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Hey, if stodgy wire service Reuters can assign a correspondent to Second Life, so can Valleywag. We hear virtual worlds, particularly those so virtual that they've generated more press releases than user enthusiasm, are the latest thing. For Megan McCarthy's report from the massively over-hyped and over-funded online community:

MEGAN MCCARTHY IN SECOND LIFE: After the spate of news surrounding Second Life, including the reports of a millionaire, we at Valleywag decided to try our hand at the virtual world with an in-depth undercover operation. So far, it's been one of the most pointless, boring, and confusing hours in my life, and I say that as someone who has watched Dune.

The registration process took forever, complete with two (!) requests to agree to their Terms of Service, apparently updated after the recent CopyBot "scandal." For some reason, they limit the last names you can choose, which made me wonder if about unforeseen tribal consequences. (If I choose the Insoo clan, would I accidentally join a bloodfeud against the Kaloks?) I settled on "Megan Wilber" - last name chosen because I can pronounce it - and moved on to the avatar and membership selection, unprepared for the relentlessness of upsell. Would you like a premium membership? Give us your credit card to keep on file and Receive 250 FREE Linden Dollars! Once you get into the game, it's still there. The background radio station on Orientation Island - Help Radio - played cloying New Age music interspersed with ads featuring Linden Labs employees. Annoying.

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So, the game itself. Well, I landed on Orientation Island and stood there, waiting for something, anything to happen. I taught myself how to walk around and how to change my appearance, and finally figured out how to fly, and then teleported over to Help Island. There I talked to a very patient person who said she didn't know where the CopyBots were and no, she couldn't tell me how to find one. I spied a virtual car and tried to take it for a joyride, but virtual hotwiring seems to be beyond the scope of this game. At that point, I logged out, mad at myself for wasting time when I could have been doing something useful, like drinking.

So, readers, any tips? Any virtual clubs I should check out? Anyone want to tell me what the point of this game is? Is anyone actually playing this thing or is it all a bunch of hype? Ping "heyvalleywag" on AIM or leave a comment below and help me figure out how to virtually pad the Gawker expense account.

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