headline – SL having a GDP of US $650 million – is references, and that in 2020, users collectively withdrew a total of US $73 million from the platform (potentially hinting at an overall rise in general revenue flowing into / through the Lab over 2019),

Whilst being cagey on the Lab’s overall financial footing, the point is made that it has been profitable for a long time. This sits alongside a comment on the way in which the lab has attempted to be responsive to changing economic needs by realigning where and how it generates its income from the platform. Tilia Pay is also touched upon, together with its importance to Second Life – if not its potential as a revenue generator for the Lab as a whole; an honest assessment is also given on Sansar and immersive VR – which also hints towards the Lab’s vision looking to a future that is broader than any reliance on VR headsets.

While a number of early adopters shared their enthusiasm with us, we also observed resistance from some users. Many were not thrilled with the idea of ​​carrying these VR headsets that are quite heavy and require enough space at home to be able to use them. If virtual reality allows for an immersive and incomparable experience, we observed that few of our residents were ready to wear these helmets for more than thirty minutes. So we plan to keep trying new things around virtual reality, but VR isn’t the only possible future for Second Life.

– Grumpity Linden talking to French newsletter JDN

In terms of this broader view of the future for SL in particular, Grumpity notes the need to provide access to it “on all platforms and on different devices,” even if the experience in accessing SL is not identical across all such platforms / devices.

The article itself is relatively short, but covers some good ground in a manner that will met the needs of JDN’s general readership. It provides a good “executive summary” approach, transmitting its core information without undue exposition. In closing the piece, the journalist, Adrien Tsagliotis, offers a quote from Grumpity that mirrors something I’ve long believed myself (and is actually evidence by the reality of SL’s user numbers), and which stands as something all those hyping “the metaverse” should perhaps keep in mind:

We have observed over the years that the population as a whole is not necessarily open to living this immersive experience in a virtual world. Once the hype around the metaverse is behind us, I think we’ll observe that not everyone is necessarily interested in experiencing virtual worlds.

– Grumpity Linden talking to French newsletter JDN

In the press: Second Life, Tilia Inc & the Metaverse

Friday, September 3rd saw an article by VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi – no stranger to Linden Lab, Second Life and LL – doing the rounds, entitled Will the metaverse bring the second coming of Second Life? While I personally find the term “the metaverse” to be one of the must frequently over-hyped / over-used terms in recent years, Takahashi’s article makes for an interesting read on a number of levels.

The first is that VentureBeat is a well-regarded tech news and events on-line magazine that includes the supplement GamesBeat that focuses on the world of computer, mobile and video games. Between them, they draw down some 6 million unique visitors a month and 12 million page views. That’s potentially a lot of exposure for articles within the publication, and Takahashi’s article was a headline piece for GamesBeat’s front page (although it has since slipped down the ranking somewhat).

Dean Takahashi, lead writer, GamesBeat

The initial part of the article is something of a re-tread of Second Life’s history for those of us familiar with the platform. While the ground covered may well be familiar (and the quoted numbers possibly subject to quibbling in some quarters), this re-treading nevertheless frames SL for those not familiar with it or were unaware it is still around and doing moderately well for itself.

This part of the article also helps frame Linden Lab as an “elder statesman” (so to speak) of the user-generated content frontier, having long since tackled many of the issues and hurdles that those attempting to now define and provide “the metaverse” are just starting to tackle. All of which makes for good reading and certainly helps carry the message that in this day of Facebook, Microsoft, et al trying to foist their visions of what “the metaverse” should be, Linden Lab has the right to say, “been there, done that – and still doing it!”.

However, it’s the latter part of the article that drew my focus, with its referencing of both Tilia and recent moves on the part of the Lab to develop “partnerships” to try to “grow” SL. Both of these are also parts of the article I’ve witnessed as causing some negative gnashing of teeth in some circles, which has also framed my thinking in writing this piece.

In particular, Takahashi’s revelation that Tilia has cost Linden Lab $30 million has raised eyebrows and some grumblings about what this might mean for Second Life’s future.

via the Tilia website

This needs a little context. While LL has spent what seems like a huge amount of money on Tilia, as Takahashi notes, it has been over a 7-year period, starting not long after Ebbe Altberg joined Linden Lab as CEO, and the initial expenditure was required; as Takahashi goes on to point out, for a company like LL to be able to make pay-outs to users (and generally handle fiat money on behalf of its users) it must comply with a range of US federal, state, and international regulations.

In terms of US requirements, this has meant LL had to become a licensed money transmitter at both the federal and state levels – a move more easily achieved by ring-fencing the services that handle all payment processing / transfer into an entity of their own. Had it not do so, then LL would have hit a wall in its ability to make pay-outs. Beyond this, Tilia Pay’s regulated services benefit Second Life in a number of other ways (allowing the use of credit / debit cards within services such as the Marketplace through to assisting with overall user account management and security, for example).

Obviously given a large amount has been sunk into Tilia, it is natural for the Lab’s new owners to want to leverage this expenditure. But this doesn’t mean Tilia and Second Life are, or will become, an “either / or” proposition for the Lab’s future direction.

Rather if Tilia can be made a success, it would mean that Linden Lab – after more than a decade of trying – has gained a second revenue stream it can utilise to help it remain viable moving into the future. Further, it’s long been the philosophy at LL that as long as SL has users enough to ensure it remains a healthy generator of revenue / income, there is little reason to shut it down / sell it, and I’d question this philosophy being radically altered by the success of a second product within the company’s portfolio.

At the end of the piece, Takahashi brings in the subject of Zenescope, and LL’s focus on “partner collaborations”. This appears to be part of what has been referred to as the drive to grow the user base.

It’s not necessarily a bad idea – working with organisations that have established audiences of their own and which could leverage Second Life to add a new dimension of engagement for those audiences. However, it is one that has some significant hurdles to clear: attractions have to be built-out, events need to be organised and run at a tempo that keeps an incoming audience engaged and coming back at a reasonable cadence to make the effort worthwhile, and their must be a path to a practical return on the investment made (time, effort money), and so on; to say nothing of getting people into the experience and comfortable with the viewer UI.

Zenescope Metaverse a new partnership endeavour involving Linden Lab opened in August 2021, but failed to capture the imagination for me See: The Zenescope Metaverse In Second Life

There’s also the question that, even if successful in bringing an audience to Second Life, just how well such partnerships might actually convert members of the audience into engaged Second Life users – something that will be an important measure of success by the current user base, if not necessarily to LL or their partners, who will likely use other criteria to measure the success of these ventures.

In mentioning such partnerships, Takahashi’s piece open the door to broader thinking around where LL might potentially go with this idea in the wake of of the move to AWS.

For example, it’s already been hinted that at some point, LL might look to offer an “on-demand” product. Doing so could potentially be advantageous to potential partners, in they it present a way for them to offer their users experiences in Second Life at a more advantageous price that a 24/7 product that might only be used once or twice a week. Beyond this, there is the question of whether LL might consider entirely private grids for dedicated partners / clients / markets, and even white-labelling such a capability if they did so (thus essentially providing a Second Life Enterprise style of product in a manner and cost that would be far more appealing that that endeavour).

However, given these thoughts do go beyond the article, I’ll put them to one side for now, and just say that if you haven’t already done so, I do recommend giving Will the metaverse bring the second coming of Second Life? a read.

In the Press: Second Life in Medium and VICE

A couple of media articles looking at Second Life appeared on Friday, May 22nd that made for interesting reading. They came from different perspectives, but both offered a relatively fair view of SL and attempted to probe some of its appeal / capabilities.

Writing for Medium, Doug Antin offers How the Virtual World “Second Life” is a Showcase of the Metaverse. It’s an attempt to explain both Second Life and the concept of “the metaverse” by someone who perhaps hasn’t spent a significant amount of time in SL, writing for an audience that may only have a superficial understanding of either the platform and the idea of “the metaverse”.

It might be tempting to roll the eyes at the idea of a reporter writing about Second Life when he may not be as au fait with the platform as we might like – but in fact, Antin does a good job of providing insight into the platform and the idea of it being a precursor of “the metatverse”, by couching one in terms of the other in what is an easy-to-read article.

Doug Antin

This is a piece that concisely and positively covers why Second Life exerts such lasting appeal on its users, whilst also touching on some the the “deeper” aspects of the platform’s reach  – a quote from Tom Boellstorff’s Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human touches on matters of identity, while an observation that Second Life communities tend to show a reduction in the preference falsification characteristic is particularly relevant in a time when western society is becoming increasingly polarised. I will admit to being surprised at seeing an image of Sansar in the article, but as this is pulled from Engadget, I put it down to a small error in research.

What is particularly engaging with the Medium piece is that it is entirely free of “official” quotes. Not that I have anything against interviews with Linden Lab representatives; it’s just that by taking the approach of looking directly at the platform through the eyes of a user, as it were, and focusing on users (including the embedding of one of Luca’s excellent Second Life videos), Antin’s piece cannot be seen as carrying any kind of “corporate spin”.

This approach allows Antin to reach what I’d say is a fair and balanced summation of the platform:

Second Life isn’t a game. It’s a fringe community experimenting with a new way of life. For the people that participate, it’s a chance to escape their regular lives and build a world they want to live in … The Second Life community probably won’t ever achieve mainstream adoption. It’s too fringe and the technology doesn’t support easy access to a casual user. But it does represent an incubator for what the Metaverse can become.

 –  Doug Antin, Medium, May 22nd

Writing for VICE, Shamani Joshi offers Virtual Reality Is Going to Change Live Events Culture Forever, an examination of how virtual spaces might revolutionise how we view / attend live events in the wake of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. However, rather than looking down the VR headset route, the article instead focuses on three long-running virtual environments: Minecraft, IMVU and Second Life.

In terms of Second Life, this article is a curious mix. As readable as the Medium article, it take the route of direct quotes from Lab CEO, Ebbe Altberg and offers an upbeat view of Second Life’s appeal  – the power given to user to develop, promote and execute their own events is reasonably covered, as is the benefit of having a virtual economy, the ability to fund-raise, and even the ability for environments like SL to assist in matter of health (in this instance, dealing with anxiety – again a condition that is relatable to the current situation vis SARS-CoV-2).

The oddities, for me, come in a few places. Early on, the articles refers to the current pandemic having helped both IMVU and SL to “level up their users by more than 75 percent”. While the active user count for SL has increased, I would doubt it is by 75% (“levelling up” to me implying overall user base growth).

Similarly, the closing observations struck me as a little off; I’d actually argue that mobile-phone inspired text speak has done more damage to the art of conversation than the use of a traditional keyboard has ever done. Similarly, given the freedom of interaction and expression offered by a platform like SL, coupled with the rich mix of users it presents actually increases a person’s ability to freely think and behave, particularly when compared with social media platforms, which so often encourage a narrowing of personal outlook to only those views and opinions that conform with, rather than challenge, our own.

But grumbles aside, the VICE article fairly explores the potential of virtual environments and their ability to offer spaces for live events and activities that offer interaction, and without jumping down the VR headset rabbit hole. Like the Medium article, it also casts s solid, positive light on Second Life, and both make for an interesting read if you haven’t already done so.

In the Press: The Atlantic explores Second Life

illustration only

The Digital Ruins of a Forgotten Future might sound a dismal title for an article on the subject of Second Life. But that is precisely the title Leslie Jamison chose for her in-depth piece on the platform that appeared in The Atlantic on-line.

However, before anyone starts reaching for pitchforks and looking to ignite torches, the article’s title believes an in-depth piece studying not so much Second Life itself, but the lives of some of us who use the platform. It is, in short, a rich study of the very humanity that for so many of us, makes Second Life a rich extension of our lives, rather than the encapsulation of an escapist fantasy environment so often portrayed within the media and by those with little practical exposure to Second Life.

Of course, there is the inevitable exploration of Second Life’s history, including its startling media rise, the plateauing of active user numbers and the media’s eventual disenchantment with the platform. There’s also a look and founder Philip Rosedale’s vision and ideals, Linden Lab’s own attempts to “correctly” define Second Life and more.

But these explorations are interwoven with the stories from those individual users – such as Gidge Uriza, Gentle Heron, Jadyn Firehawk, and more – in which their physical lives and their time in world is fused into a rounded picture of each, presenting what is perhaps the clearest means of truly appreciating the nature of Second Life and those who use it.

Within all of this as well, we get to see Leslie’s own engagement with the platform, from struggling newcomer with strong antipathy towards Second Life, through to a growing understanding of what makes it appealing to so many. In this she is equally honest in her self-examination, expressing the kind of conflicted views of Second Life many of us probably dealt with at one point or another.

Taken individually, each of the stories  – I refuse to call them case studies, as they are so much more – offers considerable insight into the appeal and rewards of active involvement in Second Life. Taken together they naturally weave together into a tapestry of life and activities which those who have not engaged in second Life cannot really fail to recognise as containing themes that mark our passage through the physical world:  how do we connect to one another; what brings meaning into our lives, what agencies do we use to express ourselves and find personal satisfaction? All of which, as noted, make this one of the most complete examinations of Second Life yet put into print.

The Digital Ruins offers a huge amount to read and digest – and to listen to as well: the entire article is available via SoundCloud, and I’ve embedded it below. In this respect, analysis of the piece would at best be convoluted – and as lengthy as the piece itself. As such, I thoroughly recommend taking the time to read the piece in full, or listen to the audio version (just under 58 minutes in length).

For now, I’ll leave you with Leslie’s closing comments on her explorations, discoveries and ruminations of and about Second Life – comments which serve as an insightful encapsulation of the article as a whole:

Some people call Second Life escapist, and often its residents argue against that. But for me, the question isn’t whether or not Second Life involves escape. The more important point is that the impulse to escape our lives is universal, and hardly worth vilifying. Inhabiting any life always involves reckoning with the urge to abandon it—through daydreaming; through storytelling; through the ecstasies of art and music, or hard drugs, or adultery, or a smartphone screen. These forms of “leaving” aren’t the opposite of authentic presence. They are simply one of its symptoms—the way love contains conflict, intimacy contains distance, and faith contains doubt.