The numbers for Second Life's Relay for Life are in, and according to American Cancer Society rep Randy Moss, the effort raised close to an astounding $40,000. (After the Linden Dollar donations are sold and converted to cash, that is.) Many of these donations came in the form of L$ in denominations of tens and twenties, paid to light the luminaries that run along the course, while others were considerably more: perhaps most startingly, L$600,000 bid (around $1850-1950 at market rates) in the auction of a pink Dominus Shadow muscle car, donated by engineer Francis Chung. Now the Dominus is a spectacular vehicle, capable of amazing burn-outs and skids, with the only possible drawback being that it doesn't exist. So why would someone pay close to US$2000 to own it?
After some discrete inquiries (the donor refused to have their name published) RFL volunteer Moo Money introduced me to the person who did.
"So, with the whole RFL thing," the donor goes on, "I had been doing the same thing everyone else had-- buying stuff to support the cause, donating at kiosks, whatever. I don't think the amount someone donates is important. I think that helping no matter how (monetarily or thru actual physical help) is what is important." Which is the main reason, the donor explains, why they wish to remain anonymous.
I ask the donor why they gave through Second Life, when it'd be easier to donate through a more traditional charity channel.
"Hrm, that is a tough one to answer." A pause. "I could have, I guess. But while at the auction I decided to bid. I really like the amazing group effort I see here for Relay for Life, and having my donation coming thru an SL event seemed to be a worthwhile thing to do. [T]o some Second Life is a game, a means to relax, etc. But that did not stop people from realizing that this was also a great place to bring in a real life cause and do something about it. Second, you have people participating that have vast differences as far as likes, dislikes, cultures, etc., and none of that matters. Everyone is working together regardless of that. I would like to think in the RL we could be like that too-- not just in Second Life."
"That doesn't usually seem to be the case," I observe.
"Maybe, or maybe that it is easy to get wrapped up in life. And that is not a bad thing. Each of us have our own problems to manage." Which when you think about it, may be the most worthwhile thing about a medium where play and everything else that matters can be merged into a more manageable form.