Hit Points: Second Life and Ambient Gaming

This, in its purest form, is the Second Life that blew the media’s mind: not an escape from or even an imitation of reality but an expansion of it, potentially suitable for almost any human purpose. But as Life 2.0 testifies, the Second Life that blew the media’s mind turns out not to be the Second Life its inhabitants have made. This Second Life—documented in the film’s three in-depth portraits of more or less typical users—is less transcendent but no less profound. And it’s something that can’t really be recognized without understanding Second Life to be precisely what we’ve so often been told it’s not: a game.

—Julian Dibbell in his review of Life 2.0 (trailer above), a documentary about Second Life, for Technology Review. Dibbell goes on to argue that while Second Life failed to meet inflated expectations by becoming the Internet’s immersive 3D portal, its heady element of play has helped to bake game stylings into tech culture: an expanding “gamification” that’s knitting online and offline life together.

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