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News
 Written by John Scalzo  on October 02, 2007

News: And calls it a 'game' in the process.



Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is going to the "video games are evil" well a third time in tonight's episode "Avatar." The episode will revolve around a fictional virtual world known as "Another Youniverse" and the rampant underage virtual sex that is a major part of it. This virtual sex will turn into a real rape that the SVU team must investigate, no doubt with some major twist at the end.

The parallels to Second Life are obvious from the preview, even though the voiceover announcer intones "it could be 'game over' for the victim," implying the characters are meeting in some kind of Xbox Live/PSN online gaming environment. Few, if any, Second Life users refer to it as a game.

The expanded web preview shows more of the Second Life connection and includes multiple characters referring to Another Youniverse as "AY," just like Second Life users refer to it as "SL."

This episode will air on the same day as the Yankee Group, a Boston-based research firm, has released a report stating that the SL phenomenon may be a tad overhyped. According to the report, Second Life's growth rate has stalled, after reaching a peak in October 2006. They have also found that the average Second Life resident only spends 12 minutes a month using the program.

This comes on the heels of a Reuters report that reveals there are only 540,000 "regular users" (those that spend an hour or more in SL a month) in Second Life. Linden Labs, the developers behind the program, will often tout the number of "total signups" instead, which is over 8 million.

If history is anything to go on, "Avatar" will play up the sensationalism of the Second Life phenomenon, ignore a few key facts and paint the users of virtual worlds (and video games) as anti-social, possibly dangerous, weirdoes.

This is not the first time SVU has used video games as a plot point. The 2001 episode "Care" featured Captain Cragen using the characters from a hack and slash fantasy game to reach an autistic victim. This was followed by the 2005 episode "Game," which featured two teens recreating the carnage from a fictional Grand Theft Auto clone dubbed Intensity.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit airs at 10 PM Eastern Time on NBC.



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