Rucker's avatar visits the offices of "Wired" magazine in the "Second Life" world. "Wired" also operates a dance club in "Second Life" called "The Edge," where avatars congregate and dance to music using animation commands. The real-life magazine "Popular Science" also operates a virtual lounge in cyberspace.

Second Life

By LaReeca Rucker

Did you know that you could make money in a virtual game world? Ailin Graef, a Chinese-born German citizen, who subscribes to the "Second Life" virtual world game, was recognized last week as the first virtual millionaire. I hadn't heard of "Second Life" until I read the story, and it reminded me of the movie "Vanilla Sky" in which Tom Cruise allows a futuristic company called Life Extension to create a new virtual life for him after his demise.

But it turns out you don't have to kick the bucket to have a "Second Life." Log on to, and you can create your own virtual character or "avatar," enabling you to interact with others in the "Second Life" world. For $1 in real currency, you get $189 Linden Dollars that can be used to purchase clothes, land and other virtual property for your character.

Linden Dollars can also be exchanged for American dollars, so if you luck up like Ailin Graef and make a fortune in your "Second Life," you can cash in your chips, exchanging Lindens for Benjamins.

Graef, whose virtual character is named Anshe Chung, made her money buying virtual land. InformationWeek reports that Chung's holdings include 36 square kilometers of imaginary land, several million Linden Dollars, virtual stores and virtual stock investments in "Second Life" companies.

Intrigued by the story and the implausible possibility that I too could become a virtual millionaire, I logged on to "Second Life," created a character that resembles myself and began exploring the virtual world. To give you a better idea of what this is like, your first step is to register. You can do it for free or buy a subscription with which you get more Linden Dollars and virtual benefits.

During the first few minutes, you walk your character down a pathway and click on information icons. Soon you are able to edit your avatar, making the nose small or large, hair long or short, eyes wide or narrow, body short or tall, etc. You can also choose clothing, but if you're into haute couture, you'll have to find a virtual store in the "Second Life" world and purchase a new ensemble with Linden Dollars.

Thinking it would be wise to have a little cash on hand for my first journey into "Second Life," I gave the company $1 and got $183 virtual Linden Dollars in return. I visited a few virtual stores selling a variety of items, but didn't really find anything I wanted to spend my money on. I did, however, find a casino, and bet a Linden Dollar three times hoping I'd hit the virtual jackpot, but the slot machine returned my Linden Dollar each time, so I broke even.

I next explored a virtual trading post offering formalwear and ball gowns, but felt the T-shirt and jeans my avatar was wearing would probably be more comfortable for her. When another avatar in a long red dress saw me looking at clothing, she generously supplied me with a designer Baby Phat T-shirt, free of charge.

I wandered around, and when I couldn't figure out where I was, I transported myself to another "Second Life" location, where I met other avatars new to the virtual world. I hung out with one character named Len, dressed in a Johnny Cash-style black shirt and pants. Like me, Len said this was his first day in the "Second Life" world.

Len appeared as confused as I, but knew enough to help me escape the black cage I soon found myself in. He said in real life, he was from Chicago and decided to visit "Second Life" because he read the same article I did on CNN about the virtual millionaire.

Len and I hung out a while, trying to figure out how to maneuver in our brave new world. When he suggested that we fly around and see what else it had to offer, I agreed. (Yes, your characters can actually fly in "Second Life.") Unfortunately, I had not mastered the fly command, and Len flew away, leaving me alone with the other strange virtual world characters.

Simulating my own real-life behavior, my little character felt out of place in the crowded virtual world and sat on the edge of a fountain by herself watching the other avatars edit their appearances and talk about their new surroundings. Everything was fine until I heard gunfire, and someone said one of the avatars had a weapon. Then, instinct led me to maneuver my character behind one of the larger avatars for protection.

Yes, just when I was beginning to believe I might have found my own virtual utopia, the "Second Life" world proved to have its own share of problems. I guess it won't be long until all the "Second Life" characters are packing heat with Linden Dollar-purchased weapons and there's a "Second Life" Crime Scene Investigation Unit.