Second Life's generation gap

Tateru Nino
T. Nino|08.19.08

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Second Life's generation gap

By now, if you've been keeping track of the metrics, it should come as no surprise to you that Linden Lab's virtual environment Second Life is dominated by Generation X and Baby Boomers. Generation Y (also popularly called Millennials) don't make much of a mark on the landscape of Second Life at all. While the boxing and labeling of generations in this fashion seems a little arbitrary, it is commonly done as demographers identify various key socio-cultural differences between the groups, though the edge-cases between them, of course, tend to be a bit blurry -- and everyone, of course, is an individual.

The Metaverse Journal's Feldspar Epstein looks at assorted issues with the use of Second Life and education as it pertains to Millenials. In a broader social context, however, the generation gap between the Boomers/GenXers and the Millennials is starkly apparent. Millennials consistently number among the least active users of Second Life. The Baby Boomers dominate the virtual environment's usage landscape, followed closely by the Generation Xers.


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All in all, this leads to an additional stratification of the users of the virtual space. Who really wants to hang out in the sorts of places their parents (or grandparents) like? For the Millennials, Second Life is an agglomeration of such places.

Where it might be that they would find additional traction if they could cluster with their cultural peers -- members of their own generation -- digital avatars consistently thwart the sorts of flocking behaviors. Millennials can't identify their peers among the avatars of their parents and grandparents' generations -- and for the peer-oriented Millennials, that's frequently a deal-breaker.

Millennials are also thought to be oriented towards more immediate, rather than delayed gratification -- they're a faster generation, in a fast-paced, highly connected world -- very much like Japanese culture of the 1990s. They're just not necessarily all that keen on that same level of rapid digital intimacy with their parents and grandparents.

The very nature of Second Life turns away Millennials in droves. As entertainment, it is as undirected as a public park -- what managed experiences there are, are those primarily created by the GenXers and Boomers to suit their own tastes. Nevertheless, demographic groupings aside, every now and again a Millennial does thrive in this otherwise forbidding virtual environment.

There are many virtual environments currently being targeted at what is presently Generation Z -- managed, focused and controlled experiences for the child or teen -- but with every week that passes, it seems to become harder for Second Life to capture the Millennials -- and few developers/operators in the industry really seem all that interested in them, or in their estimated US$172 billion/annum purchasing power.

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