Second Aspen: a virtual tour |

Second Aspen: a virtual tour

Katie Redding
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado

ASPEN ” As it turns out, virtual Aspen is a lot like Aspen.

Second Life, the online virtual reality metaverse (it’s not really a game, because no one wins) launched in 2003 now has a Second Aspen.

And like the real Aspen, people from all over the United States ” and beyond ” gather to snowboard, dance at a nightclub, make expensive retail purchases and spend time at a retreat center. Also like the real Aspen, personal property is guarded closely: Get too close to a virtual Aspen house and you are likely to get a message warning you to leave in 10 minutes or else.

Granted, a few things are different: Rather than wasting fuel with private jets, everyone teleports. Communication is largely via instant message. Sale items at the mythical Aspen Resort shopping mall include avatar skins. And instead of hanging out with actual people, in virtual Aspen, avatars ” virtual representatives of human counterparts ” hang out with avatars.

Hanging out in the metaverse starts with picking an avatar from a host of possible representatives and choosing a name. Humans get to create their avatar’s first names, and pick their last names from a list. From there, all manner of modifications can be made, ranging from ear size to clothing. Many modifications are free, but the most fashion-conscious can purchase fashion-conscious accouterments with virtual money called Linden dollars. While the exchange rate between Linden dollars ($L) and the United States dollars can fluctuate, it is roughly $L250 to $1. Once dressed, avatars teleport to virtual regions, like Aspen, where they can snowboard, for example, or go shopping. The regions are created by users who have bought the land; region owners pay a certain amount of money to build structures on their land.

In Second Aspen, it turns out, avatars largely hang out in the Aspen Night Club. And while the crowd there is largely friendly ” and prone to gestures such as giggling and throwing confetti ” beware the “Second Life speak.”: “tpr” means “teleport;” “LL” means “Linden Lab,” and so forth.

And don’t expect anyone in the club to actually live in Aspen in real life. Avatars, it turns out, are like vacationers: They don’t want to spend their free time in a place they already live.

Elsewhere in Second Life, the real world of business has intervened. According to the Aspen Institute, businesses including Starwood Hotels, Wells Fargo and Sun Microsystems have experimented with promoting their brands inside Second Life. For awhile, Reuters assigned a full-time reporter to cover Second Life events.

But in Second Aspen, the snow is always on the ground, the hot tub is always warm and the avatars are always beautiful.

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