Thanks to George Siemens, I came across A Virtual World's Real Dollars in Business Week Online.
Siemens calls it part of one of the most interesting trends at the moment, "the absolute blurring between online and physical spaces" and this is particularly relevant to Second Life. As the article points out, this MMORPG game has captured the attention of some 165,000 people and it continues to grow in popularity. This may seem a lot, but the most popular game, World of Warcraft has more than 6 million players!
As is pointed out, the other interesting feature of Second Life (SL), unlike a lot of other similar games is that it's "a three-dimensional digital world in which players can do just about anything" where players "use software...to create everything from avatar clothes to buildings to games that are played inside the virtual world."
It's this totally user-generated world that makes Second Life such an appealing potential to many, and this "complete decentralization of the creative process" probably makes SL the most Web 2.0 of all of these games.
So, what about its potential for education, and in particular, language learning? For some reason, I assumed that VOIP would be integrated, but, of course, it isn't, which limits the value of SL for language teaching at the moment, although I was told that there are plans to introduce voice chat in the future.
Perhaps it is worth settling in now and earning some virtual money to be able to build a virtual language academy inside SL? The jury's still out, but I'm going to persist until I can see what potential there really is and if it's worth it. At the moment, I've graduated from SL's Initiation walk and am learning the ropes on Help Island, where I've managed to pick up some freebies, and have even made some new friends.
If you want to come and join me, please don't look for me by my real name. Instead, send an SL IM to Baldric Commons. Once I have enough snapshots, I'll upload a Bubbleshare slideshow with commentary.