Yeah, I get online communities, and I get things like buying and selling things that aren't "real". But I don't get the whole completely-immersive thing - having virtual TV shows, running virtual real-estate offices and banks, building virtual houses.... Things that make the World of Warcraft guys seem like they have a firm grip on reality.
Apparently, there is currently a big banking meltdown on Second Life. People have been opening up virtual banks, promising extravagant interest rates to get people (err, avatars) in the door. These banks store fake money (called Linden dollars), which are somehow backed by real money. And what do these banks do with the fake money they are holding? Well, the same thing real banks do, except fake - buy fake real estate (backed up by fake scarcity, no doubt), do fake investing, spend it on fake gambling, whatever. And then somehow, the fake depositors are supposed to get their money back with the extravagant interest.
And so people are surprised when the real money somehow disappears.
Unfortunately, the vision I have of Second Life is that it mostly consists of a bunch of freaks. This is mostly based on the fact that every story I see about it includes people like this:
"Everyone thinks that because you're losing play money, it excuses everything, but it's convertible to real money," says a Second Life player whose avatar is named UpMe Beam. On Sunday night, the female character was wandering topless through the virtual lobby of a Second Life bank called BCX Bank, where a sign said it was "not currently accepting deposits or paying interest."
In real life, UpMe Beam is a man who says that he is a certified public accountant who has audited banks. He wouldn't disclose his name, but says he has been unable to withdraw $5 he deposited in November to see how a Second Life bank works.
Oh, I see - he's doing some kind of experimental study to see how he might be able to participate in an exciting new market for his profession.
As a virtual topless woman.
Forget Second Life - I think this guy needs to work on his first life for a while.