Lately I've been getting the impression that Linden Lab's CEO, Rodvik Humble, wants Second Life to be a game, or at least to appeal more to the MMORPG crowd. I guess I can see that...after all, World of Warcraft has a much larger user base. SL-as-game could mean more cash customers.
But why do I think LL's vision has changed (yet again)? Several things...
1. LL has announced that non player characters (NPCs) will soon be implemented. Of course, we've always had bots...avatars that are controlled by a software program instead of a live human being. But they have always been third party products. We have never had "official" bots in Second Life, except for the Performance Tester avatars you sometimes see around, used by LL to test simulator performance. On the one hand, I can see that NPCs might add a fun dimension to Second Life. Often, interesting builds and roleplaying areas are completely empty. Exploring them would be more fun if there was someone to interact with...and a programmed "person" can be on duty 24/7. On the other hand, I've always been rather proud of the fact that SL's population is almost exclusively "real people". The introduction of NPCs could, sadly, add real meaning to the question of the perplexed newbie who asks me, "are you real, or a program?'
2. LL is pushing Second Life games. The other day, I saw an official LL promotion on the Dashboard screen for Bloodlines, the vampire roleplaying game. "Be a Vampire! Bite People!" it exhorted newcomers. There's a whole series of new Vampire forums on the website, too. Apparently, Linden Lab has chosen to ignore the majority of its residents who don't play Bloodlines, don't want to play Bloodlines, and find those who do play Bloodlines to be annoying as hell.
3. LL is experimenting with creating its own games. There was a recent thread in the Mainland forum about a new "game" that LL appears to be prototyping in the Premium-only sandboxes.
This is one more example of Linden Lab trying to define Second Life in a nutshell, so people will understand it and (hopefully) try it out. The problem is that Second Life is much more complex than that. It can't be described in a sound bite or a catchphrase. The closest that anyone's come is, I think, LL's old motto: "Your World, Your Imagination".
That's what SL is. It's a world. It has enough flexibility that it can be many things to many different people. It's a social network...no, it's a creation platform....no, it's a communications medium...no, it's a roleplaying game...nuh uh, it's a business opportunity...you're all wrong, it's an online dating service...no, you dummies, it's a sociological experiment. Educational platform. Escapism. Personal fulfillment.
LL needs to stop trying to compartmentalize and limit their own multidimensional creation. It's so much more.
And, oh yeah...there are games here.