August 8, 2005 4:00 AM PDT

'Second Life' for teens: 3D fun sans the brothels

In the 3D online world "Second Life," players can fly, turn themselves into dragons, build fantastical houses, drive supercharged hovercrafts and do just about anything else they can imagine. In short, if they have the skills to create it, they can do it.

As long as they're 18 or older.

But on Monday, Linden Lab, the publisher of the virtual world, is expected to launch what it is tentatively calling "Second Life for Teens."

Second Life for Teens

"It was pretty evident for us that 'Second Life' was a terrific environment for kids," said Robin Harper, Linden Lab's senior vice president of community. "Every time a teen would sit down in front of 'Second Life,' he or she would immediately get it."

In fact, she said, company employees often found teens playing the game. But because behavior in "Second Life" can take on just about any flavor, including an erotically explicit one, it has always been for adults only. Thus, Harper said, teens discovered "in-world" were always banned.

"Second Life" is one of the leading examples of a type of massively multiplayer online game known as a metaverse. Its 40,000 users create nearly all of its content using 3D modeling and scripting tools, and they have few boundaries. Its members pay a one-time fee of $10 and monthly fees if they buy virtual property in the game.

Now teens will be able to take advantage of the same open-ended environment, albeit without risking being exposed to virtual brothels or metrosexual goblins.

"I like that it's just for teens," said a 16-year-old boy who asked to be called by his "Second Life" screen name, Aesop Thatch. "So we don't have to deal with any of the things we'd have to deal with in the main grid, like sex or pornography."

According to Harper, "Second Life for Teens" has been in beta for the last five months and has slowly grown to have hundreds of participants. And because the game is dependent on user-created content, the publishers turned to donations from members of the main grid for content to populate the teen version from the get-go.

"We had lots of donations of everything from clothing to a parachuting platform to a coffeehouse," Harper said. "It was just based on the goodwill of the people who made the donations. So it gave (the teens) a good jumping-off point, and also showed them what was possible."

For the most part, online games encourage users of all ages to join. Players of such titles as "Everquest" or "World of Warcraft" are all too familiar with the immature behavior of teens more interested in wreaking havoc than in making the games better.

Of course, not all teens are problems. And some online games depend on them to make for better and more cohesive communities.

"In general, the kind of time that younger people spend online is very exciting to us," said Ron Meiners, the community manager at There.com, another metaverse similar to "Second Life." "They are very open to online social experiences."

In any case, Aesop Thatch said he thinks that the teen version of "Second Life" with several hundred players is actually a better place than the 40,000-plus player main version, where teens must go once they turn 18.

"Two people that have transferred to the main grid...they're wishing they could come back to the teen grid," he said. "We have a much tighter community than the main grid, so the two that have reported back are kind of feeling lost."

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ESRB
They have rated Second Life E (for Everyone), while they still allow many X-rated content.
An article on that content (safe for work): <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.escapistmagazine.com/issue/4/8" target="_newWindow">http://www.escapistmagazine.com/issue/4/8</a>

Good to see they are at least trying to protect young people now.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not so sure...
I'm not so sure that the article is entirely safe if you have people who regularly walk behind your computer or walk up and peer on what's on your screen, fyi.

But what an awesomely designed website.
Posted by TV James (680 comments )
Link Flag
ESRB
They have rated Second Life E (for Everyone), while they still allow many X-rated content.
An article on that content (safe for work): <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.escapistmagazine.com/issue/4/8" target="_newWindow">http://www.escapistmagazine.com/issue/4/8</a>

Good to see they are at least trying to protect young people now.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not so sure...
I'm not so sure that the article is entirely safe if you have people who regularly walk behind your computer or walk up and peer on what's on your screen, fyi.

But what an awesomely designed website.
Posted by TV James (680 comments )
Link Flag
How Many "Second Life" Do You Want?
For people who are actively play online games, they already have tons of lives (alias), so why would they want yet another? Too much free time I assume? :)
Posted by 201293546946733175101343322673 (722 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Ridiculous
I agree that it's for people who have too much time on their hands. I know 2 people who play this game and do nothing but constantly talk about it. They are totally obsessed by it and these people have spouses and children they spend virtually no time with, in their "real" lives. They've also had, and still have, online affairs with people they met on Second Life, and
their spouses in real life have no clue. The people I know who play the game say they lie to their spouses about what goes on. This game is nothing but deception, all the way around, and I am so tired of hearing about it all.

If the people who are really into this game, and play it for what it is--a GAME--I see nothing wrong with it. But when it completely takes-over your life and jeopardizes relationships, then there is something seriously wrong.
Posted by possum47 (2 comments )
Link Flag
How Many "Second Life" Do You Want?
For people who are actively play online games, they already have tons of lives (alias), so why would they want yet another? Too much free time I assume? :)
Posted by 201293546946733175101343322673 (722 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Ridiculous
I agree that it's for people who have too much time on their hands. I know 2 people who play this game and do nothing but constantly talk about it. They are totally obsessed by it and these people have spouses and children they spend virtually no time with, in their "real" lives. They've also had, and still have, online affairs with people they met on Second Life, and
their spouses in real life have no clue. The people I know who play the game say they lie to their spouses about what goes on. This game is nothing but deception, all the way around, and I am so tired of hearing about it all.

If the people who are really into this game, and play it for what it is--a GAME--I see nothing wrong with it. But when it completely takes-over your life and jeopardizes relationships, then there is something seriously wrong.
Posted by possum47 (2 comments )
Link Flag
hi
Posted by 876594 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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