It's nighttime at Hannah's Royal Tropicana Hideaway on the Island of Royal Tropicana. Journalists Adam Reuters and Chuck Westinghouse sit at a conference table on the beach. The beach belongs to Hannah, a friend of Chuck's and she has let him build this conference table on her land, and use it for his seminar. Neither Chuck nor Adam, or Hannah for that matter are real people. They are created by real-life people, but the characters are avatars in the virtual world called Second Life.
Adam Reuters' creator is 31-year-old Adam Pasick, Reuters' Bureau Chief in Second Life. Pasick decided to become a member of Second Life on October 15, 2006, in order to reach out and connect with his audience. Second Life currently has about 500,000 members who spend at least one hour per month on the site. Over eight million people have at least tried Second Life since its creation in the late 1990s.
"We went into this very much as an experiment. We weren't looking to get any bottom line impact,” Pasick said. "It's becoming increasingly clear that virtual worlds, whether it be Second Life or something else, are here to stay. If kids are growing up with these virtual worlds, it's only going to be natural for them."
Pasick's character looks very much like himself, down to his tousled dark hair, blue eyes and dimpled chin, as you can see from this
Signing up for Second Life has actually helped Pasick in his day-to-day work.
"We've gotten news that we wouldn't have been able to get otherwise," he says. "We've made connections and found people that we wouldn't have found otherwise."
Another Second Life character, Greeterdan Godel, has joined the conference on the beach. His creator, Daniel Terdiman of CNET News.com, has been a member since 2003, when he wrote an article for Wired News about video games and how people often end up using games in ways their publishers never intended.
Terdiman agrees with Pasick that virtual worlds are a new part of today's society.
"I think the jury is out on whether Second Life is here to stay, but I think that virtual worlds are 100% here to stay," Terdiman says. "There are going to be virtual worlds from here on out, and they're only going to get better."
Pasick compares the popularity of Second Life to another form of communication to which the public has become accustomed: "After five or 10 years, who thinks that using e-mail is weird anymore?" he said.
-- Emily Barker