Get a First Life!

Today’s WSJ has a profoundly sad article about the real life of some Second Lifers. It’s worth a read, especially the end of the article, where you find gems like this:

Back in the world of Second Life, Mr. Hoogestraat’s avatar and Tenaj have gotten bored at the beach, so they teleport to his office, a second-floor room with a large, tinted window overlooking the stage of the strip club he owns. Tenaj plays with her pug, Jolly Roger, commanding the dog to sit and fetch its toy. Dutch drinks a Corona, Mr. Hoogestraat’s beer of choice in real life, and sits at his desk. For a while, Mr. Hoogestraat, sitting at his computer, stares at an image of his avatar sitting at his computer.


Sue Hoogestraat thinks her husband Ric spends too much with his Second Life wife.

From the kitchen, Mrs. Hoogestraat asks if he wants breakfast. He doesn’t answer. She sets a plate of breakfast pockets on the computer console and goes into the living room to watch a dog competition on television. For two hours, he focuses intently on building a coffee shop for the mall. Two other avatars gather to watch as he builds stairs and a counter, using his cursor to resize wooden planks.

At 12:05, he’s ready for a break. He changes his avatar into jeans, leather motorcycle chaps and motorcycle gloves, and teleports to a place with a curvy, mountain road. It’s one of his favorite places for riding his Harley look-alike. The road is empty. He weaves his motorcycle across the lanes. Sunlight glints off the ocean in the distance.

Mrs. Hoogestraat pauses on her way to the kitchen and glances at the screen.

“You didn’t eat your breakfast,” she says.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t see it there,” he responds.

“They probably won’t taste any good now,” she says, taking the plate.

Over the next five hours, Mr. Hoogestraat stares at the computer screen, barely aware of his physical surroundings. He adds a coffee maker and potted palms to the cafe, goes swimming through a sunken castle off his waterfront property, chats with friends at a biker clubhouse, meets a new store owner at the mall, counsels an avatar friend who had recently split up with her avatar boyfriend, and shows his wife Tenaj the coffee shop he’s built.

By 4 p.m., he’s been in Second Life for 10 hours, pausing only to go to the bathroom. His wrists and fingers ache from manipulating the mouse to draw logos for his virtual coffee cups. His back hurts. He feels it’s worth the effort. “If I work a little harder and make it a little nicer, it’s more rewarding,” he says.

Sitting alone in the living room in front of the television, Mrs. Hoogestraat says she worries it will be years before her husband realizes that he’s traded his real life for a pixilated fantasy existence, one that doesn’t include her.

“Basically, the other person is widowed,” she says. “This other life is so wonderful; it’s better than real life. Nobody gets fat, nobody gets gray. The person that’s left can’t compete with that.”