The New "Summer Job" - Working in a Virtual World
The summer has already started for many students and the job search is on. Most people think of employment in a traditional sense - tangible and in person. For the few that are involved with online virtual worlds, money making doesn't need to happen in the flesh. You, me, and any person with access to a computer can participate and you don't have to get out of bed in the mornings. A dream come true if you ask me.
I think I'll finally be able to work part-time as a paleontologist, digging up dinosaurs. What about you?
While his friends scramble for jobs flipping burgers or bagging groceries this summer, 18-year-old Mike Everest will be working as a trader in the fantasy Web world of Entropia Universe, buying and selling virtual animal skins and weapons. His goods exist only online, but his earnings are real. In the past four years, he's made $35,000.
In the real world, summer jobs are in short supply. Only about a third of teenagers are expected to work this summer, the lowest levels in 60 years, according to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University. Summer youth employment has fallen from about 45% of teens in 2000, a downward trend made worse this year by the faltering economy.
But money-making opportunities in virtual worlds have grown as such sites go mainstream. Research firm Gartner Media estimates that by 2011, 80% of Internet users worldwide will have an avatar, making animated online personas as common as screen names. Such companies as IBM and Adidas have moved into Second Life, helping to drive employment.
Entropia Universe boasts 722,000 players and allows money earned online to be withdrawn from brick-and-mortar banks with an Entropia ATM card. On a typical day, Second Life players spend close to $1.5 million on virtual clothes, jewelry, homes, cars and real estate. The site's roughly 1.2 million active players use their credit cards to purchase Second Life currency called Lindens, which are pegged to the dollar at about 270 Lindens to $1. Virtual merchants can convert their profits into dollars through a money exchange run by Linden Lab, the company that operates Second Life. Linden Lab pays out proceeds with real-life checks or through PayPal accounts.