Jonas Luster blogs his own points on how Second Life is Not a Game, from a panel the future of gaming at Le Web 3:
Second Life is not a game in that it does not have environmental challenges and progress within its ecosystem. All progress is measured outside the ecosystem and mostly social (whom you met) and commercial (how much you sold).
which follows - Second Life can not and won’t have the retention and draw games like Halo2, World of Warcraft, DaoC, and others have, even though Linden loves to cite those numbers when outlining the future of their baby. Frankly, I believe for a glorified 3D chat system with build-your-own backend, SL isn’t all that bad. For anything people come back into, I might not be suitable, at the moment.
Second Life lacks internal rules and controls which will come back to bite Linden and its users in the hiney. Already we see issues of disappearing (expensive) virtual property and Linden Labs disclaiming any and all responsibility to preserve or restore such property, citing the “we just run the servers” excuse.
which introduces a host of legal issues with regards to property, ownership (DMCA claims are a good way to calm down investors, they’re useless in disputes between a Swede and a Japanese player), and liability.
And if SL isn't a game, pay particular mind to Clay Shirky's post where he questions the user numbers, infatuation of ordinary stories (or stores, without measuring return) by a press ignorant of history and questioning the castle made of sand. Perhaps Clay is coming around to Jonas' point about an ecosystem without challenges from a different angle, that from the numbers SL isn't so sticky/engaging, nor different:
...virtual reality is conceptually simple. Unlike ordinary network communications tools, which require a degree of subtlety in thinking about them — as danah notes, there is no perfect metaphor for a weblog, or indeed most social software — Second Life’s metaphor is simplicity itself: you are a person, in a space. It’s like real life.
One interesting thing about this simple model was shared by Steven Farrell of IBM on our panel at >play. He noted that after a business meeting in Second Life, participants don't just hang up, but wander a bit into subgroups and informally continue the conversation. This is a lot like real life, and the side conversations in the hallway can be where stuff really gets done.
This isn't that new either, it is as old as, well, meetings.