How a Virtual World Changed My Life

10 years ago, I joined a virtual world called Second Life. What started as a curious dip of my toes into a young virtual world became a career-changing revolution.

I had heard that it was a place where you could make real money very easily by making things or dealing in virtual real estate. I joined up with my roommate at the time and we started a jewelry store called Ding! Designs.

We sold necklaces, pendants, and wizard staves. At its prime, Ding! had 30 stores in virtual malls across the virtual world and a main store over 4000 square meters in size.

I also owned a virtual club. People would come to the club, buy stuff out of our mall (which we rented space in) and danced. The money made from the club was actually enough to pay the rent on my real-world apartment for a few months. It came in handy when I needed to buy a new car around that time.

It was through Second Life that I re-discovered one of my passions, broadcasting. Internet radio stations were prevalent in Second Life. Upon moving to Austin, my career in FM radio was cut short when it became clear that all the local stations wanted a degree in broadcasting – regardless of actual on-air experience.

I started broadcasting in the virtual world, and that spark… that passion that had driven me through high school was back.

In time, I discovered an in-world television station called Treet TV. This station broadcasted LIVE from inside Second Life with four cameras and a production crew. Television shows, concerts, and even scripted dramas were being produced in machinima style inside of a virtual world. It was incredible!

That’s when I decided to join the Treet crew, meeting up with folks like Gary Wisniewski who taught me that even if the future of broadcasting wasn’t happening inside a virtual world, there were no limits on how high quality of a production you could put on with a couple people, a 3D mouse, and a little hard work.

I produced several shows for Treet, hosted a few even. One of the shows focused on gaming news and stared my in-world avatar sitting at a news desk talking about upcoming games, interviewing guests, and just having fun.

The time I spent with Treet gave me an updated portfolio that I took with me into a job interview for a syndicated radio/tv show. Thanks to my work in Second Life, I landed a real, full time job as a Producer/Director of a show with an audience of 2 million. The work there was, interestingly enough, very similar to what I had done in FM radio and Second Life television prior.

That job gave me a different world view, and a foot in the door to later work as a producer and editor for YouTubers and other digital content creators. I was finally able to move my career into my favorite subject: technology.

Today, I still write about tech and produce video content for myself and larger YouTubers. By day I work for an incredible company that makes themes for WordPress, Joomla, and Grav. During weekends, I am a journalist writing for some of the most popular tech news sites online covering the Internet of Things, consumer electronics, and even a little politics.

Over time, I drifted away from Second Life. I married my wife, and because my real-life career had fulfilled that creative urge, it wasn’t something I felt I had a lot of time or need to put time in anymore.

Did Second Life change my first life? In a way, yes. It opened some doors for me and helped me meet some great people, build a body of work that furthered my career, and ultimately helped me learn that technology events the playing field for everyone… in its own interesting way.

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Ryan Matthew Pierson