I was driving home from work the other day when the radio did a spot on how economic reality was hitting the virtual world Second Life. Apparently, the Second Life (SL) economy is suffering from bank closings, and some real-life retailers have closed up their SL shops, not having seen the results they wanted. This made me wonder: Are there homeless people in Second Life? Regardless of how people are doing in their first life, are they learning about – or even intentionally trying out – homelessness in their Second Life?
You can probably tell by my questions that I’m not a Second Life citizen. But the whole concept of the place pretty much intrigues me. So I Googled “Second Life homeless” just to see what I would find. Indeed! Some interesting results! For example, this was posted by one Orhan Ayyuce as a comment to a blog: “my avatar is faceless right now and it is cold outside. i spent last night sleeping next to bunch of dead avatars in the graveyard where people just died from SL hardship. well like i said i am homeless at the moment and i don’t know how much more i can go like this without the full membership.”
Or try this, in Mitch Radcliffe’s blog: “When I rejoined Second Life last summer… I created Homeless Hermes, who would go and sit in people’s houses and on their land, just waiting. And when someone would show up, creeping around me like they would a stranger they found in their physical yards—you could see them not wanting to be rude, but being all the same kinds of possessive you see in people everywhere, all the time—I’d give them some Linden money. It made people nervous.”
And there were many Google results like this one about a Spanish NGO that put a virtual boy with a cardboard box on a corner to raise awareness about homelessness and their organization (Mensajeros de la Paz).
Again, I don’t really know anything about functioning in SL. But from these few results, it seems like there’s an opportunity to build an educational experience around what it’s like to be homeless. And perhaps, like Mensajeros de la Paz, there’s a way to tie the experience back to real-life organizations that give people an outlet for action. What a tool that would be for those of us fighting poverty and hunger! Perhaps someone has already done it?! Or wants to take it on?