Seriously, it's easy to scoff at Second Life users, to paint them as socially inept geeks who can't make a proper go of things in the real world. However, the massive worldwide popularity that these type of online games have achieved makes you wonder if perhaps it's the ridiculers that have got it wrong.
For starters, who's to say that Second Life is any more pointless than physical existence? At least with Second Life you have a choice over whether or not to sign up in the first place. And, right from the off, you're given far more options than in the real world. Imagine how hard it would be to hold down a job in technology PR if I turned up each day wearing a giraffe's head. On the other hand, this would not present a problem in the virtual world.
When you look at the evidence, there's a sense of inevitability about the rapid growth of these online worlds. Our reliance on the internet has increased steadily for years - to do our jobs, to shop, to watch TV, to listen to music, to talk to our friends and family, to form relationships and to break them. We use it every single day at home and at work, and apparently 5.7 million people in the UK now use the mobile internet too, even though it's rubbish! We are clearly becoming an internet-dependent society, so doesn't living the whole of your life online simply represent the next logical step on from this?
Second Life user numbers continue to rise, and with more and more businesses setting up a virtual presence, fast forward several years and the opportunities to earn a decent living could match or even outnumber those in the real world.
Should this happen, many Second Life scoffers will doubtless be forced to join up, at which point they'll find themselves outcasts in a world where everyone apart from them owns an island, has a well-paid job and is firmly established within a vibrant social community. The tables will have turned - these sad avatars won't have a clue what they're doing, they won't have any friends or any prospects, and they'll almost certainly end up having to pay for cybersex.
Many people, myself included, don't understand the appeal of Second Life, but it's here to stay, and rather than trashing it, it may be more prudent to sign-up now (in secret, if you really are that embarrassed) and buy yourself a plot of land - y'know, just in case...