A player - or resident, in Second Life parlance - navigates this space through an avatar, a digital persona whose features can be adjusted to suit almost any whim (pointy chin, neon-green irises, the thick and full head of hair I remember having for a split-second in 11th grade).

But unlike other multiplayer online role-playing games, like the insanely popular World of Warcraft, Second Life is not really a game.

There are no princesses to save nor orcs to slaughter. Instead, the goal is simply to interact with the million-plus other residents, explore the planet and, in a unique twist, create new parts of it.

For Second Life lets residents build objects using small, basic shapes called prims. Almost everything you encounter — from ice-cream cones to modernist houses to cans of Duff — has been created by a resident, and much of it is for sale.

It’s that commercial aspect that has lured real-life businesses like American Apparel to open in-game boutiques in an attempt not only to build their brands but also to take in a few Linden dollars, the virtual currency named for Second Life’s developers, the Linden Lab, and convertible to actual money at a rate of about 250 Linden dollars to $1. Secondlife.com tracks the amount of money spent in-game in the last 24 hours; the record is over $575,000 - and that’s U.S., not Linden!

Get the full story at The New York Times