Lindon Labs, the makers of the world wide massive virtual world Second Life, have revealed that the divorce rate in the game has surpassed the marriage rate for the first time since marriage between avatars was introduced in 2001.
"We introduced a kind of formal marriage in Second Life in September 2001," said Jeff Lindon (no relation). "It allowed residents to merge land plots, raise virtual babies and manage joint finances. We introduced a kind of formal divorce in November 2001, splitting the property between the two avatars. We then introduced divorce courts and pre-nuptial agreements in December 2001 under pressure from our residents."
Marriage in Second Life has always been deemed as formal as marriage in real-life, with avatars unable to remarry until they are divorced, or their partner has been declared 'dead': had their account terminated through inactivity of a period of five years. However, despite the formality of the whole ceremony, millions of Second Life residents marry every year, and this has consistently been higher than the divorce rate, until this year.
"In part," said Lindon, "it is down to a decrease in the number of marriages. However, we have seen a steady rise in the number of divorces year on year. This has kept our divorce teams quite busy sorting out alimony payments for the children."
Lindon Labs put the rate of divorce down to the increased availability of virtual private detectives. These unscrupulous individuals create honey traps, take screenshots of infidelity and in some cases have been known to fabricate evidence in Photoshop. One PI who wants to remain anonymous has also been known to investigate the real life person behind the avatar, but this is rare.
"They're good at what they do," said Lindon. "And it's lucrative for them, too."
So what can be done for the fracturing Second Life society? "We are going to have a big push on adding a religious element to Second Life weddings," said Lindon. "Hopefully this will make people think twice before entering into what should be a Second Lifelong relationship."