Quality of Virtual Life
Current virtual worlds, such as Second Life, # e Sims Online, HiPiHi, and # ere, are visually rich, three-dimensional platforms for social and economic interaction that o er their users the ability to literally live virtual lives. In 2010, at any given point in time, upwards of 70,000 users can be found in avatar form (i.e., as a digital alter ego that provides a virtual representation of the user) inhabiting Second Life, while its counterpart, HiPiHi, has been touted as the vanguard of a vast Chinese project to construct a network of virtual worlds capable of supporting billions of avatars (Keegan, 2007). Driven in part by “a whole generation of children … growing up on Club Penguin and Webkinz” (Anderson & Rainie, 2008, p. 88), over half of Internet industry experts interviewed by the Pew Internet & American Life Project agreed that by the year 2020, “most well-equipped Internet users will spend some part of their waking hours-at work and at play-at least partially linked to augmentations of the real world or alternate worlds” (Anderson & Rainie, 2008, p. 5). Within these complex immersive environments, the idea of virtual lives that are either complements or substitutes for one’s real-world life is already a day-to-day reality for many virtual-world users.