A battle-scarred commando returns home-- to Second Life. (Originally published here.)
About this time last year, Jason Foo found himself face to face with a fedayeen and his bayonet-fixed AK-47. The man’s weapon had jammed, but setbacks like that are inconsequential to members of Uday Hussein’s elite cadre of suicidal commandos. (As an initiation blood rite, they were known to shred live dogs to pieces with their teeth and bare hands.) And so this fedayeen pointed the business end of his bayonet at Jason Foo, and came charging at him headlong.
When I first meet Jason in Second Life, however, the setting is a bit more placid. It’s late February, and he’s standing in an open-air disco with flashing lights and pounding techno, the nightclub he’s built with his rapidly accumulating earnings.
“I kinda turned into a realtor in here,” he tells me, proudly. “Made 7,000 [Linden Dollars, or “L$”] today, just selling land. I realized two days ago that the gray areas on the map are unclaimed land. I buy it up, and sell 512 [square meter] plots for L$1,800.” His enthusiasm pours across the screen; judging by his avatar birth date, he's only been a resident for less than three weeks. “I take it you have seen my signs in Green? They are my realty signs," he continues. "I have signs mainly all over Green, but I started branching to other sectors today. I sell property at decent prices, and I want people to know when they see one of my signs, that they are getting a good deal.”
Later on, he tells me how he was able to acquire so much land so quickly. It began with a Linden-sponsored land rush, and the “Land for the Landless” program, in which Linden Lab sells discounted real estate at one Linden Dollar per square meter.
“I got my first plot in Stinson on a land rush,” Jason explains, “248 square meters. Sold it that night for L$1,000. Then I was handed a 512 square meter plot in Green with Land for the Landless, for L$512. Sold it for L$1,800. Then I noticed five plots in Green went public. I bought them for L$1 per square meter, chopped them into 512 square meter plots, and sold each one for L$1,800.” So in a very short time, he’d become a mini-tycoon in the newly burgeoning enterprise of virtual land speculation.
While we talk, I notice that Foo has a picture of himself in full military dress uniform, in his resident profile. I ask him if he’s serving in the Marines.
“I just got out last week,” Foo says. “Trying to find a job [now]. I have massive amounts of computer experience, and no computer jobs [in my area]. I also work with UNIX, and networking, and all sorts of stuff.”
“Were you in Iraq?”
”Yep,” he says. “And Afghanistan. And the Philippines. Last year.”