You sit down at the breakfast table, flipping open the classifieds section of your daily newspaper over fresh toast, a jar of marmalade, and a new cup of coffee. You are interested in purchasing new property to move to, preferably a nice fixer-upper to occupy your time, or perhaps even an open lot that you can develop from scratch. There is some nice beachfront property studded with palm trees selling for $550 per acre, or a property in the suburbs for $1000. Or perhaps you would be more interested in purchasing a nice ranch for only $1500.
What is the catch? Everything is virtual – the figments of a digital Genesis from which the online game, “Second Life” originated. Actually, everything is fake except for the prices. The money is certainly real, padding the pockets of the programmers and game designers who worked so hard to create a digital utopia.
It is not surprising that more and more people are losing themselves online, throwing countless numbers of hours into online lives that are increasingly meant to be indistinguishable from our own. There has always been a spiritual emptiness within man, and online gaming is just the latest temptation masquerading as the fruit that brings a deeper fulfillment.
Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (Mmorpgs) have been around for years. The fantasy-based Everquest game was the first notable entrant into this high-tech and graphics-driven arena. In Everquest, you create a character from one of many available races and classes, taking the role of an Elven cleric, or a dwarven warrior, among others. The deeply addicting allure of this game comes from the high interactivity of the game – the fact that your party members are not computers, but living and breathing people who witness all that you are witnessing.
But at some point between the establishment of Everquest, and the development of the realistic human civilization simulator, “Second Life,” developers realized the market for a game that immerses your senses in fantasy, of a world replete with harmony and community, devoid of the treachery and rigors of everyday life. According to the company web site, Second Life users “Create a shared reality in a world full of people, activities, adventure, and fun.”
In short, “Second Life” purports to be the second life that Christians have known for millennia, of a life of peace after death in Christ, and of a worldwide-utopia in which all of God’s creation can come before His throne. Second Life is secular Christianity, of wanting to be reborn, but not having the Lord to be reborn in. As strongly as Christianity is the ultimate wisdom, defying worldly logic by admitting weakness, Second Life is foolishness, of time wholly spent in vain while searching for the lasting comfort.
A virtual beach home costs one thousand dollars. A virtual apartment may cost hundreds of real dollars. A virtual island goes for about fifteen hundred dollars. How universally foolish is it to spend thousands of dollars on digital property – amounts unimaginable to most of the world? The fact that a market exists for such highly intangible goods shows the deep confusion that many people have.
People have a longing for a deep world, one that is perfect to the eye, and flawless when examined beneath the skin. However, many people have turned their heads too far from the true path of the cross, choosing a phony life in its stead. As Christians, we should be the ones who offer the living and spiritual water to the thirsty beside us, offering a true second life unimaginable in the ways of the world.