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Companies such as Sony, Ikea, BMW and Coca-Cola also have a presence and Reuters and Sky News have bureaux. But for individuals, a major appeal of Second Life is that it’s like real life, only much much better.It’s a world where you don’t have to be dumpy, or from Nuneaton, one where your avatar can look like a model, shop for virtual designer shoes and make virtual friends.
I got my life back.” The fact that it was a pretend life didn’t deter Kristen and Steve: for them, the feelings were just as intense as if it had been face to face.
They have an album of virtual wedding pictures to prove it, which they pore over as lovingly as any conventional bride and groom.
“Kira was everything I should have been,” says Kristen, who has a 12-year-old son. My real life was diabolical and I wanted an escape.
In Second Life I could be who I wanted to be, and when I met Nik I was in control for the first time in years.
It gets even weirder once you realise that Kristen’s mother logged on to Second Life to see her “daughter” Kira wed Nik and that Steve’s mate was his best man, watching, all choked up, on the sidelines.
The bizarre event was the culmination of five months of cyber-dating, during which time Kirsten and Steve’s avatars met in Second Life, struck up a virtual rapport, had virtual sex and moved in together, virtually.
You can start a new career, own a big house with a pool and, increasingly, fall in love.
But while the house and the heels stay in Second Life, the real people behind the avatars carry their heightened emotions back into their first life - sometimes with devastating consequences for their marriage or relationship.
Rather, it is a “synthetic world” with shops and cars, theatres and estate agents, where you communicate with others via instant messaging or voice.
It may not be real, but a lot of people take it very seriously indeed: both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama opened campaign offices in this parallel universe.
And it seems as though increasing numbers of us are at risk from the spectre of digital adultery.