Originally published April 28, 2003 here.
... is about the closest I can get, to describing what it feels like, to be in Second Life. The underwater bit is a sensation I get with other multiplayer games, too-something about the lag, and the split-second delay between what you input into the mouse and keyboard, and when the action actually manifests, onscreen. But the lucid dreaming part, that strikes me as fairly unique to this game. Maybe that has to do with the way the world unfolds, in here: you'll be walking by (or better yet, flying over) what looks like a fairly normal if extravagant cluster of homes, and suddenly, you'll turn and come across a giant granite spike, twirling in the sky, end over end. You'll fly over a boardwalk carnival, then pass right over a forest of futuristic skyscrapers, and so on. You'll see user-made posters depicting anime and videogame characters, then you'll see classic works of art from the West and Asia, and so on. The aggregate effect isn't quite incoherent, but it's markedly different from, say, a high fantasy MMOG, where you can be pretty sure that the next thing you see will somehow make sense, in the swords-and-sorcery world that's been laid out in advance.
Here, though, you get something that seems like… dream logic, a sporadic cascade of imagery taken from pop culture, history books, and fine art, stuff that you recognize, and a lot more that seems incomplete or evolving. And you have some control over it-after all, you decide how you want to move through the place-but you still feel overwhelmed by the visuals that are coming at you. Your mouse and keyboard become like a tiller, guiding this little submarine you call your avatar through this subconscious slipstream that you're sharing with a few thousand people.
So: underwater lucid dreaming.