Some of our players also organize CUPs and other events where you can play against other great players to see who's the best.
They get there via software that lets them guide their onscreen representatives, known as "avatars," through places built entirely of pixels where they can interact with one another.
Their destinations include virtual dance parties and nightclubs, auto races and yachting events, "Star Wars"-style cantinas, whimsical underwater jazz clubs and much more.
Linden Lab, the company that runs Second Life's world, provides a set of content-creation tools that its members have used to create everything from nightclubs and movie theaters to coffee shops and bars to airships, automobiles and clothing stores, a few museums and one or two libraries and nature preserves.
The company itself creates practically none of the buildings and other sites in Second Life, but provides only the rolling landscape on which the more ambitious of its members build.
After a few minutes spent mastering the basic techniques of movement and how to give your avatar a rudimentary makeover, you're released into the wider virtual world to explore the sights and sounds of a place that contains the virtual equivalent of 25 square miles of land and is growing every day.
PRACTICALLY everything in Second Life's world was created by its residents, who come from 80 countries around the (real) world.
Payments are made using a virtual currency called "Linden dollars" that can be bought and sold freely with real money on e Bay and other sites.
In contrast to most virtual worlds, Linden Lab doesn't mind having its currency bought and sold, and even grants Second Life members ownership of the intellectual property rights to whatever they create in the world.
Even in game worlds, many players log on not to slay orcs or blow up death stars but to spend time with friends, see the sights and take a small vacation without ever stepping foot outside their door.