I visited today a tremendous recreation of the Seattle Space Needle in Second Life created by Mattias Faulkner. It’s clearly the result of a lot of work and planning on his part to get the design and scale just right. It’s a lovely structure in real life, and no less so in simulation. The difference is that in SL you can fly around it from the outside, sit on the roof of it, and even take a header off the side of it with no ill effects, which several residents were doing when I was there.
On the other hand, the real Space Needle affords a lovely view of Seattle, if you are lucky enough to go up on a clear day. And at the real Space Needle you can dine in the revolving restaurant at its top. In the virtual Space Needle you get a view of, well, not much really. There’s a garden next door, a couple of floating mansions nearby, and that’s about it. No one has gone to the trouble of re-creating the rest of Seattle surrounding the Space Needle, and no one will.
Which is kind of the point of Second Life: it doesn’t look like real life. It has just enough real world elements to help you keep your bearings, i.e. (mostly) anthropomorphic avatars, gravity, land, water, sky, day and night cycles, etc. But beyond those basic parameters, Second Life is about extending the human experience beyond the physical and mundane into a shared fantasy space.
There are a small number of exceptions. Notably, the sim of Amsterdam looks a lot like the real city of Amsterdam, although mostly just the naughty bits. I can’t find a decent friteshop in the SL Amsterdam, nor is the Van Gogh museum or the Anne Frank house anywhere to be found. And there’s no corresponding simulcrums of Tokyo, New York, Chicago or London. Why mimick a real city when you can build a Furry Nation or an Elven forest?
This is your dream house. This is your dream wife.
UPDATE 6/08: I have indeed found virtual Seattle. Click here to read more about it.