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Aug 29, 2007



I've been in Second Life for almost four years now. Up until the past year I was logged in upwards of forty hours per week. Over the past few months I log in less and less and for shorter periods of time. For instance, I've logged in once during the past month. I became extremely frustrated once again by the poor grid performance and promptly logged out five minutes later.


There is a definite cycle involved with Second Life. It goes from initially being under whelmed-> finding cool ways to socially interact(this can range from meeting and chatting with people to the more darker elements like cyber sex) -> addiction -> disillusionment that the platform will ever improve -> frustration -> boredom -> occasional logging in to see if anything has changed.

Chatting, virtual dancing, a bunch of freaky people behind the avatars, eventually gets tiring and people log out for good. Yet the potential of Second Life keeps a few of us coming back around to keep our finger in the mix. Many people never reach the "cool social interaction" phase and log out for good wondering what all the hoopla is about after only spending a few hours in world. Some people have such a void in their lives that Second Life fills that they never get to the frustration phase and keep logging massive amounts of hours per week.

As far as other MMO's, I'm sure there are similar cycles, but as they are actual games rather then 3D chat platforms, the cycles will be somewhat different.


Not for nothing, but Linden Lab publishes the stats here: http://secondlife.com/whatis/economy_stats.php

Look for key metrics on the right, and if you're running OpenOffice by all means download the smaller OpenOffice file. Flip the tabs. You can find how much time people spend per country, and some simple averaging can give you some interesting statistics to fiddle with, twist, tweak, make mountains and molehills , etc.

I'm just the standard deviant. ;-)


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Averages are useless for SL account measures logins or time on-line because the distribution is nowhere near normal. At best, it's bimodal.

Many SL hours on-line are not active hours on-line due to camping scripts, multiple client shells, and people getting dreadfully bored, turning up the stream, and going to do something inevitably much more entertaining, like watching reality TV shows about cooking or reading customer feedback blogs about interior paint products.


I don't refer to SLers as gamers either. Many consider themselves residents... sorry, "residents".


I spend a lot of time every week "camping" in the Indigenis offices, which live on my design monitor when I'm doing text work, and on my text monitor when I'm doing design work. So I'm quite sure I'm on the upside of 40 hours per week, but then, I have my account set to not to log out due to idle.

Frankly the WSG reporter, Alexandra Alter (great name considering the topic -- are we *sure* she's not an alt?) has little credibility with me. For one thing, her only other WSJ article was on baby names. Her usual gig is as a religion page reporter for the Miami Herald.

But beyond her bias or skills, I believe she lied to "Dutch" to get the story, and her facts are sloppy in a couple areas. She presented the wife to be picked up as a model of family values in the Christian blogosphere, while not doing enough research, perhaps, to see the wife's lifestyle real life Gor hejira blog (with pictures!).

That whole story was a mess for so many reasons. No heroes, least of all the reporter. Apparently we don't need to wait for Murdoch to take over the WSJ to see the standards fall.


As Randolfe points out (in that cute pouty way of his) SL is indeed something that can often be tuned down to a background activity, whereas in something like WoW there is always another mole that needs whacking before your buffs time out.

I spend a fair amount of time doing SL stuff each day, even if I don't log in. I deal with customer enquiries via IM-email. I'm "in" SL in the sense that I'm dealing with SL business, but I'm not logged into the client. Maybe I'm silicon-offsetting a camping bot.

Alternatively, if I'm building, I might be in SL for hours, but only focusing on the screen and interacting with it half the time, the rest of the time taking breaks, or watching TV.

One of SL's best strengths is the way it doesn't compel you to focus on it the way games do, and that's why you can't measure it by the same stick as grind games.

Of course, then you get to wonder how much time outside of the endless grinding and raiding, that WoW players spend maintaining guild drama on forums :)

If I'm busy working on new products, I could easily spend 20-40 hours actively in SL per week, but then it is a second job for me too.


Oh, my anecdotal estimation would be that people logging into SL for cyber typically spend two hours per evening if that's what they're there for. Maybe there are better metrics for that...


This post made me do some stats with server-side data for the second most used all-ages Portuguese Virtual World. You might find interesting to see what calculations I did and how I did them here.


I'd say SLers log in between 5 seconds and 168 hours per week. ;) Trying to define the "typical Second Lifer" is an exercise in futility!


Metrics will probably always be a problem in this area. I noted with interest that Nielsen is starting to try its hand at video game metrics. The company is able to tell how much a console is used (consoles are attached to the TV, and close to their monitoring device), but will continue to rely on surveys for computer game usage.

It seems some sort of spyware that reports back to researchers could be installed on volunteers' computers ... presuming folks could get past the stigma of spyware on their machines (even if only for research purposes). This would maybe give a more accurate estimate of time spent in MMOs than a survey.


I'm currently spending way more than 40 hours/week in SL, but that's because SL *is* my work week since I got into the high level dev business. Grinding prims and textures for cash, woo! \o/ My actual social time in SL is a few hours/week at best though.

@John: Doesn't the cfire IM client offer the option for people to track and post the hours they've spent logged into various games?


Phil Rosedale often quotes the average time of 4 hours per day across all SL inhabitants. I have various sensors around sims that I have built that show many users at the high, 8-10 hours per day end and what looks like a long tail of usage down to those who indeed only log in for 5-10 mins a day.

A few avatars, including myself, wear a tracking watch that picks up time in world, where we went and so on. You can see some of the stats at the url below with the top ten ínworlders'around 600 hours in 30 days - or 20 hours per day!! In busy build periods I too may be up in the 10-12 hrs per day and I agree anti-log out and camping (sometimes on multiple alts) do distort the figures. SL stats below at least can show and avatar is travelling around sims so is likely to alive'.


It's not just SL.

Of the EVE players I know, all the serious ones, and I do mean all of them, run at least one additional concurrent character, either for pvp cloaked scouting/patrol, or processing industry stuff, hauling cargo etc.

Then there are all the people who camp in space stations all day, using remote desktop applications to change skill settings and set manufacturing processes running from their work desks. I'm not sure there's another gameplay oriented MMO like that.

How about Gaia Online? A lot of the interaction and content there is on the website, the forums. Do you include those? If so, do you also include the time taken on forums for other games/platforms? I think there are people who refresh the Second Citizen forum pretty much every quarter hour of the working day. Not "in world" but involved, all the same, in the community (or one of them).

You can limit it to time logged into the client, and yes those game related IM things do that, including for SL, but is time logged into the client the only time you're involved?


I'm partial to Richard Bartle's characterization of virtual world participants as Killers, Socializers, Achievers and Explorers -

In SL, the first and the last I'd expect to be in world only a few hours a week. Achievers - business people, content creators, bloggers - will probably spend a lot more of their "SL hours" out of world than in, but will log total hours of SL activity anywhere upwards of 20, with 40 not being unlikely at all.

I'm a Socializer, and I don't think it's possible to be one, to maintain an active network of relationships, being in world *less* than 20 hours a week.

I've seen this pattern across my friends - socializers tend to be in 20-40, explorers around 10, achievers about the same, with many more hours invested offline - and I don't cross paths with killers.

(there was some interesting discussion of the social issues raised by the WSJ article http://sophrosyne-sl.livejournal.com/16219.html>here in the comments on my blog...)


How many hours do you spend playing email? Or Skype? I know this marks me clearly as an augmentationist, not an immersionist, but I often have SL running in the background when I am at the computer, just in case something comes up. I do something similar with email and Skype.

So my log-in hours are off the charts, but I think what people would really care about are how many hours what "comes up" in SL actually takes me away from my RL activities. Much harder to estimate....


rofl ! you must being playing SL at a PC in LL's servers-room , if you " run " the SL in background while you use your e-mail + Skype.
but if you are an augmentationis and not a immersionist, your " reign " does not accounts for " players and the time they spend in game " :
because you don't bring profit to LL, but LL have to pay you. LL's expenses are directly related to the ammount of time a player spend online. The only " augmentationists " who ever paid a dime to LL were the sex offenders and the Ginko-type scammers. These days LL needs the " immersionists " . Actually , in all aspects and in all VWs, only the " immersionists " counts. Unless you aim to keep the actual 4% retaining rate....


The amount of hours people spend "in Second Life" is a metric of diminishing relevance. What "in Second Life" even means has weakened over time. I don't see that as any kind of problem. What is wrong is that Linden Research is trying to shove the wrong business model down an incompatible business architecture. Second Life cannot be both a private, for profit game charging economic rent for a contrived resource which should be priced at marginal cost, and a universal, ubiquitous "web 3.0" platform. The profit models for the two are incompatible.



I saw your article on SL when it was linked off of Slashdot a while back and thought it was very incisive. I think the inherent contradictions in Linden Lab's approach are already making themselves apparent--the crackdown on gambling and adult entertainment, etc. I would also suggest that they have misunderstood the division between consumers of content and providers. There is no reason to supply all of the scripting/modeling tools in their client to individuals who are primarily concerned with being entertained rather than creating entertainment themselves. As a result their interface is bloated and unwieldy. Their architecture, which is geared towards content creation, doesn't scale. And the population of SL itself is disproportionately made up people looking to make money rather than ordinary individuals who are looking to spend it.


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@Amarilla- it's not really a big deal to have SL sitting running if your PC is happy with it. If your avatar is somewhere quiet, like a private building area, network use drops to well below even dial-up needs.


@Ace : indeed . I guess that's the sort of activity in SL , bringing profit to LL and a trmendous community gameplay and fun in-world.


i completely agree with the idea expressed up there about the confused business model. it seems to me that LL is becoming less and less friendly to content creators. i thought that one of the reasons SL existed was in order to be a space where people helped to create the experience by creating content. i did not realize that SL was created as a prototype marketing experiment where IBM and other large entities could make fatal errors before creating their own synthetic worlds.


Robert Bloomfield says:

"How many hours do you spend playing email? Or Skype ? "

OMG , Robert....i owe you a godzillion apologies.
It was only now, after reading again your post, that i've finally realised : it's not your fault ....
for playing e-mail and Skype , and for using SL as a real business platform.

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