During the late '00s heyday of Second Life, everyone wanted a piece of the popular virtual world, including colleges and universities who set up their own online campuses to engage students and even teach real classes.
Over the years, most of these collegiate islands have vanished into the digital ether, but a few digital campuses still remain, pristine but abandoned by students and faculty alike. Patrick Hogan of Fusion decided to go wandering through these pedagogical ghost towns, from Arkansas State University to the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee.
First, I didn’t see a a single other user during my tour. They are all truly abandoned.
Second, the college islands are bizarre. They mostly are laid out in a way to evoke stereotypes of how college campuses should look, but mixed in is a streak of absurd choices, like classrooms in tree houses and pirate ships. These decisions might have seemed whimsical at the time, but with the dated graphics, they just look weird.
This includes the campus for East Carolina University, which features a pirate ship where you can learn about test anxiety. Hogan notes, however that while many of these virtual education spaces might seem bizarre or unpolished, that's part of their charm—and what makes them compelling artifacts from a time when many institutions were making their first, awkward attempts to create digital spaces and engage with people online.
"I actually like how most of these islands represent an attempt by education institutions to embrace the weirdness of the web," writes Hogan. "The current crop of education startups seem bland and antiseptic in comparison to these virtual worlds."
Keep online education weird, everybody.
My generation of girls grew up sneaking around online, pretending to be older, pretending to be supernatural, in order to meet strangers -- more important than the fleeting strangers, though, our Buddy List of names, was finding ourselves.
These days, 59 percent of people who visit worlds like Second Life have engaged in sexual activity there. 11 percent of users have either paid for or sold sex in their online world, and only 22 percent have never gotten rude with other avatars before. I mean, that's what they said.
Two thirds of participants in a new, massive study of online games and virtual worlds have dated someone within a virtual world, while a quarter have gone on to form real-life dating relationships with their online partners. About the same amount visit virtual worlds together as a couples activity.
A massive study conducted in 2012 suggests that it's mostly people my age and older who still play in "the Metaverse," regularly visiting open, lawless virtual environments like Second Life. Gen Y-ers dominate the multiplayer game demographic -- which, with all its rules and goals and leveling, is generally considered distinct from "virtual worlds," according to the study, which was led by Georgia Tech/Northeastern's Celia Pearce and her colleagues. Pearce says this study is the first of its kind in scale and depth.
There's a big infographic of neat findings you can view here; the whole study is available to peruse here.
The featured image for this post on Offworld comes from Animations Rising, which sells custom looks and animations for Second Life avatars. 46 percent of virtual world users make some money from their online creations, and 28 percent support all their virtual world expenditures by selling online goods.
Expert troll Esteban Winsmore invades private residences in Second Life, the virtual world you haven't been thinking about lately, but which has finally achieved an uncanny and thoroughly creepy degree of virtual reality. [NSWF language. Thanks, Heather!]
Wagner James Au sez, "Meeroos, an extremely popular species of virtual, breedable animal in Second Life, are now starving, because griefers have been selling their owners unauthorized food, and Linden Lab accidentally shut them down *and* their legitimate food supplier. The creatures don't starve to death if their owners fail to feed them -- after awhile, they're just programmed to abandon their owners, presumably to find food. Linden Lab is finally addressing the issue, but Meeroos' creators say the world is still 'flooded with unauthorized food.'"
Meeroos, SL's extremely popular species of virtual, breedable animals created by Malevay Studios, are currently starving. Yesterday, reports Malevay's Catherine Farspire, unidentified griefers using variations of the avatar name "Meeroos Resident" (the company's official account) were found selling unauthorized Meeroos food in the region of Twas. (The miscreants, says Ms. Farspire, "built their own [store] in the sky selling fraudulent food".) As a result, she reports, Linden Lab has closed down the region of Twas -- and also blocked "Meeroos Resident", the legitimate Malevay Studios account: "We believe the account was blocked by Linden Lab by mistake, given all the reported accounts were variations of the same name, or the account was mistakenly reported by residents meaning to abuse report the offending avatars. We simply cannot be sure. Unfortunately, this has dealt us a crippling blow at the worst time possible."
Meeroos Starving Due to SL Griefers Selling Fraudulent Food & Linden Lab Closing Their Legitimate Food Source (UPDATE: Meeroos Account Reopened, But SL Still "Flooded With Unauthorized Food")